I've just read (finally!) Michael Lewis's Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street, the classic 1989 memoir of life at Salomon Brothers investment bank in the run-up to the Wall Street crash of 1987. Lewis was hired to trade mortgage bonds (yes, the mortgage bonds that precipitated the crash of 2008) fresh from the London School of Economics, dispatched to Salomon's legendary training program in NYC, then shipped back to London.
Lewis was a gifted salesman who made millions for the firm, but he was also deeply skeptical of the whole enterprise. This is an unbeatable combination, as it situated him perfectly to critically examine the culture, economics and ethics of the overheated bubble as it expanded, expanded, and, finally burst.
It doesn't hurt that Lewis is a fantastic writer with a particular talent for explaining the minutae of investment banking without making you want to gouge your own eyes out. Through vivid portraits of the movers and shakers on Wall Street, Lewis recounts the origin stories of junk-bonds, corporate raiding, mortgage bonds, the S&L crisis, and the founding of Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac (both founded at the behest of Salomon in order to backstop the mortgage bond market).
It's been 20 years since this was published, but there's never been a better time to read it. The hairy-knuckled, hyper-competitive, pirahnoid Wall Street and City traders he describes here could be the same hedge fundies who're poised over the tub with razors at their wrists today.
Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street
An appropriate book for this time, Soviet-era dystopian fiction grandmasters Boris and Arkady Strugatski considered Snail On The Slope “the most perfect and the most valuable of their works.” Snail on The Slope is comprised of two separate storylines, taking place in and on the edge of The Forest. Together they paint a vivid picture […]
(I originally reviewed this in 2008, but thought it was worth reposting, for obvious reasons. — MF) In World Made By Hand (2008) by James Howard Kunstler, the population of the United States (and most likely, the world) has been decimated by an energy shortage, starvation, plagues, terrorism, and global warming. The story takes place […]
Thank you for reading — After eight years on Boing Boing, the John Wilcock story will conclude next week! — From John Wilcock, New York Years, by Ethan Persoff and Scott Marshall — (See all Boing Boing installments)
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At this point, it’s every single person’s responsibility to reduce their own carbon footprint and transition to a more sustainable lifestyle. But if you consider the grim fact that the biggest culprit of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities in the U.S. is burning fossil fuels for electricity, things, like pivoting to metal straws and […]
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