Monday, April 14, 2008

WALL STREET NOIR edited by Peter Spiegelman

The Book: Peter Spiegelman, ed.; WALL STREET NOIR. Akashic Books trade paperback, 2007 (first edition); signed by Spiegelman, Reed Farrel Coleman, Jim Fusilli, Twist Phelan, and two illegible signatures I think are Megan Abbott and Jason Starr. Fine condition.
First read: Still reading
Owned since: 2007

I did some background research for one of the stories in this book -- I won't say whose, since I'm not sure whether or not I agreed to keep the work confidential. Anyway, the book was a gift from the editor at last year's LA Times Festival of Books, and I've been grazing on it ever since. I'm think I've left a couple of stories unread, which is why I list this as "still reading."

Now that our economy has cycled once again from boom to bust, we're hearing a lot about Wall Street greed and irresponsibility. One of the points made in this collection is that "Wall Street" as a monolithic Other no longer exists. It's not just them vs. us anymore; we're all part of it. The stories in this collection go as far afield as Bangkok, Tel Aviv, and Tegucigalpa, Honduras. It's a global economy, and we're all part of it.

The next time you hear someone railing about greedy capitalists, ask whether they have a retirement account -- even a government pension. If they do, they're part of the system, too. Do they have a mortgage? Do they have a home equity line of credit? Are they proud of the low interest rate they locked in, or of how much their house appreciated during the 1990s? If so, they're as much a part of the bubble as the CEO with the billion-dollar severance package.

No one's ever managed to get around the fundamental economic truth that high rewards carry high risk, or that you always have to choose between paying now and paying later. Some gambled high, some gambled low, and almost all of us are paying now for the economic risks we took -- individually and collectively -- five years ago.

Five years from now, we'll be in clover again, and the lessons we think we're learning now will be fuzzy again. In the meantime, I'll hang on to this book.

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