Suketu Mehta's "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found" is one of those books (like Mike Davis's City of Quartz
, Peter Ackroyd's London: The Biography
or Will Eisner's New York: Life in the Big City
) that seems to capture, in one gigantic breath, the whole and entire soul of a huge city.
Mehta was born and raised in India, but emigrated to New York as a boy, and then returned for a period of years as a grown man, bringing along his two boys and his wife, another "Indian born abroad." A talented freelance writer, Mehta sets out to capture the indescribable and invincible character of Mumbai, a city he'd known as Bombay. He runs with gangsters and terrorists, hangs out with rich diamond cutters and transgendered exotic dancers, collaborates on a film with a famous Bollywood director and sits in on a police torture-session. He rents a flat and arranges to have the plumbing repaired -- a task that nearly matches the others for difficulty and revealing details.
The book -- all 600 pages of it -- is a long, relentless, tortured Valentine to the city that Mehta will always call home and which he can never find his home in. Though the book clearly sets out to vent Mehta's frustration with the many ways in which Mumbai, the densest place on Earth, is seriously broken, he cannot maintain his cynicism and all through the text is shot through with celebratory notes that bring Mumbai to life, from drinking Masala Coka (Coke fizzed into a spicy volcano by pouring it over masala spices) to mentoring a runaway low-caste poet boy who sleeps on the sidewalk and reuniting him with his father.
I've never been to Mumbai (I'm travelling there later this year as research for a book), but reading Mehta's work made me fall in love with the city -- at least by proxy. This is an extraordinary book -- not least for the journey that Mehta himself takes through the course of the text, as he unflinchingly examines his position as a "diaspora Indian" and the values he's brought with him abroad, and the values he's brought back to India.
Boing Boing is proud to welcome Robert Jackson Bennett’s The City of Blades as a sponsor! In a world where politics have run amuck and consumers must choose from over 300 varieties of toothpaste, one seemingly simple question rises to the fore: what is my next great read? Luckily for you, ladies and gentlemen, we […]
the Birds in the Sky is everything you could ask for in a debut
novel — a fresh look at science fiction’s most cherished memes,
ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.
Reddit has published a hardcover compendium of the editor’s favorite AMAs from r/IAmA. The 400 page tome, Ask Me Anything, includes AMAs with Louis C.K., Chris Rock, Martha Stewart, the Waffle House Grill Masters, Spike Lee, Bill Gates, Bette Midler, and many more. The book contains original portraits by u/youngluck and introductions from the r/IAmA […]
Remember back to the time when people thought java was just a hip way to talk about coffee? Or you vaguely remembered from geography class that it’s an island in the South Pacific? We’ve come a long way since then and now that we’ve rocket blasted into the tech future, you’re going to need to […]
Plastic is so 2013. You don’t want to buy something only to throw it away or lose it and barely care. You like nice things and want to hang onto them. The Plazmatic lighter here is a high quality, high tech alternative to the typical cheap, plastic lighter you get at the old gas station. […]
Real engineers build things. Super cool engineers build things with their hands and fingers, like our engineering forefathers did. No idea where to even begin to do that? This step by step Arduino course is now 92% off and is going to get you up and running, from zero to hero, in no time. So […]