The Novel That Explains the Moment We're In
BUtterfield 8 and the fear of a new Depression.
John O'Hara knew exactly how responsible the bankers and speculators of his time were for the crash and Depression that followed. He didn't need John Kenneth Galbraith's The Great Crash, 1929 to instruct him (although I recommend this classic of economic history as a refresher course on the speculators' culpability—and perhaps a map of the future). O'Hara was writing in 1935, when we began to see the consequences of the crash; he was able to capture the fear of the abyss. Whether or not we escape it at this suspenseful moment in our history, I think we know who's more to blame.
It's still worth remembering Woody Guthrie's line:
"Some will rob you with a six gun, some with a fountain pen." And some with a collateralized debt obligation.
Correction, Sept. 2, 2011: This article originally misspelled Fran Lebowitz's name. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.
Still from BUtterfield 8 courtesy © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. All rights reserved.