THE MAN WHO KNEW

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF ALAN GREENSPAN

A well-crafted, thorough biography sure to interest students of the modern economy and financial system.

The life of perhaps the wonkiest financial theorist to sit at the helm of the Federal Reserve.

Alan Greenspan (b. 1926) is infamous for having led the government’s chief financial institution in the years when all the perfect-storm conditions were setting up for the economy to tank and for, at least until that collapse, pressing an Ayn Rand–derived libertarian case whenever he could. Financial journalist Mallaby (More Money than God: Hedge Funds and the Making of a New Elite, 2010, etc.) offers correctives and nuances to this view in this not uncritical portrait. As a math whiz kid with an interest in politics, Greenspan held a cautious contempt for the gray mass culture of the 1950s, “despite his eagerness to share in the prosperity it brought.” While he played golf and drove nice cars, sure, he also came to a rightist critique that turned, as Mallaby writes, on his membership in “a fringe group that was one part libertarian salon, two parts strange cult,” namely the circle around the Russian egotist Rand and its embrace of a particularly austere brand of logical positivism. Greenspan’s ideological purity did not preclude him from mixing in society—he dated Barbara Walters, after all—but it certainly seemed to reinforce an otherworldliness that prized theory over reality. In matters economic, Mallaby writes, Greenspan urged a kind of limited-government, free-market vision that rested uneasily with the close management required of the Fed. In that role, Greenspan took risky positions, including a complacent view of the housing bubble; after all, “subprime lending and mortgage securitization had been around for years without triggering a catastrophe,” though catastrophe is what ensued on his watch. Even so, as Mallaby closes by noting, Greenspan was not wholly averse to regulation, made financial calls that were seen as sound at the time, and may not have been able to ward off a crisis that was many years in the making.

A well-crafted, thorough biography sure to interest students of the modern economy and financial system.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59420-484-5

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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