Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Blind alleys

An outtake from the last piece I wrote for Bookforum, on money and the novel:
Crime fiction may be the contemporary subgenre where financial crises are most extensively and evocatively registered: Alan Glynn’s recent thrillers Winterland and Bloodland offer a particularly vivid and chilling account of the human fallout of the European financial collapse in Ireland. J. K. Rowling has written a string of novels that made her wealthier than the Queen of England, but the Harry Potter books aren’t themselves particularly interested in money, aside from occasional evocative glimpses of the contents of the vaults in Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games books explore the drama of economic inequality without establishing the actual fiscal underpinnings of the economy she depicts, and when a popular contemporary writer does choose to describe the financial system in more complex detail, it’s usually to lambaste the moral failings markets are supposed to induce in those who trade. In Robert Harris’s The Fear Index, a British hedge fund manager creates a complex set of trading algorithms whose destructive potential exceeds that of Frankenstein’s monster: Don’t try this at home! Vampires in the Twilight books and elsewhere are popularly supposed to be well positioned to accumulate vast wealth owing to their longevity; perhaps, too, their natural affinity with the one percent is instanced in their well-known preference for formal wear.