Sameea Kamal is a student at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, you'll want to listen in.
And that’s exactly what a crowd of about 75 people did Monday evening in an event put on by the Asia Society in New York City, introducing Hamid’s new book.
The author of Moth Smoke and international bestseller The Reluctant Fundamentalist joined fellow author Suketu Mehta for a conversation on his writing style, identity in fiction and his part in the buzzing Pakistani literary scene.
Getting Rich is Hamid’s “speedy third novel” in the works for the last six years (in comparison to the seven years each spent on his previous two). The novel carries on the second-person narrative Hamid used in The Reluctant Fundamentalist, taking the reader on a journey across both age and class – from young to old and from poor to rich, with themes of love, family, and fatherhood along the way.
Calling the act of writing a collaborative process between writer and reader, Hamid said the idea for framing the novel as a self-help style book came the idea that while fiction is meant for the reader, authors at times do it for themselves too, as a way of self-help.
“Clearly some need is being met by this [for the author], but even as a reader, the transportation to another place and the ability to be in the presence of someone else but completely by myself is a form of self-help,” he said. “I felt it was the most honest way to tell this story.”
Hamid also carries on the lack of character names from The Reluctant Fundamentalist with no name given to the place, the protagonist, or other characters like his love interest, called “pretty girl” all throughout the book.
“Stripping away the names became a way for me to see things for myself, and to show it is possible to look for the universal in places that are thought of as peripheral,” he said.
And while exciting thing seems to be happening in the Pakistani literature circle – Hamid just returned from the fourth annual Karachi Literature Festival – he sees it more as something exciting happening among Pakistani readers.
“Young people growing up in Pakistan are looking for alternative ways of thinking about things,” he said, noting music, fiction and art as some vehicles. “They’re thinking about Pakistani society and what it should be like, what they should be like.”
In addition to his book release, the film adaptation of The Reluctant Fundamentalist is scheduled to come out in May, for which Hamid co-wrote the script. The process taught him how different the book versus film format is – a contrast he discusses in the novel as part of its plot.
But what he really appreciated about the film-making process was seeing a team of 200 people work together to create art – notably, a diverse group from India, Pakistan and England.
Hamid writes about this notion of cooperation in his Feb. 21 op-ed in the New York Times-- the potential to work together between India and Pakistan.
Because after all, the idea of self-help is really an oxymoron, as Hamid points out in the beginning of his book.
“You read a self-help book so someone who isn’t yourself can help you, that someone being the author. This is true of the whole self-help genre … None of the foregoing means self-help books are useless. On the contrary, they can be useful indeed. But it does mean that the idea of self in the land of self-help is a slippery one. And slippery can be good.”
Watch the trailer for The Reluctant Fundamentalist!