Having seen off my third book, The Great Indian Rope Trick, I have taken a break from writing here and elsewhere. It was hard work, but I learned a great deal. One lesson is that it is very difficult to write a book that deals with really current affairs, something that should probably be left to journalists. I am proud of what I wrote, and it has been well enough received by enough people to make me think it was worth the effort.
I am now moving on to thinking about my fourth book, which has been around in draft for quite a while now – I am ashamed to say for several years.
Bur before I do I need to tidy up one small thing. One review of Rope Trick was so bad, and so unfair, that I cannot let it pass entirely without comment. I won’t link – it’s not hard to find; the writer has managed to get two versions of it up online, in separate publications. Which seems provocative. Such fervent desire to reach the public is certainly an odd response to a book he considers so irredeemably awful.
They say that a bad critic is often in error but never in doubt. Very true here, where the writer must have decided to hate the book before he read a sentence. He was so desperate to find fault that he singled out individual words, took phrases out of context, and even criticised my writing style. Rather hilariously this included attacking me for ‘tautology’, but also for ‘errors and solecisms’ (emphasis added). If you use long words you should, ideally, be aware of what they mean.
If that were all, it might not greatly matter: I have been attacked by biased and ignorant people before, and I dare say I will be again. But more seriously, he missed some very central points in the book, and I do care about that, because he gave an entirely misleading impression of the book’s scope, and its major thrust. He claims that I did not understand the propensity of democracy to generate violence, or its impact on India. Not true. I addressed exactly these issues, and directly explained, in my view, why India has had relatively non-violent politics, particularly when compared to her neighbours. See Part 3, especially pages 250-262. But I dare say he never got that far, or was more concerned to impress his think-tank seniors with his ferocity than give the public an accurate picture of the book.
A poor effort, but the writer has ‘previous’. Elsewhere a much higher authority than me found Srinath Raghavan guilty of ‘selection bias’ and of pervasive ‘lack of theoretical reflection’.