Maximum Summer Nerdery [UPDATED]

Maximum Cover.gif

UPDATE: In case you didn’t know, you got a 48 hour extension– discussion regarding section one commences WEDNESDAY, the 4th.

A few of you have inquired about SM’s newest misadventure, namely the endeavor I promised to start several years ago, so that the four of you who haven’t read my favorite book of all time could do so, with my fervent encouragement.

Alas, we will NOT be starting off our Brown Book Club with a “suitable” anything, our first book is Maximum City and in case you missed the various comments scattered about the blog regarding it, section one of it is “due” this Monday, July 2 this Wednesday, July 4. You were warned. :)

Why are we doing this, you might not ask? Well, if you’ve spent any amount of time avoiding work, school or familial obligations with the Mutiny, you’ve probably noticed that many of our commenters are an intelligent, well-read bunch. Ek problem: the books that many of us “take for granted” and assume everyone has read, like A Suitable Boy or Interpreter of Maladies or, indeed, Maximum City HAVEN’T been digested. Well, it’s okay to admit that you had your nose buried in For Matrimonial Purposes (or is it?) instead of a tome which won a prestigious prize. There are others who have avoided literature and significant works of non-fiction, just like you. And all of us are going to get through these gosh-darned “important” books together.

On July 2 4th, I’ll put up a post about part one of Maximum City, and then you can each chime in with your thoughts on what we’ve just read. We’ll finish the two remaining sections by the week after, by July 9. It’s roughly the same number of pages, per week.

Thank you to Chachaji, who inspired this brief, yet necessary post with this comment:

BTW, is this still on, or have we moved it forward by a week? I just got my copy of Maximum City yesterday, and read a few random pages out of order last night. Just now I discovered it does have 3 sections! Anna, will you be flagging us off, and give us a suggested reading schedule, so we can get started in earnest? :) [link city]

Do I need to “move it forward by a week?” SLACKERS. :D

No, really, let’s hash out details below, so all of our planning and disagreement occurs on ONE thread.

79 thoughts on “Maximum Summer Nerdery [UPDATED]

  1. Alas, we will NOT be starting off our Brown Book Club with a “suitable” anything, our first book is Maximum City

    That’s good, because “Maximum City” is a very suitable book.

    “Maximum City,” “Interpreter of Maladies“: It always pays to have subliminal gender references.

  2. This could be the SM equivalent of a red carnation in the lapel……when you’re out and about over the Fourth of July holiday/weekend at airports and beaches, keep an eye open to see who’s lugging this tome around, furiously trying to stay/get caught up, and odds are, you will have encountered a fellow Mutineer…

  3. Please, please, please move it forward by one week for slackers like me. I am only upto 94 pages, I don’t think i can finish part 1 in two days, Nope!! Ahh!! Why is that book so heavy? Why didn’t i carry the book with me today! Why? :-(

  4. I got my copy of Maximum City on Wednesday and already read about 70 pages….I just needed that “homework due” regime to get me back to reading. Thanks ANNA! hopefully I wouldnt leave everything to last minute and read the rest Sunday night. Its gonna be beautiful this weekend ;)

  5. I am only upto 94 pages, I don’t think i can finish part 1 in two days, Nope!!

    Come on Litti! if i can do it, anyone can! No extensions granted. Just like my mom says, “give them a finger, and they will take the whole hand” (in punjabi ofcourse)

  6. Anna, for future reference — and not at all to jumpstart your book club discussions — here are two of my pre-SM posts on Suketu Mehta’s book, back from December 2004: one and two. The comments are worth reading.

  7. I LOVE this book! I found it in my grandparents’ house a few years ago and have read it and reread it dozens of times…it gets better every time, there’re always so many new details to pick up. Once I started watching Hindi cinema I really took to the section about Sanjay Dutt.

    Great choice Anna!

  8. I love to support South Asian literature and I love to encourage future writers to express not only the struggle but the joy of our community. Its a great honor to read books that illustrate our greatest flaws and our greatest accomplishments. And I like reading too.

    A new book that came out which I think is amazing (even though it drags at end) is Londonstani by by Gautam Malkani

  9. right after those discussions started, I hurriedly checked it out from the library and almost finished it over my extended weeked, this past. Towards the end, I lost the thread and I don’t know if I will finish. Less than 20 or 30 pages left. To me, it was good investigative work, but it jumped all over the place. It is amazing/shocking to realize that what he wrote is all real life. Since I had finished VC’s Sacred Games (loved it), may be I should have given some time in between. One thing, even though I have been to that place only once, mumbai came alive for me through that book.

    I think I will check out the rest of VC’s books soon. Like his vivid style.

  10. munimma, I highly recommend Love and Longing. For my money, it has the best descriptions of Bombay I’ve read, and captures slices of life and society in India beautifully.

  11. Have heard good things about it, but it seems like every brown person I know seems to be reading it and recommending it, it’s like it’s cool to be reading this book and thus everyone is reading it. How we all jump on the flavor of the month cool artsy thing? Are we browns too like the stereotypical culture vulture yuppies we sometimes make fun of who all join a certain bandwagon? I am not saying I wont read this book at some point because all this attention on it has made me curious, but I am wondering about the craze here.

    And this is another thing I don’t understand – have heard a lot of great things about Shalimar the Clown, how come no one talks about that?

  12. Regarding #15, not trying to spoil the party or anything such.. the book is after all supposedly a good book. Just wrote something that I was wondering about the last few days.

  13. have heard a lot of great things about Shalimar the Clown, how come no one talks about that?

    Cuz the movie was waaaay better.

  14. I used to think like #15 re Harry P until I read the first. Sometimes the hype’s for real. Although I have reservations about this one.

  15. Aww cr*p, I missed this before, because it was embedded in the “Rani getting married” post (sorry, but I tend to skip over the Bollywood gossip posts. Not my cup of tea.) Perhaps there are others like me who’d like to particpate, but need a tad more time because we might not have known about it until now?

  16. grrrrr…bought the book after reading a few comments here…hate it…ateast if he calls it non-fiction. it should b called extreme non-fiction. C’mon bombay is not that bad. huh!!! he is making sweeping generalisations n the stereotypes!!! fuming fuming fuming!!!

  17. I thought Maximum City was fascinating, but … about halfway through, I decided I just couldn’t believe it was all true. So that kind of ruined it for me. Do other mutineers, perhaps with first hand knowledge of Bombay, find the book credible?

  18. Once I started watching Hindi cinema I really took to the section about Sanjay Dutt

    hmm….i wonder if i will develop the same affections for sanju baba…..

  19. chachaji, I’m in the same boat. I bought mine the day before I left CA, but I didn’t get to read it at all this week. To be honest, I think we should start this Monday, though. I kind of like having a little pressure to get going, and since next weekend is July 4(ish) I’m personally even less inclined to read more then than I would now.

    Are we browns too like the stereotypical culture vulture yuppies we sometimes make fun of who all join a certain bandwagon?

    Ardy, I think we browns are too diverse to ALL be culture vultures :) That said, I’m sure some of us are. At any rate, this is just the beginning of the book club. If you think there’s a good (overlooked) book we should be reading, propose it! I doubt folks would be super opposed to adding Shalimar the Clown to the list :)

    I used to think like #15 re Harry P until I read the first.

    Muahaha, I am so excited for book 7. I actually was exactly the same, probably because I worked in a book store and HATED the potter-mania. Once I started reading the books, though, I really enjoyed (most of) the stories. I’m pumped for #7, but I’m feeling confined/rushed by Movie 5 coming out the same month.

  20. Liked it, but thought it that Mehta (unnecessarily) belaboured certain points — but that’s for the actual discussions on July 2nd :)

  21. Maximum City, which I read about a year back, is a good lead-in to “Sacred Games”. I seem to recall that Mehta was accompanied by Vikram Chandra, who was doing background research on the Mumbai underworld, during some of his interviews/mtgs

  22. Ashish #21 – not that I would know about the gangsters and dance bars first hand, but yes, I found Maximum City struck a chord with me as someone who has grown up in Bombay. He’s very good on politics, and has a keen eye for quirky behaviours, the only fault I’d find with the book is the romanticisation of dance bars and their dancers. Am just finishing up Sacred Games and it’s very much in the same genre. Mehta and Chandra did work together and you can see the commonality of interests, but they had a falling out (there were stories about this in the press last year when Sacred Games came out). Both have worked in the film industry writing scripts.

  23. Please, please, please move it forward by one week for slackers like me. I am only upto 94 pages, I don’t think i can finish part 1 in two days, Nope!!
    Perhaps there are others like me who’d like to particpate, but need a tad more time because we might not have known about it until now?

    I’m normally of the Jeet’s Mom-school-of thought, but how about an exception, i.e. a 48-hour extension? I’ll put my post up on July 4.

    The entire point of this project is to get us to read the books we’ve always meant to, but never got around to…if two days means that more people get to participate, then I think it’s the right thing to do. :) Besides, I don’t want to discourage anyone who is interested! Onward and nerdward!

  24. “Do other mutineers, perhaps with first hand knowledge of Bombay, find the book credible?”

    Some parts are frighteningly on point…

  25. With all this non fiction, I can’t even do a Costanza and watch the movie! Can I atleast rely any outsourced desi tutors who will be willing to write a cheap book report for me?

  26. Parts of the book are well written with the usual SAsiaLit overemphasis on Dan Brown type adjectival qualifiers (e.g., the wizened osteoporotic grandfather sat on the heavily brocaded red sofa covered with transparent crinkly plastic) but a lot of the descriptors are spot on for those who grew up in Bombay in the seventies and eighties. As it delves into the unfamiliar territory of mafioso and the film world from the late 90s, the excitement and enthusiasm become progressively authorcentric, and attention diffuses rather rapidly as name-dropping peaks with the expansive coverage devoted to a beer bar dancer who may or may not be in love with the author. Nevertheless, here was a faux celebrity-struck less than objective author whom I wanted to hear at a book reading (no comment on his dissonant accent given his too frequent protestations about having homes in New York, the continent and India), which regrettably turned out to be most disappointing as he seemed more interested in promoting himself than the city (which would be the purpose of such an organized event) choosing to spotlight the negatives at, perhaps, the cost of the positives. A good editor is curiously absent and the latter half of the book rambles egregiously. It has been a bit since I read it (propelled from a relishing extract in a travel magazine) but I cannot recall if there was a glossary expounding several “Inglish” terms peppered through the prose.

  27. I read 130 pages even after taking a break for Entourage last night, thinking it was due today. :(

  28. Found my copy this weekend (moved recently, hadn’t unpacked books) and I found my copy of “Show Business” by Shashi Tharoor. I know it’s early but I wanted to nominate it as the next book after we finish with “Maximum City”.

  29. So Jeet what did you find more entertaining Entourage or the 130 pages?…I’d say Entourage wins by a thread….oh a threadjack Rushdie and Padma are done…..now that is just shocking :)

  30. You’re right, Jeet. Part I ***IS*** due today!

    No. No, it’s not. The post about Part I goes up Wednesday. Please don’t confuse (and discourage) people.

  31. Oops, you’re right. I forgot Jeet’s Mom School of Thought buried in a comment thread. Two. More. Days. Can I redact my erroneous statement?

  32. I’d say Entourage wins by a thread

    Drama’s look when he gets bent over the hot tub while tuttle and the hottie are leaving: Priceless

  33. I read this about a couple of years back. What I found most fascinating was the last chapter, a very detailed account on Jainism. Was quite disturbing for me.

  34. “What I found most fascinating was the last chapter, a very detailed account on Jainism. Was quite disturbing for me.”

    And, pray tell, why was it so “disturbing”?

  35. You know how New Yorkers are bemused at how fascinated tourists are by Times Square, Statue of Liberty or Empire State? My guess is, many if not most Bombayites feel the same way about Maximum City. For an outsider who doesn’t know much about the city, it may seem fascinating. But for those of us who lived there, a scrapbook of newspaper articles about the underworld, dance bars, riots, and bollywood will seem as appealing as Suketu Mehta’s book. I also found the author’s perspective very shallow, his narrative very yuppie and his writing style grating. Half of it was cribs and rants successfully or unsuccessfully disguised as prose. There’s a lot more to Bombay… heck there’s a lot more to riots/underworld/dance bars/bollywood…. but he barely skimmed the surface. And yet produced an inordinately thick book while doing so.

    I picked up the book hoping it would be to Bombay what Dalrymple’s ‘City of Djinns’ was to Delhi(I recommend that book heartily for your next exercise). Not even close!

  36. Plus the book itself is written with a partisan and parochial mindset which the outsider may not detect. Consider this line – This is how the ghatis took revenge on us. They renamed everything after their politicians, and finally they renamed even the city. If they couldn’t afford to live on our roads, they could at least occupy the road signs. Replace ghatis with “niggers” or “pakis” or “wetbacks” or any other slur, and re-read the line. Could any author who wrote that, get away with it?

    Anyway, I have many rants about the book. Will suspend them until tomorrow.

  37. his writing style grating… unsuccessfully disguised as prose.

    I too found his writing quite mediocre. In light of earlier comments about people loving Harry Potter, one side discussion I’d like to have once BBC is open for business is what people enjoy in a book. I found Harry Potter’s creativity, imagination, and vision of its world amazing, but the actual descriptions were quite poor. One sentence (in the last book, I think) went, “He was as startled as if a giraffe had suddenly crossed his threshold.” This sentence directly followed an obsessively onomateopic passage (which I will roughly paraphrase as “Thud. Bam, he looked up. Wow.” or some such thing). What??? Sure, that works great on a 10 year old, but I just don’t understand why people insist that it is a book meant for both kids and adults. Of course, I’ve read all of them, so maybe all you need to do is go, “So there!”.

    This is how the ghatis took revenge on us. They renamed everything after their politicians, and finally they renamed even the city. If they couldn’t afford to live on our roads, they could at least occupy the road signs.

    I remember this sentence, and while I don’t recollect every detail around it, I recall that, in context, it read as a self-deprecating remark about how these upper classes who looked down upon the ghatis really didn’t control the visible markers of the city. So I don’t interpret it like you do.

  38. It’s not just that one line. In general, the first half of the book has a very south-bombay-gujarati siege mentality and a snobbish outlook. Like I said, maybe it is not overt enough for everyone to detect. For instance, while describing his interview with Bal Thackeray, he mentions that Thackeray pronounced the word ‘menace’ as ‘menaas’. Thackeray is a vile, horrid and hypocritical enough person to be judged as what he is just on the basis of his words and actions. Adding that he pronounced menace as menaas seems a lot like the south-bombay-townies smirking at the “vernie” english pronunciations. And personally, I think it takes away from the narrative and the point, rather than add to it.

    About writing style and Harry Potter…. it is a very abstract thing. Difficult to pin down. It can go either way. Mehta’s writing is for the most part mediocre. Yet there is such a thing as too good a writing style. I find Kundera’s writing to be brilliant, even in translation. Yet I feel Salman Rushdie indulges in overkill in terms of writing style. Too many metaphors, adjectives, similes and transfered epithets. Almost like a peacock strutting with his feathers adorned with the vagaries and intricacies of the english language ;) .

  39. I will have to reread the first half to comment with authority on the snobbish attitude, but I read all his settling pains more in the vein of a honest exposition of somebody who thought they knew Bombay as home, but had moved away for half their life (or more), and were surprised (and dismayed) to find that they noticed all the little (and big) annoyances that they would’ve just accepted in a previous life.

    As for overkill, a recent read that I found really difficult to get through the first part of was Special Topics in Calamity Physics. It is replete with over-the-top metaphors and allusions, and self-consciously so, because it is about the world viewed through the eyes of a precocious 16 year old who doesn’t have many friends or deep relationships, and her reference points are primarily books and movies. Really though, the book is no different than that chocolate cake in the store window that looks all tarted up with its awful icing, but if you gave it a chance and persisted through the cloying sweetness of the sugar and whipped cream, you’d get to experience the delicious, soft, melt-in-your-mouth feeling which you can savor for days :) (I actually recommend the book. It’s a great read once you get over the initial hump. Right around page 200, there was a plot twist that made me stay up all night so I could read the remaining 300 or 350 odd pages and complete the book).

  40. Well, ain’t no shame in my mothereffin game– I am enjoying the book. I like his writing. If it’s pooh-poohed by my betters, all the better. :D The entire point of BBC is to open up discussion on all of these “hard” books to people who might be otherwise intimidated by references to Kundera (I heart you Rahul– you know that!). It will be perfectly okay to be mediocre. Having typed that, I loathe Harry Puttar, because of the shitty writing. MC is like, sooo much better, okay?

    I realize that I’m not going to have anywhere near as much context as someone from Bombay (which is why I’m extra fascinated by Gaurav’s comments) and that may be why I’m able to enjoy it, if that makes sense. Ignorance, bliss.

    When the “discussion” post for part one goes up, I hope everyone feels comfortable commenting. I am reminded of wine “appreciating”; I know people who love wine, but don’t know how or even care to say, “it’s muddy, coffee-like and brooding…with a pomegranate apple martini aftertaste and a hint of graphite” etc. These people are put off/uncomfortable with tasting wine the way one is “supposed to”…I feel the same way about these books. I think the “neglected” books on our shelves which will make up the BBC’s reading list are dusty in part because of this sort of aversion. Anyway, I hope I didn’t just offend or exclude the more bookish among us– like I said, ALL are welcome to contribute, pontificate, bullshit etc.

  41. A N N A, I said “side discussion” :) You can think of it as the faint hints of cranberry and coffee that integrate with the muscular, dry, fruitiness of the main discussion.