“How to Get filthy Rich in Rising Asia” by Moshin Hamid is the best novel of the year and I would argue it’s the globalization’s era “The Great Gatsby”.
This book is what a literary novel should be: inventive, full of great prose, characters, and leave you with new thoughts about the human condition.
In second person we are in the protagonist’s skin as the structure of the popular ‘self-help book’ gets turned on its head. Each chapter named like a self-help book chapter, we see the protagonist get older and get closer the goal of getting rich while still pining for his ‘Daisy’ a nameless girl from the neighborhood known as ‘the pretty girl’
This is an excellent book with many of the same themes of “The Great Gatsby” but we are not in the NE of the 1920’s of America but somewhere is a nameless city in 21st Century Asia.
While America has its Gatsby who now will picture him as Leonardo Di Caprio; the global world now has the character ‘You’ as with globalization we are all nameless faces facing the same wants and needs.
The second person is used so well as any of us could be ‘You.’ Though, I have no idea what is like to live in ‘Rising Asia’ a work of great fiction can make me feel like now I know. The novel captures the 21st century struggle of wanting success, sex, and reaching for a love that doesn’t come when you want them most and no amount of money is enough to feel satisfied–very Gatsby.
I don’t predict this book doing very well with America, which is a shame, but we are very self-centered (not very) artistic country and struggle to relate to foreign characters. Even “Slumdog Millionaire” is a Horatio Alger story set to an American TV show in English. It was an anomaly as “Let The Right One In” and “Oldboy” have to be remade in an American image to be watched.
Besides “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” which was mediocre thriller which American readers do love; it is very rare for a literary novel to do well outside of literary circles. A foreign literary novel is definitely not going to make the average American book club and though I’m not the biggest fan of literary academia and the publishing establishment it hopefully will be appreciated there as this book is leaps and bounds better than “The Tiger’s Wife” which was treated like the next Gatsby.
In a perfect world Oprah would pick this for her book club as even though it is shorter and less ‘epic’ it is just as ambitious and a better novel than Franzen’s “Freedom”.
Can American housewives read about a nameless boy growing up in Asia that is not a Geisha or part of the joy luck club? I’m not holding breath.
But this book isn’t for them and like “Gatsby” I’d bet on history being very kind to it and giving it the respect it rightly deserves. Yet, it is a global world and now there is global readership that will appreciate this great piece of art.