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Sarah Forth has commented on (3) products.

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Sarah Forth, March 6, 2014

If the subject weren't so serious, I'd call Lawrence in Arabia a thrilling tale of adventure. Anderson has taken a cluster of the period's bold personalities and, drawing on their letters and diaries, braids together their stories to form a multi-faceted narrative of WW I's Middle Eastern front. There's the German spymaster, a Zionist agronomist, Standard Oil's man in the Mid-East, and a clutch of British officers, some with more discernment than others. Anderson is quite sympathetic to T.E. Lawrence, yet shows him in an honest light. Nor does he favor one political entity over another: British, French, German and Ottoman war-meisters all receive the criticism due them. Anderson's rendering is one of the best introductions to the politics of the Middle East that you're likely to find.
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The Billionaire's Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund by Anita Raghavan
The Billionaire's Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund

Sarah Forth, November 18, 2013

Anita Raghavan has convinced me that the True Crime sub-genre of “financial thriller” is not an oxymoron.

It helps that her narrative has a ripped from the headlines quality, what with all of the hedge fund managers and too-big-to-fail banks being indicted on civil and even criminal charges.

Raghavan’s focus are uber-successful members of the South Asian diaspora in the U.S.; more specifically Raj Rajaratnam, a Sri Lankan hedge fund manager, and Rajat Gupta, the first Indian CEO of a major American financial firm. Graduates of prestigious US business schools (Wharton and Harvard, respectively), each had achieved much in their separate but overlapping worlds.

Rajaratnam had accumulated billions in personal wealth as head of the Galleon Fund, largely because he cultivated corporate insiders among the sectors he traded in. He lived opulently, hosting lavish parties with the likes of Kenny Rogers as entertainment.

Gupta made his name (and millions) as head of an international corporate consulting firm. He sat on the boards of global giants and counted Bill Clinton among his philanthropic confreres.

According to the author, though Rajaratnam and Gupta were temperamentally very different, they developed a symbiotic relationship. Gupta desired to enter the charmed circle of billionaires in which Rajaratnam moved, and Rajaratnam wanted the insider information with which Gupta could provide him.

Plenty of other wheeler-dealers figure in the narrative and the multiple stands of Raghavan’s story sometime get away from her. She moves back and forth in time at a dizzying pace--a timeline would have helped--and periodically she interrupts her narrative to explain the significance of some South Asian institution or cultural practice.

Despite these structural problems and knowing the outcome of Raghavan’s tale--the convictions are public record--I remained fascinated by the blind hubris of her major players and the persistence of federal prosecutors.

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(4 of 8 readers found this comment helpful)

By Night in Chile by Roberto Bolano
By Night in Chile

Sarah Forth, June 13, 2013

Provocative and slyly funny, By Night in Chile, is a good introduction to Roberto Bolano. Consisting of just one, 118-page paragraph--seriously!--the narrator's rant exposes the underbelly of Chilean society--notably the toxic marriage between church and state. (The literary establishment takes a pounding as well.) Reading the novel is like watching a train wreck in slow motion: wrenching, disgusting, fascinating, with a soupçon of surrealism to boot. The plot description gives too much away; don't read it. Part of the fun is thinking things can't get any stranger--and then they do. A small masterpiece.
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