How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia
A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
2013 /138 pages (ebook)
I first heard of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia when researching titles for Man Booker hopefuls. Many readers on some of the Booker forums were leaning heavily on the inclusion of "Filthy Rich". After finishing the book, I can see why and I am glad to see that although it was overlooked for the Booker this year it will get some love during the Tournament of Books.
How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a quirky book in that it is written in the second person. "You" get to learn from a self help book how to get filthy rich in rising Asia. Some people will be put off by this point of view. As this is my first read of a book written in second person, I quite enjoyed it. The author Mohsin Hamid makes "you" feel like "you" are in the story. I did feel like I was being led through the steps of becoming filthy rich. There are times the second person did not work for me, mostly related to the male genitalia. Fortunately there are not many references or specifics in this realm.
As I stated earlier, the book is set up as a self help book. I love the opening lines:
Look, unless you're writing one, a self-help book is an oxymoron. You read a self-help book so someone who isn't yourself can help you, that someone being the author. This is true of the whole self-help genre. It's true of how-to books, for example. And it's true of personal improvement books too. Some might even say it's true of religion books. But some others might say that those who say that should be pinned to the ground and bled dry with the slow slice of a blade across their throats. So it's wisest simply to note a divergence of views on that subcategory and move swiftly on...Hamid does an excellent job in my opinion taking the self-help book and wrapping it into a perfect story. He truly has a decent plot, a great setting, and somehow enough character development that you - your fictional you and your real self feel for the characters of the book - to the point of possibly shedding a tear at the final outcome.
Our author of the self-help book (Hamid himself? His fictional counterpart?) is also very witty. This is a book that could be read a couple times and at each reading a new tidbit of fun uncovered. The book is set in an unknown city in India. It reads very similarly to The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. Both books are set in India and have the same flow and rhythm.
So, how do I feel it will play out in the Tournament of Books. Depending upon the match ups, it would not surprise me to see Filthy Rich hold its own for a round or two. I think it is clever enough to show up in the final round. If the judges and readers just get tired of the doorstops on the list, this book could end up in the final round. Surprisingly, it would not upset me if it did...