I often get asked to recommend books, particularly books about finance because people reason that since I read a lot of books (correct) and know about finance (incorrect) I’ll know about books about finance (I’ll leave it to you to decide).
When it’s non-fiction they’re looking for, it’s hard. There are some interesting books about finance (the kind of stuff Michael Lewis writes) and there are some informative books about finance (like Too Big To Fail). But the thing is, finance is really pretty dull when it’s accurate, and there aren’t that many books I generally want to recommend to people I like. For people I don’t like, you could try A Colossal Failure of Common Sense.
But when it’s fiction they’re looking for, it’s really hard. In the main people who write novels about finance either know how to write well (Robert Harris) or know about finance (Nest of Vipers), but not both. Sometimes they know neither.
Jared Dillian can write, and he knows about finance. In fact he’s making a name for himself writing about finance and spraying the internet with photos that make him look like he’s just about to punch you. So when he asked me if I would care to receive an advance copy of his first novel All The Evil of This World I immediately jumped at the chance. And he’s been extraordinarily patient in not bugging me for what I think of it, presumably because he has so many people telling him how awesome he is all day long these days that he doesn’t need to hear my thoughts.But he’s going to get them anyway, shambolically organised and full of footnotes as they are.
The problem is, I don’t quite know how to describe this book. When I finished it, my first thought was “wow!” in the sense of “what the hell was that?” I mean, it’s a terrific book, but it’s not easy going, and the ending would be too outrageously ridiculous to believe if it weren’t for the fact that Jared has apparently installed some kind of implant in my head to read my thoughts. Those of you who didn’t like the lack of clarity provided by the ending to the Sopranos are really not going to like the squirmishly uncomfortable finish to this one (where’s the sequel Jared? I need to know what happens next dammit!)
It reminded me of Brett Easton Ellis. There’s something quite American Psycho about the dislikability of the characters and the stream-of-consciousness thought processes you’re privy to. The intertwined plotlines are beautifully balanced to provoke enough disgust to make you truly upset, but not so much that you want to stop reading. The implausibility of the scenarios leaves just enough of a nagging doubt that maybe, just maybe, this is really what is was like at the peak of the cocaine-fuelled dotcom bubble. Is it real? No. But it is fake? No. There’s an authenticity that could only have come from experience of the events. The conversations, the terminology, the slang, the attitudes, the wit, the humour, the misogyny – this book reads like The Wire set amongst increasingly rich dudes in San Francisco in 2000.
You might not like this book. You might not understand this book. You may wish you could turn on the subtitles like you did with The Wire You might end up wanting to wash out the inside of your brain. But it’s a fine novel, and I heartily recommend it.
And I’m not saying that just because I think Jared might punch me if I don’t.