"Moth Smoke" in Review

Monday, February 19, 2018
I just finished hosting and leading my book-club's discussion on Moth Smoke, and here are my final thoughts:

I gotta say, Moth Smoke was down and dirty: how to life spiral in three months from banker to jail bait.  But it was also beautifully written.  First time a chapter on being fat was so descriptively captivating that I couldn't put the book down.  But despite the thematic and metaphorical elements that engaged me as a reader, I didn't learn as much about Pakistan as I had hoped, and there were many questions about Pakistani culture in the 90s that went unanswered.  No matter what, I can't wait to read more of his work--as a first novel, this was a solid read, full of heavy, meaty themes and passages that I won't long forget.

Hamid (2000) writes, "Fat" is a small word which belies its size in the girth of its connotations. Fat implies a certain ungainliness, an inefficiency, a sense of immobility, a lack of industry, an unpleasant, unaesthetic quality; unmotivated, unloved, unnatural, unusual, uninspired, unhappy, unlikely to go places or to fit, under the ground with a heart attack at fifty-five. In short, fat somewhat paradoxically involves the lack of many attributes which, you must concede, are generally held to be good.  When the word "fat" is mentioned, people do not tend to think of the awesomely powerful rhinoceros, the supremely efficient and magnificent sperm whale, the deadly grizzly of North America.  They do not say, "fat as a well-fed tiger."  No, they say, "fat as a pig," a creature which eats its own feces and has never in our literature been a symbol of dignity" (p. 72).

Hamid left me wanting to understand more about Pakistani history and class structure, but also left me wondering if there is really more to understand.  Ozi, a central character, had figured out the rules of survival, but was also born into the upper class.  Daru perhaps never had a real chance.  Not sure why he spiraled so hard in the end, but perhaps the candle was always there, ready to vaporize the moth that could never truly escape its inevitable destruction.  Powerful book.  Would highly recommend.


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