THE NEW NEW THING by Michael Lewis


A Silicon Valley Story
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A rip-roaring profile of the high-rolling technology entrepreneur Jim Clark, and the strange Silicon Valley subculture in which he thrives, from one of our best business journalists. Michael Lewis, the petulant sprite whose Liar’s Poker (1989) hilariously exposed the venalities of Wall Street investment bankers, vies for Tom Wolfe’s ice cream suit with an effortlessly glib account of how the last decade turned Jim Clark, a middle-aged, chronically depressed Texas-born physicist whose futuristic concepts earned him little more than ridicule, into a Promethean, globe-trotting billionaire vainly searching for the next new thing that might make him happy. Like Ken Kesey in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Clark is, for Lewis, a romantic American outlaw, as well as a trickster who avenges himself on starched-shirt capitalists by creating wildly risky, money-losing hi-tech businesses that may never become profitable—Silicon Graphics, Netscape, Healtheon—but that nevertheless make billions for Clark when they go public. What brings in the bucks is Clark’s no-nonsense appeal to the brilliant engineers who do the real work, his insufferable egotism, and his pie-in-the-sky imagination, which is not always as prescient as he would like. (When Clark’s concept of a $1 million computerized yacht that can sail itself around the world without human hands doesn’t survive the transition to working prototype, it isn—t clear whether the yacht’s engine died in the middle of the Atlantic because the computer thought the boat was in the African Sahara, or simply because of a faulty sensor.) Lewis also notes in passing the famous Microsoft antitrust suit, which Clark originated when he leaked to the US Justice Department a Microsoft executive’s threat to put Netscape out of business if the company refused to let Microsoft in as a partner. The result? Clark got even richer when Netscape merged with America Online, and invited Microsoft to be a partner in his next, new new thing. Funny, feverishly romantic business reporting in which the American lust for wealth becomes a Bryonic quest for the next dream that will change the world. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1999
ISBN: 0-393-04813-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999


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