On any given day, thousands of authors are praying to their god of choice or birth for the success of their books, but recently Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy (Picador), was named by an obscure religious group called Share International as its messiah Maitreya, or World Teacher.
The story appears to borrow its plot from Monty Python’s The Life of Brian; since Share’s leader Benjamin Crème suggested but did not explicitly state that Patel was Maitreya, some of the group’s followers have decreed the author of The Value of Nothing as their deity.
By the time of his “deification,” though, The Value of Nothing had already risen to the New York Times bestseller list. “Mercy be,” said Patel.
Addressing such claims on his Web site in a post titled “Call Me Brian,” the British-born Patel, of Indian descent (who very recently became a U. S. citizen), said: “Sadly, I am not the Messiah. I’m just a very naughty boy.”
Since its January release, The Value of Nothing has earned rave reviews (including a PW star), and the buzz has spread virally, landing Patel on The Colbert Report long before anyone ever hinted at his heavenly status.
Patel—whose wife, Minnie, is expecting their first child, a son—is taking the religious allegations with a grain of salt.
The only deity Patel says he acknowledges is his editor, Picador’s Frances Coady. “Picador really had a vision way more than I did about how the book would work,” Patel said. The publisher created videos and was committed to a word-of-mouth campaign, just as the messiah rumors spread.
As with his previous book, Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World’s Food System (Melville, 2008), Patel’s work gets people talking about his often controversial, always heavily researched and thought out theses. In The Value of Nothing, Patel maintained that the capitalist free market is not free at all, but unsustainable, and he asserts that it is deceiving the world of its real costs to the environment and humanity.
“The opposite of consumption is not thrift,” wrote Patel. “It’s generosity.” Does that sound like capitalistic blasphemy, or what?