Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tall Tales

Ben Mezrich's Ugly Americans - The True Story of the Ivy League Cowboys who Raided the Asian Markets for Millions reads at a fast clip like any good thriller must. As Mezrich's rhapsodies on Ducatis, Ferraris and other trappings of good living turn cliche by frequent repeats, and his characters go about their business of being take-no-prisoners cowboys of the Asian financial markets, you wonder if his "true story" may be true in the manner of The Devil Wears Prada.

The events recounted in the book are old by now and the style of writing, makes it hard to separate fact from fiction, truth from exaggeration. Even with everything on the news these days, you almost want to believe there is a generous dose of make-believe in
Mezrich's surreal story of hedge funds making ungodly sums of money without the encumbrances of morality, authority or regulation. Surely, things cannot be quite as bad. Because if they are, the legions of little guys paying for this bacchanalia are really toast.

Yet when you read this NYT op-ed piece or other accounts of the ongoing financial meltdown, Mezrich's story does not seem all that improbable.Truth can be stranger than fiction and therefore much harder to believe unless you happen to be close enough to the action to know the score.

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