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Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Foundby Suketu Mehta
Synopses & Reviews
A brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people — a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself — from an award-winning Indian-American fiction writer and journalist.
A native of Bombay, Suketu Mehta gives us a true insider's view of this stunning city, bringing to his account a rare level of insight, detail, and intimacy. He approaches the city from unexpected angles — taking us into the criminal underworld of rival Muslim and Hindu gangs who wrest control of the city's byzantine political and commercial systems...following the life of a bar dancer who chose the only life available to her after a childhood of poverty and abuse...opening the doors onto the fantastic, hierarchical inner sanctums of Bollywood...delving into the stories of the countless people who come from the villages in search of a better life and end up living on the sidewalks — the essential saga of a great city endlessly played out.
Through it all — as each individual story unfolds — we hear Mehta's own story: of the mixture of love, frustration, fascination, and intense identification he feels for and with Bombay, as he tries to find home again after twenty-one years abroad. And he makes clear that Bombay — the world's largest city — is a harbinger of the vast megalopolises that will redefine the very idea of "the city" in the near future.
Candid, impassioned, funny, and heartrending, Maximum City is a revelation of an ancient and ever-changing world.
"Bombay native Mehta fills his kaleidoscopic portrait of 'the biggest, fastest, richest city in India' with captivating moments of danger and dismay. Returning to Bombay (now known as Mumbai) from New York after a 21-year absence, Mehta is depressed by his beloved city's transformation, now swelled to 18 million and choked by pollution. Investigating the city's bloody 1992 — 1993 riots, he meets Hindus who massacred Muslims, and their leader, the notorious Godfather-like founder of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena party, Bal Thackeray, 'the one man most directly responsible for ruining the city I grew up in.' Daring to explore further the violent world of warring Hindu and Muslim gangs, Mehta travels into the city's labyrinthine criminal underworld with tough top cop Ajay Lal, developing an uneasy familiarity with hit men who display no remorse for their crimes. Mehta likewise deploys a gritty documentary style when he investigates Bombay's sex industry, profiling an alluring, doomed dancing girl and a cross-dressing male dancer who leads a strange double life. Mehta includes so-called 'Bollywood' in his sweeping account of Bombay's subcultures: he hilariously recounts, in diary style, day-to-day life on the set among the aging male stars of the action movie Mission Kashmir. Mehta, winner of a Whiting Award and an O. Henry Prize, is a gifted stylist. His sophisticated voice conveys postmodern Bombay with a carefully calibrated balance of wit and outrage, harking back to such great Victorian urban chroniclers as Dickens and Mayhew while introducing the reader to much that is truly new and strange. Agent, Faith Childs Literary Agency. (Sept. 26)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An ambitious portrait...that, like its subject, contains worlds but is too big and too crowded for comfort....Though this overlong work could stand to shed a few pounds itself, it's rich with insight and unfailingly well-written." Kirkus Reviews
"Although his characters do not really represent a cross-section — Mehta merely skims the middle and upper-middle classes — his book is utterly fascinating. Essential for anyone wishing to understand present-day Mumbai." Library Journal
"Quite extraordinary — Mehta writes about Bombay with an unsparing ferocity born of his love, which I share, for the old pre-Mumbai city which has now been almost destroyed by corruption, gangsterism and neo-fascist politics, its spirit surviving in tiny moments and images which he seizes upon as proof of the survival of hope. The quality of his investigative reportage, the skill with which he persuades hoodlums and murderers to open up to him, is quite amazing. It's the best book yet written about that great, ruined metropolis, my city as well as his, and it deserves to be very widely read." Salman Rushdie, author of Midnight's Children and The Moor's Last Sigh
"Suketu Mehta has done the impossible: he has captured the city of Bombay on the page, and done it in technicolor. Like Zola's Paris and the London of Dickens, it will be difficult for me to visit Bombay without thinking of Maximum City and the enormous delight I had when I inhabited its pages." Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country and The Tennis Partner
"Along with V.S. Naipaul's India: A Million Mutinies Now, Maximum City is probably the greatest non-fiction book written about India." Akhil Sharma
"Maximum City is the remarkable debut of a major new Indian writer. Humane and moving, sympathetic but outspoken, it's a shocking and sometimes heartbreaking book, teeming with extraordinary stories. It is unquestionably one of the most memorable non-fiction books to come out of India for many years, and there is little question that it will become the classic study of Bombay." William Dalrymple
"Like one of Bombay's teeming chawls, Maximum City is part nightmare and part millennial hallucination, filled with detail, drama and a richly varied cast of characters. In his quest to plumb both the grimy depths and radiant heights of the continent that is Bombay, Suketu Mehta has taken travel writing to an entirely new level. This is a gripping, compellingly readable account of a love affair with a city: I couldn't put it down." Amitav Ghosh
This brilliantly illuminating portrait of Bombay and its people — a book as vast, diverse, and rich in experience, incident, and sensation as the city itself — is from an award-winning Indian journalist and fiction writer.
About the Author
Suketu Mehta is a fiction writer and journalist based in New York. He has won the Whiting Writers Award, the O. Henry Prize, and a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship for his fiction. Mehta's other work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Granta, Harper's magazine, Time, Condé Nast Traveler, and The Village Voice, and has been featured on National Public Radio's All Things Considered. Mehta also cowrote Mission Kashmir, a Bollywood movie.
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