I'm a little stunned that this won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Egan struck me as a talented writer with nothing to say and only an average amountI'm a little stunned that this won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Egan struck me as a talented writer with nothing to say and only an average amount of imagination....more
I work for a Wall Street firm - though about as far out in the orbit as one can be while still technically employed - and while I liked this book, I'mI work for a Wall Street firm - though about as far out in the orbit as one can be while still technically employed - and while I liked this book, I'm not sure I would have found it quite so engaging if I didn't recall so vividly the weeks at the center of the narrative, the anxiety that our firm might fail and we might all be jobless, the emails to staff that are quoted by the author (and come off, to me anyway, strangely more sincerely than they did at the time).
Having said that, the level of detail, the feeling of in-the-room-ness, is an extraordinary feat in itself, and Sorkin does a good job (as far as we know, anyway) bringing together the hundreds of interlocking narratives. He makes the decision to give each character the benefit of the doubt as to his motives, never questioning (until the epilogue) their decisions or reasoning. This aspirational approach, applied as it was to a group of people rarely treated in the public imagination as anything other than villains jumping gleefully into grottoes of taxpayer-funded gold coins, felt a bit funny to me for awhile, but began to make sense as Sorkin brought in multiple accounts of the same events and I realized that the characters were happily damning themselves or each other with their own words, and didn't need the author to do it. Sorkin didn't need to call Dick Fuld any names - Fuld's own recollections lay bare enough his strange behavior and catastrophic decisions.
The book's brief is to recall in painstaking detail the events of (primarily) September and October 2008, so there's very little in here about the underlying causes of the financial (let alone economic) crisis; for those issues readers should look elsewhere....more
Michael Lewis sometimes does this thing that bothers me: he starts a thread, then leaves it hanging; starts another, and leaves that one hanging; and you feel like all these loose threads are going to combine into a fantastic ending, but in fact he's just done with them. In other words he's like a phenomenal magazine writer who finds some difficulty in combining pieces into a book-length narrative. But I didn't find that to be the case with this book at all. Aside from some annoying repetition, which Chris pointed out in the comments before I wrote this review, all the pieces come together in a satisfying way.
Of the three main narratives, each takes place at a slightly different remove from the crisis's epicenter, but all have the same anticipatory feel, which leaves you with the feeling that you could TOTALLY have known the financial bloodbath was coming, if you'd had access to the right data. Which, in fact, is kind of the point; anyone who bothered to look into these securities (which were slightly foul-smelling even from a distance) found a surfeit of reasons to expect them to blow up.
This book has the gratifying quality of not seeming smug about having the benefit of hindsight - a quality conspicuously lacking in most of the public discourse, particularly in things like congressional hearings and speeches in late 2008 and 2009. One gets the distinct impression most of the politicians condemning greed on Wall Street couldn't have explained the connection between a Main Street home equity loan and a CDS on CDOs even after the subject became widely written about, let alone in advance of the fall in house prices when many of them wouldn't have been caught dead saying any American wasn't qualified to take out a mortgage to buy a new home.
In stark contrast, The Big Short is all about the few people who not only understood the vast, complex financial universe that fed on mortgages, but also understood its many risks and weaknesses - and yet, the tone of the book is not, as it might easily have been, "I told you so." I guess this is because you don't have to say something when it's so readily apparent. (A direct example of this is Eisman's flippant comment to the JPM CFO when the CDO market crashed, and his - Eisman's - immediate regret at having not left the obvious unsaid.)
Lewis has a unique vantage point - current writer but former bond salesman - and rare talent for educating the uninitiated (whether it's about baseball scouting, football formations or financial securities) which make him more or less the perfect person to tackle this subject, a task at which he succeeds pretty brilliantly.
ADDENDUM: I now realize my review makes it sound like I think the book is perfect. I don't. It's the most readable (not necessarily the best full stop) book about the financial crisis (not about the wider issues like the housing bubble, the connection with the real economy, etc.). But beyond that, I'm just too lazy to go into more detail, and it's pretty damn good, so I'm leaving it there....more
Putting this in the short-story bucket; I suppose it's technically a novella, but it felt much more like a long story than a short novel to me.
I was rPutting this in the short-story bucket; I suppose it's technically a novella, but it felt much more like a long story than a short novel to me.
I was reluctant to read this - in fact, refused to - after I read the excerpt that was published in The New Yorker. I just didn't like it. Now, having read the whole thing, I think that was due to the way it was clipped and pieced together for the magazine. The book was a really enjoyable picture that became sweet and sad and quite touching....more
First, if you're going to read this, please don't read the goodreads description.
I can't say this with absolute certainty, having read none of the othFirst, if you're going to read this, please don't read the goodreads description.
I can't say this with absolute certainty, having read none of the other novels, but considering what I've heard about the Booker shortlist I'm surprised this didn't win. I guess it's part of the Booker's recent campaign to honor what is "fresh" and "important" rather than, you know. Good.
This book didn't change my world, but it was good. It's made up mostly of recollections by its very elderly narrator, but the way it uses (perhaps unreliable) memory isn't like, say, Ishiguro, who uses gradual revelations to turn a story on its head. There are surprises (or not, if you are the sort of person who guesses everything before you're told), but the surprises aren't supposed to make you think you've been had.
It's wonderfully written, if a tad on the dreamy side in occasional spots, and the story is fairly absorbing. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of it if I knew more about Irish history, but nonetheless I was hooked the whole way through, and enjoyed it a bunch.
I read A Long Long Way (also by Sebastian Barry) a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed that book as well. I didn't need a reminder that he's a good writer, but reading The Secret Scripture told me that he's not a one-trick pony. Maybe that's the wrong word, because A Long, Long Way, with its very linear plot and straightforward, honest descriptions, doesn't really have any tricks. The Secret Scripture has tricks, but they don't overwhelm the piece - Barry is not a gimmickist. I guess the worst you could say of him is that he sometimes strays into the whimsical. He is also a poet, and you can tell....more