Frank Rich has another wonderful article in the NYT, Obama, Lehman and 'The Dragon Tattoo'
with his usual plethora of intriguing links. There has been a lot of talk about whether Stieg Larsson's novel is misogynist, but Rich points out that there is no doubt about how much he hated bankers and he wonders if this has anything to do with the extraordinary success of the Millennium Trilogy. (I just read the third, The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest
, and it is by far the best, brilliant plotting, but not a lot on finance). His point is that popular fiction may reveal more about what people really think than the politicians and conventional media articulate. He links this observation to the story of Lehman Brothers which is gradually coming out and has been featured in Michael Lewis's No 1 non-fiction bestseller, The Big Short
. Rich draws from all this a prediction that a war is coming soon over the rules for banking and who imposes them. What matters is to identify the sides in this war and decide which one you are on. Obama, sitting gingerly in the middle, will be knocked off his perch unless he comes down squarely on the side of justice.
This analysis reminds me so much of the man who taught me more than any other, the Caribbean writer and revolutionary, C.L.R. James, whose American Civilization
(1993) Anna Grimshaw and I edited for publication (it was written in 1950 and has gone out of print). He argued that the struggle for civilization was between ordinary people seeking more democracy in their own lives and the bureaucratic powers who would deny them more control. This class conlflict gains freest expression in popular culture, but it also points to political upheavals.
Since we seem to be having difficulty sustaining discussion at a high level of abstraction, I wondered if anyone would like to join in an exploration of how popular fiction and non-fiction (including movies, plays and journalism) throw light on the economic crisis we are living through by building up a narrative of what is happening that may or may not have political consequences. Perhaps you could add sources that have struck you as being particularly insightful. I will mention one that turned me on.
William Poundstone's Fortune's Formula: The untold story of the scientific betting system that beat the casinos and Wall Street
(2006) is an amazing narrative over the last half-century bringing together Claude Shannon (the inventor of information theory), The Mob, Rudy Giuliani, Paul Samuelson, the guy who invented junk bonds and a cast of thousands. The basic question is can you beat the market or not? The economists say not, but you can if you have inside information. It all starts with a corrupt telegraph operator. Read on...