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"The Killing of an Author" by Richard Crasta : Review

Outside the fictional landscape of The Fountainhead, how would a real-life Howard Roark fare? What might be the fate of an individualistic professional who stubbornly chooses to struggle for what he believes to be true and right instead of compromising his vision and values?

The non-fictional counterpart of The Fountainhead may as well be “The Killing of an Author. In the former, the protagonist is finally rewarded with flourishing career, reputation and the leading lady. How does narrator-protagonist of the latter book do in real life?

This is a true story, and the author uses real-life names of many prominent people to retain the authenticity of the narrative.

Struggling his way through lower-middle class Mangalore family, Richard Crasta clears IAS exam only to find his calling in writing. 

Off he flies to the land of opportunities, US, where his creative wings would be at full liberty to sour unrestrained – or so he feels! It begins with what the author considers to be a fantastic start – a job as editor at a leading literary agency of US. He also pursues Master’s in writing at Columbia University. 

But why waste time when there’s a great book to be written – so thinks our man and sets upon writing a book for 9 years that brings him international acclaim; but at what cost? 

The story runs into so many who’s who of American and Indian literary world that it is a herculean task to keep a tab on them. Punctuated by the letters exchanged, the author tears apart the glamorous veneer of publishing industry. But that’s meat of this book. And taking a cue from Crasta’s tip from his experience at the literary agency - of not giving people a summary of their work, since it helps them pretend they read the book - I withhold the juicier parts. :-)

But isn’t writing a highly profitable career? Indeed, a more exemplary instance of survivorship bias might be hard to find (with probable exception of Film Industry). 

Crasta's brilliance in objectively recording an intensely personal experience in wry humor stands out distinctly. Some wordplays became apparent to me only on the second reading (probably, due to my limited exposure to this kind of writing). Elsewhere, the author laments the deterioration of his writing craft due a peculiar chain of events, but one is tempted to dismiss this as a totally unwarranted apprehension, given that author manages to let humor find its way into even in the grimmest of the settings.

The author rues that seldom had any writer paid such a heavy price for a book – the book by the way is The Revised Kama Sutra.

Why, indeed?

Why do some people stick to their ideals when, far from benefiting them, they in fact become the cause of their unmaking? In the immortal words of Schopenhauer: 
“Talent works for money and fame; the motive which moves genius to productivity is, on the other hand, less easy to determine. It isn’t money, for genius seldom gets any. It isn’t fame: fame is too uncertain and, more closely considered, of too little worth. Nor is it strictly for its own pleasure, for the great exertion involved almost outweighs the pleasure. It is rather an instinct of a unique sort by virtue of which the individual possessed of genius is impelled to express what he has seen and felt in enduring works without being conscious of any further motivation. It takes place, by and large, with the same sort of necessity as a tree brings forth fruit, and demands of the world no more than a soil on which the individual can flourish.”

The pre-information fed to children by propaganda machines public schools ensure that most people grow up thinking they know all even before surveying the matter by themselves. To think that ideas currently in vogue are settled wisdom is as idiotic as thinking that religious literature outranks modern science merely by virtue of being ancient.

In such times, what might be the fate of an independent author who refuses to be straight-jacketed into any ideology, much less bow before the reigning one? How does the establishment receive his ideas that disturb the prevailing narrative, and question the status-quo?

Here, it is pertinent to remind ourselves of Crasta’s moot point: censorship doesn’t happen only in the forms that we know – where books are burned by the fanatics, or the state imposes a ban – it happens at a subtler level, where author is forced to self-censor just to please the gatekeepers so the book is passed through the assembly-line and reaches public.

Seen from this perspective, was the publishing of this book an act of stupidity, rebellion or courage?

This is a tale of undying passion, incurable optimism, and relentless struggle of a writer writing boldly about what he thinks is true, and allowing neither censorship filters nor commercial considerations to sanitize his purest thoughts. 

Crasta, despite recording a disturbing story, continues to demonstrate hope. I hope that the author would some day pen a sequel in the lines of "The Writer Redeemed" - the book cries for a more fitting closure.

Closing notes

A friend recommended “Impressing the Whites ,which was my introduction to Richard Crasta’s works. Wanting to find what happened to such an unapologetically independent writer I came across this book. It was unputdownable and I had to finish it at feverish pace.

Do yourself a favor and indulge yourself with a dose of Richard Crasta’s humor – an unexpected bonus in the form of developing an ability to laugh at your troubles might be yours too.

Please support a courageous, independent writer who speaks truth to power by buying his books.

PS: Author's tweets in response to mine regarding this review.


  1. "But structured hobby with deadlines is no more enjoyable than work" - well said.
    "Indeed, a more exemplary instance of survivorship bias might be hard to find (with probable exception of Film Industry)."- In fact there are quite a few classics which are published only after they were made into successful films.


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