I recently sent suggestions about the horrible imagery of life among the Indian poor. Katherine Boo’s Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity takes you inside the dilemmas and minds of the residents of a makeshift suburb constructed on the swamp adjacent to the Mumbai airport. (Thanks for the book, Shannon.)
The writing is incandescent. Everyone who wants to craft vital sentences should have a copy of this book as a model of formidable writing. Each sentence grasps attention. How often do you read reporting with the compelling detail and complex portrayal of struggle that persistently convinces you that you are reading a novel? I found myself reading more about the construction of the book because I had so much difficulty accepting the intensity and drama of what I was reading as a piece of journalism.
The book itself uses savage verbal imagery to take you to places and events where you would fear to go and about which you have probably stayed actively unaware. The amazing resilience/hope/wishful thinking of the slum residents as they struggle with murder, police, rats, racism, religious sectarianism, and political corruption seems beyond the reach of almost everyone you and I know.