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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"A bolt of pecuniary fire"

I'm reading "Netherland" by Joseph O'Neill. This takes the events of 9/11 as its hinge, as does most contemporary fiction, it seems. In years to come they'll start teaching this as a distinct period. The hero's a Wall Street analyst. Here he is recalling what it was like in New York in 1998.

It was quickly my impression that making a million bucks in New York was essentially a question of walking down the street - of strolling, hands in pockets, in the cheerful expectation that sooner or later a bolt of pecuniary fire would jump out of the atmosphere and knock you flat. Every third person seemed to be happily struck down; by a stock market killing, or by a dot-com bonanza, or by a six-figure motion picture deal for a five-hundred word magazine article...I too became a beneficiary of the phenomenon, because the suddenly sunken price of a barrel of oil - it went down to ten bucks that year - helped create an unparalleled demand for seers in my line.

I've just checked and the price of oil is $141.75 this morning. Now if it's gone up by a factor of fourteen in the last ten years, that means it clearly can't do that again, can it?