Monday, May 22, 2006

True lies. Or, whatever.

I don’t know why I just thought of the autobiography by a living journalist and author I’d read a couple of years back. It’s rather well written and eminently readable. I don’t much care for her regular columns but picked up Selective Memories: Stories From My Life on a hunch. My gut feel about books is seldom wrong. No, I’m not boasting, folks. I remember enjoying the book hugely, lapping it up in a canter even. Ms Dé seems to be in her elements here, full of erudition and shrewd insights of a seemingly somewhat reluctant celebrity bang in the fame game. By her own admission, this is not a ‘bare all, dare all’ autobiography. And, yet her sincerity and candour come shining through. At times, a tad too much. Take it for what’s it worth, folks, but I sincerely feel that all fiction, ‘faction’, autobiographical writing, history and even journalistic reporting are ultimately ‘gossip’ in the Capotesque sense. The writer tends to forget, edit, embellish, alter, slant, skew, modify the ‘truth’ – not always intentionally. ‘What really happened’ exists only in the moment. What’s reported later is hardly ‘it’, indeed can’t be – given human nature and the way memory works. In Selective Memory, I sense a recurrent theme. Ms Dé tends to ‘trace’ many of her later-life ‘mistakes’ to her father’s judgments, pronouncements and diktat (he happened to be a district magistrate early in his career) about her attitudes and behaviour as an adolescent and a young adult. Maybe, she’s right. But considering his middle-class stock of pre-independence India, he too must have suffered in plenty from the shocks her ‘unconventional’ (by his yardstick) life happened to deliver. Read an online review of the book here: It doesn’t do the book or the author justice, though.

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