How to be a literary sensation

By Nikhil Raghavan

Here, according to Krishna Shastri Devulapalli (KSD), is A Quick Guide to Exploiting Friends, Family & Facebook for Artistic Gain. That is the tagline to his new book – How to be a Literary Sensation (Harper Collins; Rs. 299).

Well, the author labels himself (on the cover) as India’s Number 1 non-bestselling humour writer and, as an afterthought, decides to strike off the word ‘Financial’ and replace it with ‘Artistic’ in the tagline.

The book, in general, should be read with a sack of salt by your side…just a pinch is really not enough. I had wondered out loud, how Harper Collins had agreed to publish the book, as it hits both wannabe writers and, more importantly, publishers, below and above the belt with twin punches. Is it fact or fiction? In my view, Literary Sensation is neither; just a matter-of-fact-ion. Oops! Am I contracting the humour virus from KSD?

Following his earlier books Ice Boys in Bell-Bottoms and Jump Cut, KSD says that Literary Sensation is his first non-fiction. So, there is an element of truth? “You said the same thing in your review of Ice Boys in Bell-Bottoms, my first book. While that was supposedly fiction, Literary Sensation is definitely non-fiction, with elements of facts,” explains KSD. Typical of a humour writer!

Do all writers go through the rejection slip syndrome? Yes, some even compile them! Here is a sentence/quote from the book: ‘Krishna,’ she said, ‘some of these rejection letters are so encouraging, I want to frame them.’ KSD has terrific powers of observation and converts all that into humorous prose which makes you chuckle or guffaw, depending on the intensity of the situation.

How to be a Literary Sensation is a collection of 8 chapters with several sub-chapters, mostly non-inter-connected, but has an invisible thread passing through from beginning to end, the needle being KSD’s sharp-tongue-in-cheek barbs. He equally lampoons wannabe writers, editors and publishers which, may spur them on or make them jump off the cliff, depending on personal viewpoints. KSD’s humour has seriousness and his barbs have a nice s-ting to them. KSD would have made an exciting weekly columnist in the genre of Art Buchwald or TOI’s Jug Suraiya; sadly, his novels are few and far between.

In his chapter ‘A Dictionary of Publishing Terms’, KSD explains the word Editor: Comes from the word ‘deter’. In the old days, writers were known to quaff ale in pubs and yell ‘Aaargh! e deter me writing, that knave, Begorrah!’ It later became e’deter and now has been standardized to editor.

KSD writes: Today, everyone is a writer, wants to be one, or is doing a phenomenal job pretending to be one at a lit fest near you. For instance, when my first book came out a few years ago, I was the only writer in my neighbourhood. Today, my wife, her octogenarian great aunt who lives next door and our watchman Selvamani, have books out.

But, there is hope; the reading habit is back and, in a world full of unsavoury happenings, writers like Krishna Shastri Devulapalli are like a breath of fresh air.

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