Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review: HOW TO GET FILTHY RICH IN RISING ASIA, by Mohsin Hamid

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, by Mohsin Hamid. Published 2013 by Riverhead Books. Literary Fiction.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia was one of those books for me that was just nothing like what I expected. It got a starred review from Kirkus, which was why I decided to give it a try, but even that glowing write-up didn't prepare me for how much I would enjoy this book. Author Mohsin Hamid writes the book in the second person, so everything is "you"- and he writes it as a kind of mock self-help book, a kind of "how to live" for a generation on the cusp of a new era. But that's every generation, right, and the "you" is everyone.

But mostly the "you" is a male character growing up in a country resembling India or Pakistan, a rural boy brought to the big city with his family who makes his fortune in bottled water. Hamid's narrative tracks this man from childhood till death, and along with his fortunes tracks those of an unnamed woman known only as "the pretty girl," the man's lifelong love. Their story forms the heart of the book which also touches on various social and political issues and trends, including corruption, social mobility, marriage, religion, globalization and more.

But How to Get Filthy Rich is also a book about books, about their power and sway.
It's remarkable how many books fall into the category of self-help. Why, for example, do you persist in reading that much-praised, breathtakinginly boring foreign novel, slogging through page after page of please-make-it-stop page of tar-slow prose and blush-inducing formal conceit, if not out of an impulse to understand distant lands that because of globalization are increasingly affecting life in your own? What is this impulse of yours, at its core, if not a desire for self-help?
So that's a question anyone could ask when reading a book about a different country, or even a different person. We are all foreign lands to each other, and books help us understand other places and other people. We learn how we're different as well as how we're the same, and Hamid has crafted a luminous universal story about life and love and the drive to make our mark:
We are all refugees from our childhoods. And so we turn, among other things, to stories. To write a story, to read a story, is to be a refugee from the state of refugees. Writers and readers seek a solution to the problem that time passes, that those who have gone are gone and those who will go, which is to say every one of us, will go. For there was a moment when anything was possible. And there will be a moment when nothing is possible. But in between we can create.
And that's what this book is about, that time in between, when we can still make something and make something with ourselves. I love that Hamid says "we can create." It's possible. We have the choice- it's not written whether or not we will take it. His characters create lives for themselves, create personas, create a world around themselves. What they create is what you have to find out by reading this remarkable and lovely book.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.

11 comments:

feministtexicanreads said...

This is near the top of my TBR pile. I can't wait...I've heard nothing but good things! :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

Before all the hype I was offered the opportunity to review this book on audio and I passed because...really, that title did nothing for me! I guess the joke is on old Sandy, as usual. I still may grab it from the library, once I get to The Dinner that is!

bookspersonally said...

Lovely idea about books being a bridge between us - enjoyed hearing a bit of an interview with him on NPR- book sounds good!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Your review makes it sound much more appealing than the publisher blurbs! I would not have considered it were it not for reading this!

bermudaonion said...

The second person narrative has to be really well written for me to enjoy it but it sounds like it is in this case.

Zibilee said...

I just downloaded this one for review, and now I am super excited about it! I love books that not only make you think, but that feature books as one of their main plot points. I will have to let you know what I think of this one when I get through with it. Excellent review today!

River City Reader said...

I wasn't completely sold on this yet, but I am now! It sounds gorgeous.

Mystica said...

New to me and very appealing!

Ryan said...

I listened to an excellent interview with the author about this book on NPR last week and it sounded interesting. Your review has sealed the deal. I can't wait to read this. Thanks!

Man of la Book said...

Great review of a wonderful book. I also read this one (http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=8338) and while it took me a while to get into it, by the middle I couldn't put it down.

Kathleen said...

This one is definitely on my list. I still need to read The Reluctant Fundamentalist too.