15 March 2013

ONE MORE BY SANJAY SUBRAHMANYAM, and don't bother counting


has just been whipped off to the printer. Hold your horses till it appears in the shops after a few weeks (no later than May-June 2013).

Publishers heave a sigh of relief when they deliver CRC (camera ready copy) to the printer. It's the end of a long haul starting with the copy-edit, query resolution with the author, text finalization, first proofs from the typesetter, queries and typos marked by the proof-reader and author, the collation of both sets of proofs by the publisher, finalization of the CRC, the sending of index proofs to the author, receiving and typesetting the index, checking everything once before dispatching it to the printer, crossing fingers and toes and sending the bugger off to be printed.

And then some oddbats complain books cost too much (usually those that buy diamonds and pay thousands for home-delivered pizzas).

Subrahmanyam's latest is, as already outlined in an earlier blogpost, one of the most readable things we've ever published. It does not look remotely like vintage Subrahmanyam: those weighty, learned tomes for fellow scholars have been left behind in favour of a book for those he himself jocularly refers to as 'normal human beings' (i.e. the small world which consists of not-academics).

The other great thing about this book is that it shows a wit, sarcasm, and sense of humour NEVER found in books by Indian scholars. (We nearly wrote 'almost never', then asked the 'almost' to depart and for good measure put 'never' in caps, this being in keeping with some of the nose-thumbing towards academese in the book.) Statutory warning: this volume is written for normal humans and may discomfit the many within the academic tribe who pray piously at the Temple of the Sacred Footnote, and those wary of laying into members of their own profession for fear of later getting laid into by those they have laid into. 

Subrahmanyam has the advantage of being a distinguished professor who has the top institutions queuing up at his door, chucking dollars through his keyhole. So he doesn't need to be restrained or hold his tongue. He's generous in praise and more than generous where he feels there's  reason to lay out the blame. The RSS, for example, is unlikely to felicitate SS with garlands of marigold, but they're almost the strawman here, reminding us of Yeats's line about Aristotle having caned Alexander the Great:

Solider Aristotle played the taws
Upon the bottom of a king of kings

Rushing off to Google this? That'll only give you the name of an old poem. What you need is the new prose -- the prose in this book.  

Of which we feel you will agree, when you read it, 

that Subrahmanyam's written prose here of a kind 

that no other Indian academic has. 

Which is probably the best reason for those universities pushing dollars through his door.

The jacket photo, incidentally, is by the French photographer Claude Renault, whose photos have also appeared on other Permanent Black jackets -- on Partha Chatterjee's LINEAGES OF POLITICAL SOCIETY and Mukul Sharma's GREEN AND SAFFRON. Renault has a website and his oeuvre can be accessed on Flickr -- his compositional skills and brilliant feel for colour make his work seem both superb initself and often amenable to reproduction on a book jacket.

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