Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid

Oh I do love a book that you don't want to finish reading because reading it is so lovely!  Those books don't come along very often, but with the help of a knowledgable sales woman at Malaprop's Bookstore in Asheville, NC this one made its way into my hands.  Moshin Hamid is an author I discovered last year when I read The Reluctant Fundamentalist - which has lately been made into a movie!  I loved the novel and look forward to seeing the movie.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is couched as a self-help book and written in second person. Chapter headings suggest earnest instructions for attaining wealth - Get an Education, Learn from a Master, Work for Yourself.  In each chapter, the individual that the speaker is giving instructions to ages until the final section - Have an Exit Strategy - when the end is near.  This nameless individual learns about life, love and business in a nameless Asia location, and ultimately realizes what is more important than riches.  

I don't know whether I agree with the reviewers who make Gatsby comparisons.  I do agree with the sales clerk who convinced me to buy the book that it is one you long to dip back into - reread sections - because the prose is as liquid as the cover image.  Near the end, the narrator cautions, 
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.
If I were still teaching, this is a book I would love to discuss with students.  A relative short read, it will be a good book club book.  One that Dave Eggers calls "Completely unforgettable".

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr.

Ron Currie Jr. came on my reader radar when colleagues at the high school started shoving copies of his Everything Matters in my face a few years back.  Currie is a rising talent, having won a Young Lions Fiction Award from the New York Public library in 2007 for his first books, God is Dead.  I was excited when I recently spotted this new novel on the Recent Releases display at one of the coolest independent bookstores I have visited in a long time - Malaprop's Books in Asheville, NC.  I broke my moratorium on book buying and started reading it in the car, read more in the hotel, finished it as soon as I got home, so I could give it to that Currie-loving colleague - my rationalization for buying a new book in the first place.  Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is an experiment in metafiction.  Ron Currie is both author and main character ( a la Tim O'Brien).  One of the first things a reader notices is that some of the pages are only about one third covered with text.  Some half full.  Not many full consecutive pages in the book at all.  This is because Currie jumps subjects like a jack rabbit.  Some pages are about Ron's unquenchable love for the elusive Emma.  Some are about his father's death.  Some are about being banished to a Caribbean island where he is frequently violently knocked around by locals.  Some are, most obscurely, about Ray Kurzweil's Singularity, predicted to occur in 2045.  I kept turning pages because the book began with a hefty promise for excitement.
The first thing you need to know about me is that I am a writer. . . . I quit writing for one reason, then stayed for another.  The first reason was I killed myself, which obviously makes it hard to go on writing.
Ron Currie's suicide propels the narrative but details and motives are murky and I didn't end up believing any part of the story that the authoritative narrative voice promises is completely capital T  - true.  I wanted to love it - but in the end the ploy was as flimsy as the title.