The Hari Putar Dialogues - 15
(The Guardian, London, 22 July. The bookshop trestle table clearly ain't big enough for the both of them. Novelist Salman Rushdie yesterday claimed to have broken wine writer Malcolm Gluck's record for book signings after adding his full name to 1,000 books on a tour to promote his latest novel. "His record is toast," Rushdie crowed, in a letter to the Guardian.)
Putar: According to a report in the Guardian today Salman Rushdie has broken wine writer Malcolm Gluck's record for the time taken to sign a thousand copies of a book.
Hari: I read that story, putar.
Putar: Malcolm Gluck has acknowledged defeat and says that he is humbled, especially since Salman has made it clear that he had signed his full name and not merely his initials.
Hari: That is correct, putar.
Putar: At the same time Gluck says that this is typical of male rivalry and no woman would get involved in something like this.
Hari: That's not really true, putar. Salman Rushdie has pointed out that the fastest signers include former President Jimmy Carter, the novelist Amy Tan and now himself. So there is Amy Tan, a female as well.
Putar: Well, she had an unfair advantage, didn't she?
Hari: Why do you say that, putar?
Putar: Such a short name. It would have taken longer for someone like Fyodor Dostoevsky or Alexander Pushkin for they have more than twice the number of letters to their names.
Hari: Somehow you can't imagine any of these great classical writers taking part in such a contest, putar.
Putar: Pushkin did take part in a duel, but not this kind of contest. I believe that this has something to do with modern consumerism.
Hari: Anyhow, I'm sure that J K Rowling would defeat Salman Rushdie in a 'who can sign more copies' contest.
Putar: Why do you say that, Papaji?
Hari: Don't forget that she has written all these books about magic and wizardry.
Putar: So you mean that she will use magic to sign more copies than him.
Hari: Exactly, putar.
Putar: Hmmm. You have a point there, but on the other hand if she has created magic in her books, Salman has been creating magic realism.
Hari: All right, but I still say that she will be faster. Don't forget that she created Hurry Putar.
Putar: That may be true, but Salman can also do things in a great rush. After all he is Rushdie.
Hari: You have a point there. There is also a story carried in the Times of India recently about a suite at The Balmoral Hotel, considered the most luxurious and expensive of hotels in Scotland, having become a place of pilgrimage for millions of Harry Potter fans around the world. It is in this hotel suite 552 where JK Rowling completed her successful series of novels. It has now been renamed the JK Rowling Suite in her honor after she gave permission.
Putar: How much do they charge to stay in the suite?
Hari: According to the report, the hotel is charging '965 per night to stay in the room.
Putar: That's too much for a child to pay, and even if the child had the money I'm sure he or she would have find a better way to spend so much money.
Hari: The parents of the child will pay, I guess. And don't forget Rowling has adult fans as well. According to reports, since the secret venue for her final chapter was revealed in a TV documentary, wealthy fans from across the world have stayed there, specifically requesting the suite.
Putar: I wonder if its true or just a publicity stunt.
Hari: It's probably true, putar. The centre of attraction in the room is a marble bust of the Greek god Hermes on which the author has scribbled in black marker: 'JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on January 11, 2007.' It is kept in the safety of a protective glass case.
Putar: The hotel has profited from her stay there.
Hari: They certainly have, putar.
Putar: I wonder if they have busts of Greek Gods in all the rooms'
Hari: This may be part of the interior decoration provided in all the rooms, putar.
Putar: What do you think would have happened if a child staying in the room had scribbled something with a permanent black marker on such a statue?
Hari: The parents of the child would have had to compensate the hotel for damaging their property. That's why they've now put the bust in a glass case.
Putar: To prevent children who stay in that room from scribbling on the statue that they also stayed there.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: Businessmen can sell anything, can't they?
Hari: That could be true, putar, but what are you trying to say?
Putar: This room in the hotel for instance. They are selling someone's past presence in a room in a hotel where all the rooms resemble each other.
Hari: That's true, putar.
Putar: Imagine if some years later when the Harry Potter fever has died down, J K Rowling came back to that very same hotel to stay again for a few days to start a new book. Would the hotel give her a discount to stay in her old room?
Hari: I'm sure they would. Not that she would need it, for by some accounts she's worth 520 million pounds and is richer than the Queen of England.
Putar: Or would the hotel request her to please stay in a new room, even free, and sign another bust that she's started her new book there?
Hari: I don't know, putar.