Rare Medium

The Big Trouble

Michael Lewis's offers a new, lucid account of some very muddy waters.

Book Cover If my recall is correct, I have only spoken to Michael Lewis (Moneyball, The Blind Side) twice. It seems like more—probably because his books and his journalism (New York Times Magazine or Vanity Fair) are so engaging they seem like natural extensions of our conversations. And given the decent (tear-eliciting) filmic realization of the truly remarkable story he told about Michael Oher in The Blind Side, I am tempted to assume that Lewis needs little or no introduction.

I have already, in other places, effused on my high regard both for Lewis’s unerring sense of story, his investigative skills, and clear, concise reportorial prose. But why take my word for it. Read his lively account of his experience (immediately after graduating from Princeton) with Wall Street as the current debacle was just making it into the news cycle.

Which is a fine segue to Lewis’s new opus, The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine (WW Norton). In what I now take to be a characteristic style, Lewis gazes bemusedly at the most recent example of American financial system dysfunction. He manages to leaven this catastrophe with some humor, chiefly by turning up a small cast of prescient oddballs who actually made big money by understanding and betting on the inevitability of the failure of newly concocted financial instruments. Of course, even the least (financially) sophisticated of our citizens rightfully ask how did the government officials charged with oversight not see what was coming. Lewis’s mordant answer: “It took a certain kind of person to see the ugly facts and react to them—to discern, in the profile of the beautiful young lady, the face of an old witch.”

In case you are in the mood to read some up-to-the-minute commentary on the state of American capitalism, I would offer this trenchant message by Andy Kroll, “Ponzi Nation: How Get-Rich-Quick Crime Came to Define an Era.”
biopic

Robert Birnbaum is editor-at-large at Identity Theory. All the sketchy details of his life will be (re)fabricated in his memoir-in-progress, Just Talking: How to Do Things With Words. His weblog can be found here. More by Robert Birnbaum

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