Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book review: "The Financier" by Theodore Dreiser

First published 1912, Harper and Bros.

It's just amazing that Dreiser (1871-1945) wrote this gritty novel in 1912, before anyone even thought of derivatives, credit default swaps, sub-prime "liar loan" mortgages and no-fault (for bankers and brokers, that is) national financial meltdowns. Frank Cowperwood is the ethically-challenged "financier" whose star and fortunes rise so marvelously and then collapse with equal flare. He seems so absolutely convincingly contemporary that I had recurring transient episodes of reverse déjà vu as I followed his desperate ambition and burnout.

Frank is a first-rate villain. He burns his friends and enemies with equal disdain, he channels Gordon Gekko with suitably theatrical energy, and he is most deliciously unrepentant when his schemes go awry, his loans get called and his empire crashes around him.

I say "deliciously unrepentant" because, unlike his contemporary villainous free spirits of Wall Street, Frank promptly goes to jail for his crimes.

"The Financier" so obviously is the kind of novel that might be written by a baroque clone of Michael Lewis. If you'd like to work out a bit of the residual rage you feel about the man-made financial cesspool we've been wallowing in for the last few years, try this American classic.

Theodore Dreiser

Dreiser is an under-appreciated, not quite muckraking 20th century writer

"Greed is good" a la Gekko

"The Financier"

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2012 All rights reserved.

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