Lazy Road Introduction
Hello Lazy Road readers. My name is Pat Kranish and I’ll be contributing to this blog from time to time—more often I suspect than the creator of Lazy Road, the brilliant loafer, Mike Kranish. I wrote a book called Wind, A Novel of the Ice Age, and I write book reviews and interview local authors in Las Vegas. I also write short stories and a few political tirades when the spirit moves me. (You can read Ironic America online in Copperfield Review until the next issue comes out in January 2013.)
When we moved here over four years ago I looked for places where I could meet people who love to read and write and spend a lot of time talking about it. I tried creative writing and anthropology classes at UNLV—until they raised the tuition through the roof—so I joined the Henderson Writers Group and the Las Vegas Writers Group which took up some of the intellectual slack. In this past year, seven of my pieces were published, including three stand-alone chapters from Wind. And I’ll be adding new links to other work as they come online.
I hope you enjoy my efforts, and I would love to hear from you, so please read the review of Katherine Boo’s book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers and let me know what you think.
Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers—Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity
Author: Katherine Boo
Publisher: Random House/New York 2012
A ghost wrote “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”. There is no other explanation for journalism that reads like a tragic fairy tale. Where is the writer Katherine Boo in the Mumbai ultra-slum? Annawadi teems with disease and vermin, and is bordered by the corrosive run-off from a glittering luxury hotel and international airport construction. In the midst of this “sumpy plug”, she somehow hovered almost unseen for four years. Ms. Boo is a small, rheumatic American blonde in a place that makes the setting of “Slum Dog Millionaire” seem like a paradise of upward mobility. She tells the story from the inside out, with characters who always speak with their own voices, never hers. The reader becomes a fly on the wall watching Abdul, the extraordinarily adept teen-aged dealer of trash, and his parents—who go to panicky extremes to keep him out of prison. The gossip loving neighbors, only slightly less well-off, watch the family’s downfall with the same rapt disinterest they give to a Mumbai soap opera. All the participants are roundly drawn and become as familiar to the reader as beloved fictional heroes, a Tom Joad running for his life, or a Sydney Carton making the ultimate sacrifice. The villain here is monumental too—a corrupt system that tramples the Annawadians like a blind giant squashing insects. The only character that eludes us is the author, and it jars the reader to acknowledge her presence in the midst of epic misery and injustice.
Katherine Boo won the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2000 for a series of articles for the Washington Post. Forest Haven, a DC area institution was closed in the 1990s because of its criminal neglect of the severely mentally and physically handicapped people in its care. When Forest Haven was replaced by scattered group homes and nominally therapeutic programs, Ms. Boo found a cruelly inept system that ignored incidents of abuse, sexual predation and theft. Nonetheless, the operators of these facilities were allowed to function without interference by the government agencies whose job it was to protect those who could not care for themselves. The subheading of that article, “Gone, But the Agony Remains,” could also describe the undercity of Annawadi. In both places, programs created to ameliorate the effects of a very uneven society end up making the problems worse. Greed floats like a grease stain on the waters of the putrid lake that supplies the Annawadi dwellers. The few sources of fresh water that are poured into the lake from time to time are siphoned off by the strongest and greediest of them.
In the Author’s Note at the end of the book Ms. Boo asks, “What is the infrastructure of opportunity in this society?” She hopes that she at least partially provides an answer. “Behind the Beautiful Forevers,” along with her articles, reminds us that it’s a question we should frequently ask ourselves.
For further reading, please see n + 1 magazine, Issue 15: Amnesty for the article On Katherine Boo by Anand Vaidya
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