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March 04, 2012

Pseudo Book Thread

G'morning from sunny California! I don't have anything like the thoughtful book threads that Monty does, but I spotted this interesting piece in the Financial Times this morning and it seems to be right up our alley:

Show me the money

By John Lanchester The author of a bestseller on the economic crisis asks why the literary world is wary of finance

[...]

You can assemble an entire canon of the greatest English language poets from men who had lengthy professional careers in the world of money and administration, from Geoffrey Chaucer (customs) to Edmund Spenser (government and administration) to John Milton (ditto) all the way through to TS Eliot (banking and publishing) and Stevens – and this entire pantheon barely touches on the world of work and money. If it seems unreasonable to expect poets to write about practical matters, well, it can be done: bear in mind that Virgil’s Georgics had the explicit ambition of being a guide to farming, as well as an account of the pastoral year – an ambition picked up by Ted Hughes in Moortown Diary poems.

The gap in the canon of fiction is even more conspicuous. Novels, as Iris Murdoch once observed, “are full of stuff”. She meant stuff as in things, objects, places, but also in the sense of information, events, coming and going. The “stuff” in novels touches on every aspect of the world and people’s lives. That’s what makes it so remarkable just how little there is in the novel about the world of money. Take Jane Austen. Her work is astonishingly fresh in almost every respect, and its psychological insights are as applicable to the early 21st century as they were to the early 19th. Part of what is so bracingly contemporary about her is her complete lack of self-deception about the importance of money to her characters’ lives, especially their love lives. But there’s nothing about money in and of itself; nothing about how this central aspect of the world actually works.

It's long, but worth the read.


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posted by Gabriel Malor at 01:37 PM

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