There May Be An Asterisk Involved


At the third edition of the Think Literature, which I recently attended, Prof. Harish Trivedi was moderating the session on Feminism and at the end of the session he pronounced that chick lit, written by and for women is somewhat on the lower literary rung. I admit chick lit isn’t what you would call ‘great literature’ (that’s again debatable) but it has its own place firmly set in stone and, from what I see, the market is only going to increase.

I read chick lit though I don’t prefer the term and love that they work with women’s themes, deal with relationships and see the world through a woman’s eyes. I don’t see anything wrong with reading a book about a woman in a fictional world that may (or may not) resemble my world, working in a place that’s suspiciously real and facing the same issues that I may (or may not) face, all told with a sense of humour?

I recently finished There May Be An Asterisk Involved by Vedashree Khambete which falls into this genre.I liked the cover, dare I say it’s cute (for the lack of any other word springing to my mind) and minimalist. The blurb on the back makes you want to dive in.

 Ira Bhat, copywriter by day, sleep deprived copywriter by night, has only one goal: to not go utterly bonkers as she negotiates the perils and pitfalls of a career in advertising. These include, but are not limited to: comma obsessed clients, award obsessed bosses, obnoxious marketing executives, high-strung creative types, impossible deadlines, obscure briefs, fiercely competitive colleagues, the death of many a big idea…and the ever present danger of falling in love with the new account planner. Sounds doable, but is it?

Because when it comes to advertising, somewhere, hidden in the fine print there may be an asterisk involved…

Ira works in an advertising firm called J. McCarthy. The writer herself comes from an advertising background and you wonder what’s fact and what’s fiction and perhaps, that is how she intended it. See what she says before prologue begins-

 This book is a work of fiction.
That means it’s not based on any people 
who are, or ever will be in a position to give me a job.
Just saying.
I loved the book as I had anticipated. I laughed out loud more times than I could count in recent times reading a book and even copied her words and used them to recount to friends later, for a repeat laugh. In one instance Ira talks about economy of words, which is paramount in advertising. She tells an intern to read Hemingway to learn from the master himself. I found myself nodding in agreement.

I like that she explained the terms related to advertising* with foot notes (rare in a contemporary trade book) which aren’t apparent to somebody outside the world of advertising.

*A baseline or tagline captures the essence of an ad campaign or of the brand itself. It’s made up of four, maybe five words at the most, which copywriters take four, maybe five hours to come up with. And that’s when the muse is being especially kind.

Ira as a character has a lot of comic potential. She is imaginative, sharp, quick tempered and her antics make for a fun read. Her two friends added to the charm, keeping the atmosphere light and jokey (is that even a word?) with their banter. Witty motormouth that Ira is, she reminded me of an articulate friend of mine who has a comeback for every line, can combat every situation and turn every comment on its head.

Sample this conversation between two characters:

You-you really think marriage is a good idea?

I think marriage is an evil, sadistic self abuse campaign that makes two people hate each other more than they can comprehend. But if you guys are in love don’t let that stop you.

Thanks, that’s reassuring…If you are looking for a light read and want to get an insider’s view into the world of advertising while laughing out loud, your search stops right here.

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