How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013) You have written your insightful and entertaining third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia , in the second person — a daring… 2013-03-05 Fiction Riverhead Hardcover
Book Review

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013)


Details Release Date: Mar 05, 2013; Writer: Mohsin Hamid; Genre: Fiction; Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover

You have written your insightful and entertaining third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, in the second person — a daring gambit that seldom works. (Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City is a notable exception.) You're familiar with such risks. You used the device in passages of your 2000 debut, Moth Smoke, and then successfully experimented with a book-length first-person monologue for your acclaimed 2007 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

As the title implies, How to Get Filthy Rich is also framed as a self-help book, with chapters charting lessons from the life of a young boy in an unnamed Asian country who rises from rural poverty to become an urban industrial tycoon. Like Changez, the Pakistani Princeton grad whose career as a go-getting Manhattan banker was upended by 9/11 in Fundamentalist, your new hero is a striver. You've managed to keep him sympathetic to readers even as he cuts corners, bribes government officials, and alienates his family on the path to greatness. It helps that he has a lost love, the ''pretty girl'' from his boyhood who embarks on a parallel course of economic self-improvement.

You have a natural authority as a storyteller, rendering life in an emerging nation in lucid detail. Yet you also verge on the off-puttingly meta, as when you wonder why people ''persist in reading that much-praised, breathtakingly boring foreign novel.'' Perhaps, as you suggest, fiction can satisfy an ''impulse to understand distant lands that because of globalization are increasingly affecting life in [our] own.'' But while your stylistic flourishes are clever, at times they almost overwhelm the human drama. It's as if you'd prefer to hold your characters at a safe distance rather than inhabit them fully. Though your hero's trials and tribulations always engage, they never devastate. B+

Memorable Line:

''Your anguish is the anguish of a boy whose chocolate has been thrown away, whose remote controls are out of batteries, whose scooter is busted, whose new sneakers have been stolen.''

Originally posted Mar 06, 2013 Published in issue #1249 Mar 08, 2013 Order article reprints