For a little over a week now, my dread of being nominated for the ice bucket challenge has been superseded by my dread of being nominated for that ten-book challenge on Facebook. The fact is, this new challenge has made me reconsider several friendships. How can you respect someone who says the drivel written by Paulo Coelho or Khaled Hosseini or – horror of all horrors – a book like The Secret ‘stayed with’ him or her? Those are the books I gift to people I intensely dislike.
So, before anyone could nominate me, I set myself a new challenge, and nominated five friends of mine to take up the chain – books that I struggled to finish, and wished I hadn’t read. On my list were God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, the Harry Potter series by J K Rowling, The Complete Works of Jane Austen, Five Point Someone by Chetan Bhagat, Autograph Man by Zadie Smith, The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh, Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and several random books that had landed up with me for review.
Encouraged by my friend and nominee, humour writer Tazeen Javed, I decided to pen a series of fictional rejection letters that would have rendered my years of studying literature – and later, reading books – somewhat less traumatic.
Dear Miss Austen:
I wish I could thank you for sending us your manuscript. However, I find that rather hard to do under the circumstances that I have put myself through two hundred pages of manipulative women line maro-ing conceited jerks (whom they perhaps thoroughly deserve) into marriage. Therefore, I shall tell you that I find your sense of irony underdeveloped, your skills of observation mundane, your characters stereotyped, and – most of all – your use of alliteration exceedingly annoying. Your books are essentially about gold diggers causing inexplicable transformations in haughty men. We feel your time would be best spent painting, playing music, sewing and pursuing men, much like the women in your novels. If we happen to hear of suitable bachelors moving to your county, we shall let you know, so you may – at the very least – write from experience, which would render your future novels less hollow.
Dear Miss Emily Bronte:
I have just finished your complicated story of a family of tantrum-throwers whose main preoccupation appears to be marrying each other. I have three main issues with the book: First, this Catherine woman is so silly, flaky, passive-aggressive and conniving that any man who falls for her must be quite the masochist; therefore, I am in a quandary over whether to feel sorry for Heathcliff, or pleased at the pleasure he must draw from the suffering. Second, how did he make all that money? I’d like to point you to The Count of Monte Cristo, which makes it clear that the pauper got rich by finding jewels and drugs in an Oriental hangout. Perhaps you could incorporate something similar in your next draft? Third, the name ‘Heathcliff’ is absolutely ridiculous. I find it rather more suitable to a cat than a man.
Dear Mr Joyce
Greetingingsandsomesuch broogadillooogawanging. My mynde is riddledaddledabung with a mix of wurdsendemoshuns going kashoomgrushplunkferlunkwadoongibinkelliblurbs. Oops. Did I confuse you? Your Finnegans Wake has made me forget why I became a book editor. I have resigned my job, and plan to write pornographic novels for the rest of my life.
Dear Mr Coelho
I was quite fascinated to rediscover that the Middle East is a magic land of flying carpets and secrets buried in pyramids and whatnot. I only regret that you didn’t include a genie in the lamp – or was it a stone in your book? – and a witch who can turn into a bird or some such thing. That is the sort of enlightening, innovative fantasy in which I like to lose myself. Also, alchemy has been a quite successful career choice, as you must know from the many millions of people who turned stone into gold. I am not entirely sure you can detect sarcasm, so here is some straight-up advice for you: Step 1: Become a spiritual guru. Step 2: Move to America. Step 3: Negotiate with Hollywood.
Dear Ms Rowling
Having read JRR Tolkien, Philip Pullman, and Tom Brown’s School Days myself, I am surprised you couldn’t string together a more coherent and readable mish-mash of all their work. I do believe there are more adjectives than nouns and more adverbs than verbs in every page of every book. No one stops when they can stop abruptly. No one whispers when they can whisper softly. I don’t see why you needed quite so much time to come up with characters who are shadows of the originals. I feel I have wasted too many words on this letter already, perhaps the aftermath of trawling through your bulky tomes (oops, adjective-alert). So, let me express this mathematically. Gandalf > Dumbledore; Sauron > Voldemort; Gollum > House-Elves; Saruman > Fudge; Ringwraiths > Dementors; Daemons > Patronus (yep, I read Pullman too).
Dear Mr Rumi
I am sure your poetry reads quite wonderfully in the Persian original, but dude…you sound like a boy band in English, man. I’ve got to make a living, yo. Maybe I’ll peddle this stuff outside a girls’ college, or put it on Hallmark cards, or better still, at the end of Bollywood films. Your soulful 140-characters-or-less sentences are kinda cloying, bro. Here’s some advice: if you know people who play the guitar, keyboard and drums, you could send a sample to MTV. Maybe you’ll be the next One Direction. Or, better still, keep that band and get someone to sing the Persian lyrics on Coke Studio.