“How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia”: Poor boy makes good
After taking the position, early on in the life of this column, that most fiction writers make poor narrators of their own audiobooks, I have once more been proven wrong. (Last year, I liked the way Victor LaValle's Queens accent conveyed the soul of a borough in "The Devil in Silver.") I can't imagine a better narrator for Mohsin Hamid's "How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia" than Hamid himself.
The framing device of this novel is a self-help manual, but it's easy to make way too much of that. Hamid pretends to tell "you," a young man born in a poor village in what appears to be Pakistan, advice on how to parlay "your" natural talents into wealth amid a society of breathtaking ruthlessness and striving. Of course, chances are close to nil that you are such a person, or that you've picked up this book looking for any such advice. Rather, the self-help feint allows Hamid to smoothly adopt the second-person -- a writerly choice that usually registers as painfully self-conscious or presumptuous (see: "Bright Lights, Big City").