Boomerang by Michael Lewis
Norton • $25.95 • ISBN 9780393081817
It's shaping up to be a good fall for Michael Lewis. Moneyball is in the theaters, and as of yesterday, he has a new book out. Much of Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World has already been published in Vanity Fair, but these essays about Lewis' trip through Europe in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis serve as a fascinating epilogue to last year's The Big Short. Though the short essays might not have the same depth as some of Lewis' other works, they're worth reading for their wit and cultural insight.
Because Iceland is really just one big family, it's simply annoying to go around asking Icelanders if they've met Bjork. Of course they've met Bjork; who hasn't met Bjork? Who, for that matter, didn't know Bjork when she was two? "Yes, I know Bjork," a professor of finance at the University of Iceland says in reply to my question, in a weary tone. "She can't sing, and I know her mother from childhood, and they were both crazy. That she is so well known outside of Iceland tells me more about the world than it does about Bjork."
In their financial affairs they'd ticked all the little boxes to ensure that the contents of the bigger box were not rotten, and yet ignored the overpowering stench wafting from the big box. Nolling felt the problem had its roots in German national character. "We entered Maastricht because they had these rules," he says. . . . "We were talked into this under false pretenses. Germans are, by and large, gullible people. They trust and believe. They like to trust. They like to believe.
He is fresh, alive, and improvisational: I'm not sure even he knows what he will do next. He's not exactly humble, but then if I had lived the life he's lived I'm not sure I would be, either, though I might try to fake humility more than he does, which is roughly never. What saves him from self-absorption, aside from a natural curiosity, is a genuine lack of interest in personal reflection. He lives the same way he rides his bike, paying far more attention to what's ahead than what's behind.
What are you reading this week?