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Maximum City
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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, Cond� 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.

Reviews

Bombay-born Mehta, a screenplay (Mission Kashmir) and fiction writer, was transplanted to New York at age 14. In 1998, he returned to Bombay (now Mumbai) for two years and this is his account of the people who make up this mega-city (it will have 55 million inhabitants by 2015). The cover pictures a crush of passengers alongside a suburban train, and one wonders who they are. Mehta gets beneath their skin, so that they spring to life more vividly than any fiction character. He introduces the leader of a branch of the Shiv Sena, gangsters from Mumbai's underworld, a bargirl from the demimonde, slum dwellers, police officers, a movie producer, a struggling actor, and a 17-year-old runaway poet who lives on the pavement. 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. Ravi Shenoy, Naperville P.L., IL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Stunning. . . . A powerful, arresting work. . . . Marvelous." -Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Narrative reporting at its finest, probably the best work of nonfiction to come out of India in recent years. . . . Mehta succeeds so brilliantly in taking the pulse of this riotous urban jungle." -The New York Times Book Review

As each individual story unfolds, Mehta also recounts his own efforts to make a home in Bombay after more than twenty years abroad. Candid, impassioned, funny, and heartrending, Maximum City is a revelation of an ancient and ever-changing world.

"What Dickens did for London, what Joseph Mitchell did for New York City, Suketu Mehta has done for Bombay. . . . A candid, extensive, and wholly entertaining portrait." -San Diego Union-Tribune

"The ultimate insider's view of Bombay, a roiling and vigorous account that delivers on a seemingly impossible challenge: how to limn the diversity and sprawl of such a place in a single book." -The Seattle Times

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