How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (Hamid)

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
Mohsin Hamid, 2013
Penguin Group USA
240 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781594487293



Summary
From the best-selling author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia tells the story of an anonymous man's journey from impoverished rural boy to tycoon in an unnamed contemporary city in “rising Asia,” and of his pursuit of the nameless “pretty girl” whose path continually crosses but never quite converges with his.

Stealing its shape from the self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia,” the novel is genre-bending and playful but also reflective and profound in its portrayal of the thirst for ambition and love in a time of shattering economic and social upheaval. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid's third novel, confirms that this radically inventive storyteller is among the most important of today's international writers. (From the publisher.)



Author Bio 
Birth—1971
Where—Lahore, Pakistan
Education—A.B., Princeton Univer.; J.D., Harvard Univer.
Awards—Betty Trask Award; South Bank Show Award
Currently—lives in London, England, UK


Although he was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan, award-winning novelist Mohsin Hamid spent part of his childhood in California while his father attended grad school at Stanford. Returning to the U.S. to complete his own education, Hamid graduated from Princeton University and Harvard Law School. He worked for a while as a management consultant in New York, then moved to London, where he continues to work and write.

Hamid made his literary debut in 2000 with Moth Smoke, a noir-inflected story about a young banker living on the fringes of Lahore society who plummets into an underworld of drugs and crime when he is fired from his job. Providing a rare glimpse into the complexities of the Pakistani class system, the book was called "a brisk, absorbing novel" (New York Times Book Review), "a hip page-turner" (Los Angeles Times), and "a first novel of remarkable wit, poise, profundity, and strangeness" (Esquire). Moth Smoke received a Betty Trask Award and was named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

In 2007, Hamid added luster to his reputation with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Written as a single, sustained monolog, this "elegant and chilling little novel" (New York Times) is an electrifying psychological thriller that puts a dazzling new spin on culture, success, and loyalty in the post-9/11 world. The book became an international bestseller; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Decibel Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and went on to win the South Bank Show Award for Literature. 

2013 saw the publication of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia to both public and critical acclaim. The New York Time's Michiko Kakutani called it "deeply moving," writing that How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia "reaffirms [Hamid's] place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers."

There is no question that Hamid's unusual life experience, a cross-cultural stew of influences and perspectives, has informed his fiction. In addition to consulting and writing novels, he remains a much-in-demand freelance journalist, contributing articles and op-ed pieces — often with a Pakistani slant — to publications like Time magazine, The Guardian, New York Times, Independent, and Washington Post. He holds dual citizenship in the U.K. and Pakistan.

Extras
From a 2007 Barnes & Noble interview:

• When I was three years old I spoke no English, but fluent Urdu. We moved from Pakistan to America for a few years. I got lost in the backyard because all the townhouses were identical. I was knocking on the door of the townhouse next to ours by mistake, and some kids gathered around, making fun of me. For a month after that I didn't say a word. When I started speaking again, it was entirely, and fluently, in English.

• I once woke up in Pakistan and found a bullet in the bonnet of my car. Someone had fired it into the air, probably to celebrate a wedding, and it had hit on the way down. That incident set in motion an entire line of the plot of my first novel, Moth Smoke. Without it, the protagonist would not have been an orphan.

• My wife was born four houses from the house in which I had been born in Lahore, Pakistan. But we met for the first time by chance in a bar in London, thirty-two years later. It's a small world.

When asked what book most influenced his career as a writer, here is his response:

Toni Morrison's Jazz. Not because it is her best book, nor because it is my favorite book, but because it was the first book of hers I read and also the book I was reading when she read me. I wrote the first draft of my first novel, Moth Smoke, for a creative writing class with her in my final semester at Princeton. When she read my words aloud I understood something about writing, about the power of orality, of cadence and rhythm and the spoken word, that unlocked my own potential for finding voices and shaped everything I have written since. This book opened a door that I walked through without ever, in fourteen years, looking back.

(Author bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)



Book Reviews
It is a measure of Mr. Hamid's audacious talents that he manages to make his protagonist's story work on so many levels. "You" is, at once, a modern-day Horatio Alger character, representing the desires and frustrations of millions in rising Asia; a bildungsroman hero, by turns knavish and recognizably human, who sallies forth from the provinces to find his destiny; and a nameless but intimately known soul, whose bittersweet romance with the pretty girl possesses a remarkable emotional power. With How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia Mr. Hamid reaffirms his place as one of his generation's most inventive and gifted writers.
New York Times - Michiko Kakutani


Brilliant… In its cleverness, its slightly cruel satire and its complex understanding of both Western and Eastern paradigms, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is pure Hamid… His storytelling style is both timeless and contemporary, a postmodern Scheherazade… This novel is smart about many things, including medicine and the processes of death, but is smartest of all about literature itself.
Marion Winik - Newsday


[E]xtraordinarily clever…Hamid…has taken the most American form of literature—the self-help book—and transformed it to tell the story of an ambitious man in the Third World. It's a bizarre amalgam that looks like a parody of the genre from one angle and a melancholy reflection on modern life from another…Working within the frame of a self-help book would seem constricting at best, annoying at worst, but Hamid tells a surprisingly moving story…His protagonist is never named, indeed, there aren't any named people or places in this novel…But the story manages to be both particular and broad at the same time.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Hamid is as much an inventive stylist as he is a gifted storyteller… As a result, his novels are compulsively readable, and "Rising Asia" is no exception… Tremendously profound and entertaining.
Alex Gilvarry - Boston Globe

Astounding… An ambitious, moving story about love and loneliness [that] constantly surprises… by reinventing itself just as characters reinvent themselves… At the heart of the book is [the] consideration of what it means to succeed, to rise or to help oneself. How does one live and die? …The questions simmer below the surface of this tremendous, wise and surprisingly moral book.
San Francisco Chronicle


Thanks to Hamid's meticulous use of detail—and his sympathy for a man on the make in a society of endemic poverty—we engage deeply with a serious character whose essence remains his own yet who stands as a figure representative of his time and place, an effect only the best novelists can create… This tale of an unscrupulous striver may bring to mind a globalized version of The Great Gatsby. Given the unabashed gimmickry of Hamid's how-to design, it's a pleasant surprise to find that his book is nearly that good.
Alan Cheuse - NPR


A love story and bildungsroman disguised as a self-help book, and the result has all the inventiveness, exuberance and pathos that the writer's fans have come to expect… Marvelous and moving.
Time


Wonderfully astringent… Hamid is a sly witness to a traditional culture’s dizzying trajectory—supermodels stalk city billboards; a drone hovers ominously in the sky—but his satiric impulse gives way to compassion for the intimacies that keep us tethered in a rapidly changing world.
Vogue


This is one of those original works that are also resonant as a record of human experience and geo-political shift, and a strong argument for Hamid as one of the most important writers working today. An enjoyable read no matter who ‘you’ are.
Daily Beast


Mohsin Hamid’s hotly anticipated new book tells the story of young love between capitalism and the latest target of its cupid’s arrow: Asia… Political, romantic, exciting, and a page-turner throughout.
Harper’s Bazaar


Ambition rules in this playful third novel from PEN/Hemingway Award finalist Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist). The novel follows the unnamed narrator’s journey from his village childhood to becoming a corporate superstar in the big city. The novel is told in the second person, the narrator ushering us through a life in an unidentified developing Asian country while elucidating the many conditions that must be met to become filthy rich. The hero seems to be on the right track; still, he must navigate the usual obstacles in life that could hinder the way to his final goal: family illness, bad luck, and most dangerously, love. The protagonist is merely a teenager when he meets his ideal woman, but this pretty girl’s life has a similar arc as the hero’s. Though readers may find it frustrating that they never overlap for long, the intermittent intersections provide them an anchor to the lives they left in desperation. The book takes its formal cues from the self-help genre, but the adopting of that form’s unceasing optimism also nullifies any sense of depth or struggle. Fortunately, Hamid offers a subtle and rich look at the social realities of developing countries, including corruption, poverty, and how economic development affects daily life from top to bottom. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (Mar.)
Publishers Weekly


The title could come from one of those get-rich-quick books, and in fact Hamid imaginatively uses that genre's format to shape his narrative. But this is very much a novel, by the author of the Betty Trask Award-winning Moth Smoke and the best-selling, Man Booker-short-listed The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Here, the nameless protagonist goes from rags to riches as he builds a corporate empire based on that increasingly scarce commodity, water. He also crosses paths repeatedly and passionately with a pretty young woman on the rise. Hamid always manages to nail the realities of the culturally seismic post-9/11 world.
Library Journal



Discussion Questions
1. Why do you think the author chose to write this novel not only in the second person but also in the form of a self–help book? What effect did these choices have on your experience as a reader?

2. How does the transition from rural to urban life affect the family? What challenges does it alleviate for them, both individually and as a unit, and what new challenges does it create?

3. What first intrigues the hero about the pretty girl? In what ways does her rise parallel—and diverge from—his? Were you surprised by the course of their affair? Why do you think the author chose to give it this form rather than craft a more conventional romance? What does the book ultimately have to say about love?

4. What happens to morality—for the hero, his father, and the pretty girl—in the pursuit of ambition? What happens to love?

5. Apart from continents, no place is named in the book and all of the characters are anonymous. Why do you think the author chose to forgo names? What effect does this anonymity have on the telling of the story and on your experience reading it?

6. The story spans the hero's entire life, from early childhood to death. How does the author convey such a broad sweep of time in so few pages? What insights about mortality does the story offer?

7. The book is set against a backdrop of massive and often brutal economic and social change. In what ways does this context limit the hero's life choices? In what ways does it liberate him? What might this story look like played out elsewhere in the world?

8. At one point the hero becomes affiliated with a group of “idealists,” and at other points his father's faith and his wife's religious–minded activism are discussed. What do you think the novelist's attitude toward religion is?

9. In Chapter 9, “Patronize the Artists of War,” the role of “information” and its less–than–benign uses emerges, and the tenor of the narrative shifts as well. How would you describe this shift, and how are these two developments related?

10. After finishing the book, what do you think of the title? In what sense does the novel ultimately offer “self–help”? How does it blur the boundaries between genres—fiction, nonfiction, self–help, and even sci–fi?

11. What did you think of the ending of the book? Was it surprising, given the title? Satisfying? Where did it leave you as a reader, and where do you think the author intended it to leave you?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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