dangermousie: (Default)
I was devouring Suketu Mehta's Maximum City yesterday. It will probably go on my list of Top 10 non-fiction books.

Has anyone else read it?

Mehta is an Indian, a Mumbai native, who returned to Mumbai with his family after quite a few years of absence and living in the United States. Maximum City is his portrait of Mumbai, which is largely not about him but about people he meets (seeks out, for most part), all sorts of dwellers of Mumbai: he talks and gets the opinions and histories of hired killers for the mob, small level Shiv Sena men who were responsible for killing the Muslims in riots in 1992-93 but now have turned respectable, movie-makers and even movie stars, Jain religionists, bar dancers, policemen, women trying to build order and harmony in the slums, even people like Bal Thackaray (immensely powerful head of Shiv Sena) and one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons.

It is an amazing, amazing, amazing book, at once uncomfortable (even horrifying) and poetic in the least likely places, full of stories I love so much:

* the hired killers discuss the definition and meaning of God, in between playing, like addicts, with the bullets in their gun, and talking about rape and murder.

* the whole section on Ajay Lal, a policeman largely responsible for solving the Mumbai bomb blast cases, who is incorruptible (someone of a shocking rarity in the force), effective, and appears amazingly larger than life, not to mention someone who becomes Mehta's friend, and who has not the slightest hesitation (nor does a single other policeman in the city) about brutally torturing suspects for information.

* Monalisa the bar girl, sold into the bar line by the mother who beat her, and who dances in front of throngs of adoring, enflamed men who garland her wirh money, and who can literally stop traffic just by walking through it. She dreams of becoming Miss India, and has slit her wrists multiple times, so badly some of her fingers don't work. (I found her notion of honor incredibly fascinating. By most middle-class standards she is a prostitute, but she is proud of earning her own money; she left a man she loved because he wasn't earning his own money but using his family's; and she refuses to marry that man now because since she's left him she's been with other men so it would be dishonorable).

* the countless bulls and goats being slaughtered for a feast and the street running with blood.

* Mehta interviewing Chotta Shakeel, one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons, and the don, who took a shine to him, offering him a gift: one assassination of anyone he asked performed at no change.

* Honey, at one time the best dancer at the Sapphire bar, who is actually Manoj, a straight and married man, who dances and wears women's clothes not out of fetish or sexual incination but monetary necessity.

* One of the low-level Shiv Sena men describing what it felt like to burn a man alive.

I could go on and on and on.

It's an amazing book. Read it.

Here is a good review from Harper's.
dangermousie: (Default)
I was devouring Suketu Mehta's Maximum City yesterday. It will probably go on my list of Top 10 non-fiction books.

Has anyone else read it?

Mehta is an Indian, a Mumbai native, who returned to Mumbai with his family after quite a few years of absence and living in the United States. Maximum City is his portrait of Mumbai, which is largely not about him but about people he meets (seeks out, for most part), all sorts of dwellers of Mumbai: he talks and gets the opinions and histories of hired killers for the mob, small level Shiv Sena men who were responsible for killing the Muslims in riots in 1992-93 but now have turned respectable, movie-makers and even movie stars, Jain religionists, bar dancers, policemen, women trying to build order and harmony in the slums, even people like Bal Thackaray (immensely powerful head of Shiv Sena) and one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons.

It is an amazing, amazing, amazing book, at once uncomfortable (even horrifying) and poetic in the least likely places, full of stories I love so much:

* the hired killers discuss the definition and meaning of God, in between playing, like addicts, with the bullets in their gun, and talking about rape and murder.

* the whole section on Ajay Lal, a policeman largely responsible for solving the Mumbai bomb blast cases, who is incorruptible (someone of a shocking rarity in the force), effective, and appears amazingly larger than life, not to mention someone who becomes Mehta's friend, and who has not the slightest hesitation (nor does a single other policeman in the city) about brutally torturing suspects for information.

* Monalisa the bar girl, sold into the bar line by the mother who beat her, and who dances in front of throngs of adoring, enflamed men who garland her wirh money, and who can literally stop traffic just by walking through it. She dreams of becoming Miss India, and has slit her wrists multiple times, so badly some of her fingers don't work. (I found her notion of honor incredibly fascinating. By most middle-class standards she is a prostitute, but she is proud of earning her own money; she left a man she loved because he wasn't earning his own money but using his family's; and she refuses to marry that man now because since she's left him she's been with other men so it would be dishonorable).

* the countless bulls and goats being slaughtered for a feast and the street running with blood.

* Mehta interviewing Chotta Shakeel, one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons, and the don, who took a shine to him, offering him a gift: one assassination of anyone he asked performed at no change.

* Honey, at one time the best dancer at the Sapphire bar, who is actually Manoj, a straight and married man, who dances and wears women's clothes not out of fetish or sexual incination but monetary necessity.

* One of the low-level Shiv Sena men describing what it felt like to burn a man alive.

I could go on and on and on.

It's an amazing book. Read it.

Here is a good review from Harper's.
dangermousie: (Default)
I was devouring Suketu Mehta's Maximum City yesterday. It will probably go on my list of Top 10 non-fiction books.

Has anyone else read it?

Mehta is an Indian, a Mumbai native, who returned to Mumbai with his family after quite a few years of absence and living in the United States. Maximum City is his portrait of Mumbai, which is largely not about him but about people he meets (seeks out, for most part), all sorts of dwellers of Mumbai: he talks and gets the opinions and histories of hired killers for the mob, small level Shiv Sena men who were responsible for killing the Muslims in riots in 1992-93 but now have turned respectable, movie-makers and even movie stars, Jain religionists, bar dancers, policemen, women trying to build order and harmony in the slums, even people like Bal Thackaray (immensely powerful head of Shiv Sena) and one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons.

It is an amazing, amazing, amazing book, at once uncomfortable (even horrifying) and poetic in the least likely places, full of stories I love so much:

* the hired killers discuss the definition and meaning of God, in between playing, like addicts, with the bullets in their gun, and talking about rape and murder.

* the whole section on Ajay Lal, a policeman largely responsible for solving the Mumbai bomb blast cases, who is incorruptible (someone of a shocking rarity in the force), effective, and appears amazingly larger than life, not to mention someone who becomes Mehta's friend, and who has not the slightest hesitation (nor does a single other policeman in the city) about brutally torturing suspects for information.

* Monalisa the bar girl, sold into the bar line by the mother who beat her, and who dances in front of throngs of adoring, enflamed men who garland her wirh money, and who can literally stop traffic just by walking through it. She dreams of becoming Miss India, and has slit her wrists multiple times, so badly some of her fingers don't work. (I found her notion of honor incredibly fascinating. By most middle-class standards she is a prostitute, but she is proud of earning her own money; she left a man she loved because he wasn't earning his own money but using his family's; and she refuses to marry that man now because since she's left him she's been with other men so it would be dishonorable).

* the countless bulls and goats being slaughtered for a feast and the street running with blood.

* Mehta interviewing Chotta Shakeel, one of the biggest Mumbai mafia dons, and the don, who took a shine to him, offering him a gift: one assassination of anyone he asked performed at no change.

* Honey, at one time the best dancer at the Sapphire bar, who is actually Manoj, a straight and married man, who dances and wears women's clothes not out of fetish or sexual incination but monetary necessity.

* One of the low-level Shiv Sena men describing what it felt like to burn a man alive.

I could go on and on and on.

It's an amazing book. Read it.

Here is a good review from Harper's.
dangermousie: (PMK: Souji modern by cerlulean_sky)
[livejournal.com profile] linaerys, I am totally in your debt. If it wasn't for your posting about it, I would have never decided to check out Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram and it's brilliant, easily the best book I've read in ages.

How could I not love a book with this opening line:

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

Whoa. It was love from that point on.

But even if it wasn't, this description (on page 25) would have done me in:

"I looked at her, a stranger, and every other breath strained to force its way from my chest. a clamp like a tightening fist seized my heart. A voice in my blood said yes, yes, yes ... the ancient Sanskrit legends speak of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognized because she's loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings - the wings that only we can see - and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.

The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of the two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn't wise."
dangermousie: (PMK: Souji modern by cerlulean_sky)
[livejournal.com profile] linaerys, I am totally in your debt. If it wasn't for your posting about it, I would have never decided to check out Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram and it's brilliant, easily the best book I've read in ages.

How could I not love a book with this opening line:

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

Whoa. It was love from that point on.

But even if it wasn't, this description (on page 25) would have done me in:

"I looked at her, a stranger, and every other breath strained to force its way from my chest. a clamp like a tightening fist seized my heart. A voice in my blood said yes, yes, yes ... the ancient Sanskrit legends speak of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognized because she's loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings - the wings that only we can see - and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.

The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of the two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn't wise."
dangermousie: (PMK: Souji modern by cerlulean_sky)
[livejournal.com profile] linaerys, I am totally in your debt. If it wasn't for your posting about it, I would have never decided to check out Gregory David Roberts' Shantaram and it's brilliant, easily the best book I've read in ages.

How could I not love a book with this opening line:

"It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured."

Whoa. It was love from that point on.

But even if it wasn't, this description (on page 25) would have done me in:

"I looked at her, a stranger, and every other breath strained to force its way from my chest. a clamp like a tightening fist seized my heart. A voice in my blood said yes, yes, yes ... the ancient Sanskrit legends speak of a destined love, a karmic connection between souls that are fated to meet and collide and enrapture one another. The legends say that the loved one is instantly recognized because she's loved in every gesture, every expression of thought, every movement, every sound, and every mood that prays in her eyes. The legends say that we know her by her wings - the wings that only we can see - and because wanting her kills every other desire of love.

The same legends also carry warnings that such fated love may, sometimes, be the possession and the obsession of one, and only one, of the two souls twinned by destiny. But wisdom, in one sense, is the opposite of love. Love survives in us precisely because it isn't wise."

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