The launch of Big BOOK SHELF 18/04/2011



Conversation with 30 famous writers

Penguin Books


I didn’t want to miss the launch of  Sunil Sethi’s book  at Land Mark because  I happened to view just a few of his conversations with famous authors, in his programme ‘just books’ being aired for the last six years and also having  gone through  some of the 30 best conversations  selected for his compilation ‘The Big Book Shelf.’

Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Ex-Governor of West Bengal who was in conversation with the author struck the right humorous note in his inimitable style by leading the author to delve into his experience as  the host of  the TV show getting famous writers willing to  talk candidly about their writing journey. He had no difficulty in contacting most of the  interviewees or having them to accept to appear on his show. However  to get access to   Nadine Gordimer and Umberto Eco he had to use all his ingenuity as a journalist, he said. Mr. Gandhi recalled how he finally got to meet Agatha Christie while she was on a visit to India. Instead of finding an amiable person, Mr. Gandhi returned frightened by  Agatha’s monstrous teeth which  made him wonder if those murder mysteries and suspicious plots were mental creations or Agatha’s dental creations!

Interaction with the audience followed subsequently without the ground rules being mentioned, that is to confine themselves to questions and not statements or lengthy speeches (like  in book release events  by the Madras Book Club). One questioner went into a monologue as to the authenticity of non historians writing books on history and Sethi after listening patiently to him answered in a very diplomatic way that he was entitled to his opinion but wouldn’t agree with him and cited examples to substantiate his point. Another wished to know  as an  interviewer on a visual medium whether  he was charmed by the good looks of his interviewees to which Sethi smilingly said whether the person was good looking or not did not matter at all on TV. He believed in doing his home work thoroughly about the subject and his/her  work   and also meeting  the person prior to the interview which is a must for a journalist he reiterated.

This was one of the liveliest book launches I attended and enjoyed thoroughly though I was not completely satisfied with Sethi’s answer to my question.

n.meera raghavendra rao


2 thoughts on “The launch of Big BOOK SHELF 18/04/2011

  1. V Raghavan

    I happened to be in this book launch. Meera Rao has nicely summarized the event. I do not wish to comment on the book before reading it. I might just add one amusing incident. A Professor of History got up and questioned the credentials of some well known authors (writing on historical events) to the title of being historians. It is strange an academic should think that a formal training like a Ph D is necessary to be recognized as a historian.

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