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Middling with Moraes

A collection culled from the rich and varied Frank Moraes' middles vault, from a man at his tenacious best when writing about the advertising world.

india Updated: Jan 16, 2004 11:07 IST

Frank Unedited
The Best of Frank Simoes
Roli Books
2003
Biography
Price: Rs 395

The writer of ‘Middles’ is a tenacious creature. Rejections are effortlessly swept aside and the volley of prose continues until the word sees the print of day. To have this sort of tenacity, one needs to be armed with a strong ego- and perhaps with decent prose. In this respect, the middle-writer is a columnist without any newsprint real-estate. Frank Simoes, advertising wizard and the creator of gems like ‘Only Vimal’ and Goa, the Holiday Destination- as opposed to Goa, the geographical entity- got his first middle published after 49 rejections. His 50th submission was about how it felt to have 49 middles turned down in a row.

Much of the material in this collection is culled from Simoes’ middles vault. Pieces like ‘Pythons, Puritans and Perfidy’ (on sexual innuendo in the media), ‘Radhika and the Bomb’ (a meditation on the atom bomb) and ‘Apocalpyse Now’ (on Bombay’s slums) have the writer galloping along on ‘issues’. There are other peripetatic pieces which deal with, among pretty much everything else under the sun, Goa, ‘my friend’ Remo Fernandes, London, and Goa. Simoes’ style is old-world wit — which means there is a slight anachronistic air about this collection.

Perhaps the pieces which have dated the least — and appeal to people beyond the sepia-tinged Carmichael Road or Mario Miranda illustrations-inducing Goa — are those extracted from his books Uncertain Liaisons and Glad Seasons in Goa. The extract from the former, titled ‘A Perfect Pair of Breasts’ is rollicking fun. Simoes recounts how he is summoned by his British ad agency boss to look for what will eventually be tucked inside a Maidenform brassiere in a print ad. There is a brief digression in the difficulties that were posed while coming up with the perfect Liberty shirt ad. And then the perfect pair are found (Lisa Jones’)... but the final ad is airbrushed to nothingness. Simoes is clearly best when writing about the advertising world. ‘So You Want To Start An Ad Agency’ is an amicable advisory.

This collection will appeal to those many who enjoy good grammar, smoking-jacket humour, Alyque Padamsee theatre and jazz by the bay. For others like me, it’s a pleasant stroll down to a curio shop fronted by a charming writer of middles.

First Published: Jan 16, 2004 11:07 IST