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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 24, 2004

Workshop Alumnus Mehta Reads On 'Live From Prairie Lights' Oct. 8

Iowa Writers' Workshop graduate Suketu Mehta will read from "Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found," his portrait of contemporary Bombay and its people, at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 8, on the "Live from Prairie Lights" series on University of Iowa radio station WSUI, AM 910.

The reading, hosted by Julie Englander, will be a free event at the Prairie Lights bookstore at 15 S. Dubuque St. in downtown Iowa City. Listen on the Internet at

Mehta will also address "Writing Across Borders" in a free event at 11 a.m. Oct. 8 in Shambaugh House, the headquarters of the International Writing Program, at 430 N. Clinton St. on the UI campus.

A preview of "Maximum City" in Publishers Weekly explained, "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. 1

"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."

Salman Rushdie wrote, "Suketu Mehta's 'Maximum City' is quite extraordinary -- he writes about Bombay with an unsparing ferocity born of his love, which I share, for the old pre-Mumbai city which has now been almost destroyed by corruption, gangsterism and neo-fascist politics, its spirit surviving in tiny moments and images which he seizes upon as proof of the survival of hope; and the quality of his investigative reportage, the skill with which he persuades hoodlums and murderers to open up to him, is quite amazing. It's the best book yet written about that great, ruined metropolis, my city as well as his, and it deserves to be very widely read."

Mehta's work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Granta, Harper's magazine, Time, Conde Nast Traveler, and the Village Voice, and has been featured on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."

He is currently writing an original screenplay for "The Goddess," a Merchant-Ivory film starring Tina Turner.

Learn more at

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