I realize it’s only March, but I’m pretty convinced Mohsin Hamid‘s latest will be one of my top three favorites for 2013. True, such a pronouncement might seem rash in a year that will see new titles from Nadeem Aslam (The Blind Man’s Garden next month), Khaled Hosseini (And the Mountains Echoed in May), and Jumpha Lahiri (The Lowland in September). But life is short … so I judge instantly.
If Tash Aw’s latest Five Star Billionaire (his best novel thus far – my review’s been filed and will cross-post here soon-ish) was a savory, satisfying appetizer evoking a taste of accelerating economic power on the other side of the world, then Rich is a complex, rewarding dessert with the perfect blend of lightness and depth.
In another ‘gawww’-induced case of less-is-more (just read Rich already!), here’s a simple overview: the youngest child in a poor rural family moves to the city, becomes a wealthy magnate, and reveals in 12 seemingly simple steps the secrets of his vast success. Lest you think such a tale is all too familiar, I promise you this is a lasting original.
Hamid is a most clever trickster – masterfully sly like no other! – and in just 228 pages, he manages to create a literary tapestry comprised of an everlasting first-love story (“‘Do I look as old as you do?'”), a skewering parody (“The master at whose feet you metaphorically squat is a middle-aged man with the long fingers of an artist and the white-tufted ear hair of a primate resistant to lethal tympanic parasites”), a Midas-scale tragedy (“You take this news as well as possible, which is to say you do not die”), and ultimately, quite the treatise on reading and writing and the intricate relationship in between (“Readers don’t work for writers. They work for themselves. Therein, if you’ll excuse the admittedly biased tone, lies the richness of reading.”)
Presented in a playful, almost cajoling vernacular addressed to ‘you,’ Rich is too delightful to miss. As I said, life is short … read this instantly.