Shantaram Shitfight (And Now For Something Completely Different)

on Thursday, February 9, 2012
A lovely weekend in the Victorian countryside was almost ruined before it started thanks to the heady combination of a know-it-all house manager and my fat mouth. In a most unusual turn of events, my lit nerd bro-in-law and I arrived at our destination ahead of the others, which meant we were given the grand tour/orientation spiel which we were then supposed to pass on to the rest of the family when they arrived. All was going well until we reached the entertainment collection - a long shelf of DVDs, Playstation 3 games and books. The house is Indian themed so it's not too hard to guess what was on the shelves.

As I scanned the collection, the very Aussie house manager started to get rather excited. "I don't know if either of you are readers," he said (at which I died a bit inside), "but there's one book you have to read while you're here." And, as I guessed he would, he reached straight for Shantaram. Yes, bloody Shantaram. The wanky bible of every ashram-invading, pot-smoking, hygiene-averse backpacker ever to disgrace the subcontinent. Alas, Mr. I-Prosletyse-About-The-One-Book-I've-Ever-Read was only getting started. "It's a modern classic," he raved. "It won the Booker Prize".

Oh No He Deeee-n't.

The red rag had been waved and this bull was primed. "Um," I interrupted in my friendliest of tones, "no it didn't." He was adamant. "I can assure you it did." Here we go. Bro-in-law rolled his eyes and tried to look busy in the corner. "And I can quite definitely assure you it didn't. It wasn't even nominated." He stood his ground. I didn't want to sound like too much of a knob but, well, I'm a lot of a knob. "I can name the last twenty winners and Shantaram is not amongst them." He must have sensed then that either I was right or I was such a massively arrogant arse that it wasn't worth arguing with me (to be fair, the truth is a combination of those two things). "I take it that's your area," he said.

My fragile book nerd ego was placated, but not before fate added a little kicker for my amusement. Sitting right next to Shantaram was a copy of Arundhati Roy's Booker winner, The God Of Small Things. Touche, litgods. Touche.


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