Friday, December 2, 2011

The Blogging Affair by Manu

Amitabh Manu is a first time author and his maiden offering is "The Blogging Affair". He however prefers to write under the name Manu and has carefully dropped Amitabh in the process. Perhaps he is no fan of millionaire-making game shows and/or big and small bees. So much for honey and money!

The Blogging Affair is a murder mystery but not in the classic 'thriller' or 'whodunit' format that we normally associate with this genre. It is also quite different from the well-received debut novel of Ismita Tandon Dhankher, titled, "Love on the Rocks". In fact, I don't recollect having come across anything like this from Indian authors past and present. And perhaps that is the reason why Amitabh had thanked me for sending him a friend request on FB (which he accepted of course); while stating at the same time that he hoped I would not change my mind after reading the book (along with a smiley).

I had gallantly (not sure if the female of the species are supposed to be gallant) assured him that though I hailed from Poschimbongo, I was very unlike Mamata didi - and suffixed it with a smiley as well, as a proof of my noble intentions.

Now, the book consists of only 339 pages; but it took me longer than usual to turn the last page. This is partly due to the fact that I was a bit pressed for time and partly due to the nature of the book.

A beautiful girl has been found dead in her bed and the cops have been alerted and they are on the job. So far so good, but there are multiple narratives vying for your attention: the inner voice (or whatever was left of it) of the guy Maithun Mehta - the prime suspect, coz he was in an extra-marital affair with the dead girl. Unfortunately he doesn't think with his gray cells, never did; his capabilities lie elsewhere, further down.

There is this game of one-upmanship between the police guys investigating the murder. Their hot and cold wars make for an interesting read, and is a classic case of brawn vs. brain. I somewhat liked this part; and there is a bit of humour too. The mystery bit though isn't deep but it does manage to hold your attention all the same, kind of. However, the bit about 'dreaming in colour' is totally clichéd and should have been avoided. Even if the author meant it to be funny or punny, it falls way short.

Next there is an anonymous blog - in reverse chronological order. The author's identity is hidden but the blog is suspected to be a vital clue as well as character, in this murder mystery.

Umm, we are not averse to feed our blog regularly or asking others (blogger friends) to feed theirs - so as to keep the blog healthy or well nourished and thereby ensuring a steady flow of traffic. However, the author has so overfed this anonymous blog, that a gift voucher from one of the ubiquitous weight-loss programmes wouldn't be a bad idea. It certainly resulted in reader fatigue. Reader meaning: yours truly.

The anonymous blogger's digressions into religion, homeopathy, education, politics, spiritual enlightenment, etc simply eat up space and bring down the pace to that of a snail. Not done. Amitabh may have wanted to share his point of views on these matters of national importance with his readers, but writing a whole book for that purpose was not necessary. He could have simply posted them on his personal blog!

Agreed they do give him precious opportunities to talk about eclectic issues, and get into saucy word plays and double entendres, supposedly to enliven the book, but the effect is quite the contrary. Maithun's inner voice with its one-track mind and too much sauciness affect you so much that you just want to stay away from 'sauce' for a while.

It becomes unfunny and unpunny after a point.

Had the plot, the storyline, the description, the execution or the writing style matched, the digressions would have been welcome; it would have been curd and rice. Then, chaat masala, pickle, pomegranate seeds, nuts and even dry fruits would have enhanced its taste.

"The Blogging Mystery" is a mix-and-unmatch. Just like curd and noodles.

Though the chapters are short, there are 69 of them, making it a nice thick book; but given that too many avoidable people this book, apart from some clunky writing, it requires a great deal of effort - to finish it.

While editing was hibernating big time, something I did not expect from Frog Books. There are so many errors - poor grammar, spelling, sentence structure, garbled lines, et al, that one would not dare think of gifting this to one's English teacher as a Christmas present.

My rating: I am going with a 2/5 for Amitabh Manu's debut novel. Despite this being the Xmas season and with New Year around the corner too, I am unable to imbibe the festive spirit and be more generous. Sorry.

With better editing and a tighter plot, apart from cutting out the ample dead wood, this one could have made for a good read, if not a great one. Though I must concede that (Amitabh) Manu is earnest, I feel he can do much better.

Details of Book: The Blogging Affair/ Author: Manu/ Pages: 339/ ISBN: 978-93-81115-39-8/ Publishing Date: 2011/ Publisher: Frog Books (an imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd.)/ Binding: Paperback/ Price: Rs. 295/

Photograph: The book jacket cover of The Blogging Affair. Picture courtesy:

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