“The more complicated the times, the more crucial are those who demystify. These are really complicated times. So let’s acknowledge the endearing, enduring genius of Michael Lewis: the Explainer.”
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World by Michael Lewis was published in 2011, and it further demonstrates why Michael Lewis is one of the leading journalists of his generation. Previous works “Moneyball” and “The Blind Side” left a profound impact on baseball and football respectively, and both landed Hollywood films.
The book centers around the global financial tsunami of 2008 and is an accessory to “The Big Short” which tells the tale of the US house bubble.
If Lewis has a talent, it’s his ability to make any subject lucid and compelling. The people in “Boomerang” come from all over the world: Iceland, Ireland, Greece, Germany, and USA; Lewis makes them come alive like characters in a novel. In a Wolf on Wall Street-esque way the readers left thinking, “Did this really happen? Are these actually real people?”
Just in Michael Lewis fashion there is a subtle humor that lands with refreshing precision. Germans were adverse to playing the overleveraging game had destroyed so many individuals and economies, yet they were the perpetrators that enabled the game.
Lewis writes, “When Morgan Stanley devised extremely complicated credit default swaps so they were all but certain to fail, so that their own proprietary traders could bet against them, the buyer was German. When Goldman Sachs helped the New York hedge fund manager John Paulson design a bond to bet against — a bond that Paulson hoped would fail — the buyer on the other side was a German bank.”
During his travels in Germany, Lewis notes that at a popular mud-wrestling event the spectators are given rubber coverings to stay clean. Lewis analogizes, “Germans longed to be near…, but not in it. This as it turns out, is an excellent description of their role in the current financial crisis.”
Lewis’ ideas and characters won’t soon leave your mind, and journalism that lives becomes literature. Many times throughout you put down the book and just ponder that these ridiculous system and even more ridiculous people all over the world who played some part in the crisis.
Three-odd years since the publication of “Boomerang” the reader has some hindsight. However, I don’t think you walk away particularly more enlightened than three years ago, albeit that’s still pretty enlightened, or about as much as you can be.
New financial trouble is brewing with Greece once again center-stage teetering on the edge of default. Here’s a video by Bloomberg illustrating the Euro debt crisis, as well as a presentation by Stefan Molyneux detailing the the current issues and the significance of the recent Greek general election.
Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World is a must-read and aside from the genius of its writing it remains just as timely as ever, like a boomerang soaring back to the thrower.
Because of your article, I just read Boomerang. I have a financial background and expected a financial book. It was a pleasant surprise to find a fascinating study of the cultures of the four countries Lewis wrote about. I also watched the Bloomberg video link in your article. All good stuff – thanks for your article and the education I got from the book and the video. Bob Pope (Ben’s dad)
Very interesting. I may have to read this book.