Bombay



Photo by willem velthoven used under a Creative Commons license.

Suketu Mehta, Maximum City (Vintage, 2005).
Impressive reportage from Bombay (which, as Mehta explains, he does not call “Mumbai”). Maximum City was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, and won a variety of other honors. Mehta has a talent for insinuating himself into a variety of milieus and getting people from all walks of life to talk to him. Among the subjects getting sustained treatment are Bombay’s politics, crime, slums, show business, and bombings.

Mehta’s web page links to a wealth of reviews and other materials. Metacritic.com aggregates reviews and links to some of them. C.W. Thompson reviews the book at PopMatters. Uday Benegal reviews it for The Village Voice. Listen to this review on NPR’s Fresh Air. Akash Kapur reviews it for The New York Times. Karan Mahajan interviewed Mehta for The Believer. Steve Portigal, Shiva and Santosh like it. Sunshine is not a fan, nor is Jaya Jha.

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Photo of Mumbai by willem velthoven used under a Creative Commons license.

Vikram Chandra, Sacred Games (Viking, 2007).
An massive, sprawling novel set in Bombay. The narrative alternates between the competing perspectives and intertwined stories of a gangster kingpin, Ganesh Gaitonde, and a police detective, Sartaj Singh. Like the city, the book bursts at the seams with food, crime, smells, buildings, traffic, show business, cramped circumstances, grand designs. I have read that Chandra does not consider this a Bombay novel, but I certainly would read it before visiting the city.

Here is the book’s site. Garth Risk Hallberg reviews Sacred Games at The Millions. Adams Mars-Jones reviews it for the Guardian (UK). Jonathan Yardley didn’t care for it. Ahmad Saidullah reviews it in The Quarterly Conversation. Edward Nawotka interviews Chandra, as does Tony Dushane, and Sonia Faleiro, and some sort of UC Berkeley PR program. Patricia Leigh Brown profiles him for the New York Times. Listen to NPR’s piece here. Or if you have an hour, you can watch Chandra on Story Hour at UC Berkeley with Chandra.

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