Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss
By Rajeev Balasubramanyam. (Dial Press, 349 pages, $27.)
P.R. Chandrasekhar — Professor Chandra — should be on top of the world. As a world-renowned economist and Cambridge professor, he is favored to finally win the Nobel Prize. But in one disastrous event after another, he is snubbed for the Nobel; hit by an errant cyclist; suffers a heart attack; is ordered by his doctor to “chillax,” which inspires him to fly to America only to punch his ex’s new husband upon arrival.
In a wink and a nod to memoirs of privileged westerners who journey to India to “find” themselves, Rajeev Balasubramanyam delivers a comic delight as his 70-year-old scholar sets off to find inner peace. Professor Chandra recognizes his desire to repair broken relationships with his children and chooses to continue despite constant moments of embarrassment. The comic tone of the novel provokes many laughs, but it conveys with a real sense of the author’s compassion that finding peace is actually bloody hard work.
Ladies Who Punch
By Ramin Setoodeh. (St. Martin’s Press, 316 pages, $28.99.)
No actual fists are thrown in “Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View,” but this behind-the-scenes takedown of the daytime juggernaut is determined to prove that heated words pack a wallop.
Author Ramin Setoodeh, a veteran entertainment reporter and editor, gives Barbara Walters props for creating a multigenerational platform for women, but quickly glosses over that accomplishment, painting the legendary broadcaster as a terrorizing, hopelessly out-of-touch egomaniac who never got over not casting herself as the show’s moderator.
Walters gets off easy.
Star Jones comes across as an attention-seeking monster who used the program to finance her shopping addiction. “Saturday Night Live” was right on target in portraying Debbie Matenopoulos as an airhead. Rosie O’Donnell is a control freak madly in love with Elizabeth Hasselbeck. Network executives are so clueless, they couldn’t manage a game of Red Rover.
Setoodeh’s decades of covering the program pays off with the kind of details you normally don’t get from the hush-hush world of show business. But his obsession with deep-dish gossip overshadows any attempt to analyze what has made the show so popular and influential.
O’Donnell recently said agreeing to be interviewed for the tell-all book is her biggest regret. That’s something her colleagues who also participated could probably agree on.