Mohsin Hamid’s ‘How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia’

Parul Seghal in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_162 Apr. 02 14.17“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia” begins under a bed. With you — yes, you — under a bed. Once you quit cowering, you’ll be the hero of this novel written in the second person, although there’s nothing remotely heroic about you at the moment; you’re so sick you can scarcely speak. The only remedy at hand is a large white radish, which your mother cooks up in a foul brew.

Courage. You’ll live and what’s more, you’re only seven steps from getting Filthy Rich, according to the narrator. (You’re also nine steps from ruin, but we’ll address that in a minute.) The marriage of these two curiously compatible genres — self-help and the old-fashioned bildungs­roman — is just one of the pleasures of Mohsin Hamid’s shrewd and slippery new novel, a rags-to-riches story that works on a head-splitting number of levels. It’s a love story and a study of seismic social change. It parodies a get-rich-quick book and gestures to a new direction for the novel, all in prose so pure and purposeful it passes straight into the bloodstream. It intoxicates.

But back to the radish. It saves you — or was it perhaps something more numinous? Luck has already begun clearing your path. “There are forks in the road to wealth that have nothing to do with choice or desire or effort, forks that have to do with chance, and in your case, the order of your birth is one of these,” the narrator congratulates you. You’re a third-born son. Third born means you’re spared from going to work immediately (like your elder brother) or being married off (like your sister, who at puberty is “marked for entry”). Third born means you’re not “a tiny skeleton in a small grave at the base of a tree,” like your youngest sibling. Third born means you stay in school.

More here.