Thursday, January 19, 2006

Fatta maro-ing pays off big.

When I was a kid, I used to maro fattas. Which means, for those of you ignorant of Delhi lingo - I used to make up things. We all do, and if you didn't you're fatta maroing. But I was really bad. Because I would actually believe these things happened to me. Fairly innocent stuff, like saying I saw Maine Pyar Kiya ten times when I only saw it thrice and nearly puked the third time. Or that I was an investigator in the lines of Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw or Bob Andrews, and had a secret van hidden in my backyard. I really did believe them, and that's what scared me. Was I schizophrenic? How many points is "schizophrenic" in Scrabble?

When I grew up I realized I was fatta maro-ing big time. I guess I still do, like when someone asks me what I do I say I'm a para-sailer on holiday. But now I know I'm faking, and I still think it's a bad thing, even if it does lead to some extremely funny situations.

Turns out it (fatta maro-ing, not parasailing) is not such a bad thing, and it can actually earn you big ticket money. Someone named James Frey farted about his entire past in a book called A million little pieces. The book is supposed to be a "memoir" (pronounced "mem-oo-vaary-stupid-pronunciation") which comes from the words mem, meaning "People" and oir which doesn't mean anything.

The book contains details about Frey's years as an alcoholic and drug addict, and provides blow by blow accounts of his interaction with the police, running a cop over, getting beaten up, arrests for drug activity, time in jail, etc. etc.

It sold 3.5 MILLION copies. Let me put that in perspective for you: In India, selling 5,000 copies of a book makes it a bestseller. 3.5 million is greater than the sales of ALL Tarla Dalal books put together, and she's India's biggest selling author (in terms of total number sold). Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, which contains, among other things, a term called "locusts stand I" which has been etched into my brain and I hate her for it, has sold one million copies.

Even Oprah Winfrey said this was a good book (A million little pieces), but that is a woman who does one hour TV shows on people who can't throw away stuff. If that's good enough for a show, her idea of a "good" book is perhaps equivalent to "better than toilet paper. Has real words."

So it turns out this book is a big fat lie. Evidence provided by an article in The Smoking Gun reveals that most of the facts in the book were WILDLY exaggerated, and some were figments of imagination. Frey never ran a cop over, didn't spend any serious time in jail, didn't really get a root canal without anaesthesia and didn't even get the sports facts correct.

Frey of course says no dude, you must be smokin' something, cos it was all true...really. Really really. I mean it was. Or maybe it was not. Maybe I made some things up. Maybe my name isn't even James Frey, it's Gaylord Fokker. That's why I was in jail, that big black guy...ok, I'm back to fatta maroing.

Oh, and you must read through some humourous rants on Frey's action, at The Onion, Neal Pollack's site, and Tim Carvell's post.

The crux of the matter is: There's no problem if the book has fabricated stories. But that classifies it as "fiction", meaning lots of buyers would not buy it because they are into reality shows ONLY and can't handle it if someone's lying, except if they lied to protect their friends who cried with them when they said "deal" when they should have said "no deal".

What it really means is: Fatta maroing pays. Only if you classify it as the real thing.


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