How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia has a lot going on. There are two books in this novel--one that is eminently successful and one that is not.
The...moreHow to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia has a lot going on. There are two books in this novel--one that is eminently successful and one that is not.
The narrative frame here is that of a self help book on getting filthy rich in rising asia. The entire novel is told in the second person with a narrator telling the you, or the novel's protagonist how to achieve such wealth. The problem is that the first 300 words or so of each chapter are completely different in tone from the rest of each chapter. There are desperately atonal moments like in sentences like, "Its typical mode of transmission is fecal-oral. Yum." The Yum has literally driven me to distraction for about twenty hours. It doesn't work and it absolutely weakens the prose around it. Throughout the book there are these missteps that really pull the reader away from otherwise excellent writing. The self-help, vaguely satirical prose at the beginning of each chapter is too forced and it just doesn't work. I really want to ask Hamid why this frame? Because it's too heavy handed. What he's trying to convey through these sections is deftly conveyed through the rest of each chapter. This novel would be 5 stars if that strained narrative frame disappeared.
The thing about great books though is that they allow for flaws, so while this problematic narrative frame is significant, the merits of the book absolutely compensate for the weaknesses. The novel is sweeping, telling a man's entire life from poverty in his rural village to the sprawling city slums to achieving staggering wealth. This is a novel about where you come from and how your roots never really leave you and how life is, very often, a very cyclical thing.
The sense of place throughout How to Get Filthy is richly drawn with the smells and sights and the din of an overcrowded rising Asia city. This is also a book that tackles the socioeconomic complexities of Rising Asia with it's growing upper and middle classes and the consequences of that mobility.
How to Get Filthy Rich is also a love story and an intriguing one between this good, hardworking man who gives his heart to the first girl he loves and the ambitious pretty girl who doesn't want to be held back by her heart. There are absolutely gorgeous, evocative moments and such uniquely plaintive longing.
This is a slim but ambitious novel and when that ambition is met, this novel soars. (less)
Oh this book is kind of a mess. The writing is competent and each story has a lot of unrealized potential but the stories are a bland blur of the same...moreOh this book is kind of a mess. The writing is competent and each story has a lot of unrealized potential but the stories are a bland blur of the same themes over and over. There are few remarkable moments that really make you want to keep reading. Also, all the men have dreadlocks and the women have corkscrew curls. It's as if there's only one way to describe people. (less)
I'm a real fan of Jodzio's writing and there's a lot to like about Get In If You Want to Live. The book is an amazing art object though at times, the...moreI'm a real fan of Jodzio's writing and there's a lot to like about Get In If You Want to Live. The book is an amazing art object though at times, the art dominates the prose. There are many moments where I laughed out loud while reading this collection but at times, the humor felt a bit one-note and the characters blurred from one story to the next. Absurdist fiction is all about balance and sometimes, there simply wasn't enough balance in these stories. (less)
Nobody Trusts a Black Magician from NonPress is a surprising and strong collection of work by one of the brightest, sharpest, most raw writers, one xT...moreNobody Trusts a Black Magician from NonPress is a surprising and strong collection of work by one of the brightest, sharpest, most raw writers, one xTx. I looked at the chapbook when it was released and read a couple stories but I was, to be honest, kind of nervous because I didn’t know if I was going to read something that might bother me and I didn’t want anything to change my opinion of the writer . I finally decided to stop being a baby and of course the title story is not even remotely about what I thought it was about and it also uses the word “fuck” approximately 111 times so it is, of course, excellent. Before I get into the book, I’ll note that it is available in multiple formats including MP3s so you can listen if you don’t like to read but you’re reading this so you probably do… like to read.
xTx’s writing is quite interesting in how she creates this really raw intimacy with her writing and tells stories that are easy to relate to, stories that are naked, honest and express the desires and anxieties many people have but often don’t acknowledge. I read an interview with Zachary German on HTMLGIANT where he said he finds the ordinary very exciting and I see that exciting ordinary in this chapbook. These stories take very ordinary situations and reveal big, extraordinary moments within them like in “Losing the Pee Argument,” where she writes, “I looked like one of those magazine covers where the famous star poses nude, but you can’t see anything because she’s cockblocking you with her pose,” and it’s a simple line, really, but it creates, for me at least, that perfect moment of recognition. We’ve all seen those poses. The stories I enjoyed most were written in first and second person—violent yet sweet, beautiful but ugly and reflecting both love and a yearning for things we want but can’t have. So many of the stories in this chapbook are love letters, but the good kind. In Black Friend, which really should be heard because it sounds cool, I got a little tense again because I wondered what the story would be about but there’s interesting, witty stuff going on with language and wordplay. I laughed and then I felt uncomfortable and then I thought, “Is this how white people think?” and then I laughed some more. There were a couple stories I didn’t get like Christmas Eve which didn’t seem to fit with the rest of the collection but other than that, Nobody Trusts a Black Magician hits all the right notes. You should go, read this book, and tell everyone you know about it. (less)
More than anything, this book shows that the author has a lot of promise. Some of the stuff was just... well fine until whatever, but there were so ma...moreMore than anything, this book shows that the author has a lot of promise. Some of the stuff was just... well fine until whatever, but there were so many sharp, witty lines and a couple really cohesive pieces that despite some of the frustrations I had with the book, I am glad I read it. (less)
There are brilliant moments in this book, and the desperate pace of many of the pieces is intriguing. At the same time, some of the pieces read like i...moreThere are brilliant moments in this book, and the desperate pace of many of the pieces is intriguing. At the same time, some of the pieces read like insane ramblings, but not in a good way. Its like the author is trying way too hard to be edgy and out there and different but only ends up writing more of the same of that writing that seems to be pervasive these days--all style no substance.(less)
Wonderful novel, with an ending so stark and sharp and haunting. At times the narrative wanders in ways that frustrate but Erdrich's talent is undenia...moreWonderful novel, with an ending so stark and sharp and haunting. At times the narrative wanders in ways that frustrate but Erdrich's talent is undeniable and this novel reminds me of Possessing the Secret of Joy for what it does to create fiction that both tells a story and makes a political statement. This book is well worth the read. (less)