A stupefying philosophical meditation on money.

Representational Monetary Identity


The mysteries of banking become even murkier in this dense economic treatise.

The pseudonymous author begins by noting the odd multiplier effect of fractional reserve banking: With a typical 10 percent reserve requirement and aggressive lending, every dollar of cash deposits creates $10 in bank accounts—new money out of thin air! Valis sees in this alchemy a deep confusion between the “identity” and “representation” of money, one that leads to a disastrously unstable monetary system built on debt. (The only solution, he suggests, is the encrypted bitcoin money scheme.) So far so good, until the book morphs into a foggy rumination on the nature of money, proceeding from turgid premises—“we are finally able to define monetary identity as being social omniequivalence itself”—into rarefied, baffling abstractions, as in, “Money, like everything else, is the substitution of nothing by nothing.” Sometimes, Valis’ book is less about money and banking than it is about nothing—or rather, nothingness: “Hence, nothingness is always different from itself, this way preventing the substitution of nothing by nothing from ever being impossible: even in the absence of any substitution as resulting from the absence of everything, nothingness can still substitute for itself, by remaining different from itself.” Every so often, Valis lapses back into intelligibility, touching on the labor theory of value, the difficulty of coordinating economic exchange through barter, and the origins of bank notes in vault storage receipts provided by goldsmiths. But for the most part, the mind-numbing prose drones on without much meaning or respite, so clotted with opaque jargon that it sounds like Marx and Heidegger balancing a checkbook after a few drinks.

A stupefying philosophical meditation on money.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2013


Page Count: 51

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2013

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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