Thursday, June 30, 2011

100 Books 33 - W.G. Sebald's THE RINGS OF SATURN

This book is categorized and shelved as fiction, but I cannot help wondering how different my experience of reading it might have been were it not. This is a weird thing to say, I know, but The Rings of Saturn is a weird book.

Ostensibly, The Rings of Saturn -- so named, supposedly, to denote its fragmentary nature, as the planet Saturn's rings are composed of innumberable fragments -- concerns German author W.G. Sebald's walking tour of the southeastern coast of England. We do get the odd description of his physical travels here and there, with some lovely scenery porn and enough detail to convince the reader that he did indeed make the journey, visit those places, even without the odd, strangely melancholy accompanying photographs strewn throughout.

But the physical journey isn't really the thing, here. What is the thing is a somewhat inner, somewhat imaginary, dreamlike wandering through the past lives of the places the narrator encounters, the buildings, the landscapes and the stories of the people who lived there or in other ways made them somewhat famous. It's all very convincing and the line between fact and fiction is -- is there a word out there that goes beyond what we mean when we say "blurred"? Because it's way more than blurred. Like an international border in the middle of a lonely, unpeopled landscape, the line, if there even is one, is imaginary and only an extreme and well-enforced collective belief that is there gives it any reality at all.

But there are no authorities here insisting on a division. Once the reader has let herself be immersed in the strangeness (and its so seductive, who can resist the urge to wade in up to the chin, if not all the way in?), though, the question fades away. There are reminders here and there that this is supposed to be fiction -- Sebald is a great admirer of Jorge Luis Borges, for instance, and evokes especially the weird wonders of the master's "Tlon Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" a story written in the form of an encyclopedia entry, purporting to tell the reader all she needs to know about a completely made-up country that the entry itself acknowledges was made up -- but these are rare and so subtle that they pass almost unnoticed, the reader just nodding and smiling and tripping gently along.

When the narrator comes to the English village of Lowestoft, where Joseph Conrad lived for many years at the beginning of his new life as an Englishman, this has the potential to become problematic. Conrad fans (and I am one) know a lot of factual material about how he spent his time there, who he met, what he knew... and suddenly our dream has brought us quite convincingly right into what feels very much like a good representation of Conrad's own experience, what he saw, what it looked and felt like, what it made him remember from his own past... On later reflection it becomes obvious that no one could ever know that but Conrad himself, who is of course no longer around to affirm or contradict this account, but at the time, while reading, one is hypnotized into believing and enjoying it all. Is that factual, the last freed part of her mind might ask, feebly trying to send an impulse to go check Joseph Conrad: A Biography

The Green Lantern Movie

As my comic book buddies well know (but are still basically aghast at), I'm not that much of a superhero fan (though I have really enjoyed Cullen Bunn's and now Josh Fialkov's runs on DC's Superman/Batman this year; I picked those up out of faith in the writers and was rewarded well for my trust), but as I mentioned on my Audioboo today, I've always had a sneaking fondness for Green Lantern and the Corps because they always reminded me a little bit of E.E. "Doc" Smith's superfun Lensman series of pulp space opera. I base this on no knowledge except what I've gleaned by osmosis in that pop culture way that I've talked about before, that way that makes it difficult to see Citizen Kane without already knowing what Rosebud is, etc., and also from a childhood fondness for that cheesy old cartoon, The Superfriends.

In addition, I had a powerful need to tear myself away from my computer since I kept straying from my tasks at hand to peek at a certain Amazon sales ranking of mine -- and, yes, had seen a preview for the Green Lantern film when I took my mom to see Super 8, a film she liked a lot more than I did (though we agreed the children's performances were freaking amazing -- we also agreed that the lens flare was unforgivably overdone and the tearing metal/explosion sound effects were hideous and potentially migraine-inducing. No excuse for that. NONE!). So I took myself with zero expectations to see the Green Lantern film this afternoon.

And darned if I didn't enjoy myself a whole lot.

This film took itself just seriously enough to earn and hold my willing suspension of disbelief even through what was a pretty hokey storyline. The CGI was pretty but not showy. The actors were not great but not terrible. Directors, writers, actors, effects crew, they were all on the same page and none of them stood out either in good ways or bad (though yes, Ryan Reynolds filled out his CGI skin very appealingly, and I usually don't like the guy). Which means that, boy bod in green aside, I didn't notice anything except the smile on my face. Which is an achievement right there.

There were so many places this film could have gone wrong, but it never did. It could have overdramatized the oath scene. Nope. It could have wrung every last tearjerking potential out of the relationship with Hal's nephew. It didn't (in fact, the nephew disappeared once Hal became Green Lantern. I was fully ready to roll my eyes at how somehow the big film climax involved an over the top direct jeopardizing of the girl and the nephew/brother/family but it didn't. Bravo!). It could have gone for cheap comic relief with some ill-timed pratfalls or running jokes (Marvel Studios, I'm looking at you. How many times did you hit Thor with a truck? Was it even amusing the first time? Um. Not really). It didn't. And while recent visits to the multiplex led me to take a prophylactic Tylenol before entering the auditorium, I didn't need it: no screechy metal effects, no aural assault of any kind, not even when stuff blew up or crashed. MEGA BRAVO!

Instead I got a perfectly good iteration of the good old Hero's Journey, replete with lots of pretty space and planet and alien shots and appearances of characters that I know from my friend Adam Christopher's tweets are obscure fan favorites (there is an insect alien Green Lantern? Um. I want to dig up the comics about THAT guy real, real soon).

And that was the ultimate and surprising effect of this film. I wanted to read some Green Lantern comics. I didn't have any Green Lantern comics but I knew many ways to acquire some. And in Adam I had the perfect brain to pick about where to start.

No evil shall escape my sight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Do you see that? That's me on Amazon's Kindle Bestseller List for American Poetry as of 3 pm today, June 29, 2011. I never, ever expected this. Ever. I must have sold at least ten copies!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Glory be, I wrote a book

As most of my readers know, your humble blogger is also your humble Suppertime Sonneteer (if you don't, go check out my other blog). Suppertime Sonnets was my effort to kickstart myself into writing regularly again and has had spectacular results; most of my other projects, including this blog, have sprung from it, either directly or through invitations to collaborate on other stuff. It's been amazing.

Last year at Balticon, I got to meet a lot of people who called themselves my fans, and the question everyone had for me was: when will these be a book? I hemmed and hawed and finally said, uh, soon?

That was over a year ago. Stuff happens, you know?

At any rate, I'm pleased to announce that I now have an ebook collection of the better, prettier, weirder or more interesting of those 1000+ poems as chosen by a small group of my readers and myself. A print version is in the works but designing and preparing a paperback is a bit more work than putting an ebook together.

You can get yourself an e-copy right now at Smashwords and soon at Amazon for a mere $1.99 American. When Barnes & Noble's website lets me finish registering, it will be available for now, but know that ePub (the format Barnes & Noble's Nook supports) is one of the many formats available at my Smashwords site. I'll announce the availability of the paperback as soon as it's ready to go.

As Twitter pal Michaelaneous, aka OminousOat pointed out to me, I'm currently outselling Charles Bukowski in the busy and competitive category of 20th Century American Poetry Collections For Kindle. When I looked to see for myself, I found that I'm also outselling a collection by Bob Dylan. This amuses me to no end. Thus will Wednesday, June 29, 2011 live long in my memory as the day I outsold some geniuses. Tee and also hee.

And no, this won't be my last book!

Monday, June 27, 2011

100 Books 32 - Karen & Ray Gilden's TEA AND BEE'S MILK: OUR YEAR IN A TURKISH VILLAGE

Turkey is quite an interesting place, but as is the case with so many interesting places, at the rate I'm going I'll never manage to visit there. Hence my occasional random indulgence in some armchair travel.

Usually I put myself in the hands of someone I know and respect -- Robert D. Kaplan, say, or Paul Theroux. So how did I find these two odd, hipstery Oregonians for travel companions?

Funny you should ask. Really, it's George R.R. Martin's fault.

Ever notice that when you're up reading way, way, WAY past your bedtime that sometimes the print gets a bit blurry, even after you've tuned your Kindle's typeface setting to "legally blind"? It's the sort of thing that only happens when the book is very good indeed, as A Game of Thrones is, and so it did. As I read of the adventures of its many characters, somehow the name of Arya Stark swam into view as Freya Stark, and this reminded me that I had yet to read any of that remarkable woman's work. I had always meant to, though.

Ah, but as yet, Amazon really doesn't have any of her own writing available for the Kindle, which is where and how all my impulse book-buying takes place. A biography of her, yes (at an "agency model" price well above the normal $9.99, meaning I shunned it on principle. They can charge me more for a Kindle book when it is fully shareable on MY terms, not riddled with DRM, etc.), but by her? Tumbleweeds and cricket sounds.

But tossed in amidst the by/for/about Freya Stark Kindle offerings was Tea and Bee's Milk, a charming title, modestly priced and modern, and my impulsiveness clicked in.

What did I get for my $5.99 American? A mixed bag, but mostly of good things.

Karen and Ray Gilden are, as I said, Oregonians, hailing from the Portland/Eugene area, and come across in their book as people who would not be out of place in a sketch from the TV show Portlandia and its gentle satire of the earnest and often smug denizens of that part of the country. Ray is a bicycle fetishist, for instance; Karen a bit too fond of pointing out how off the beaten track they went when they decided to sell the house, ditch the kids and parents and spend a year doing nothing in Turkey.

Of course I'm a little jealous of the pair of them. That's only natural. I also dream, just a bit, of doing so myself, and maybe even writing a book about it. If/when I do so, though, I can't go to Göcek, Turkey, because it was in the process of becoming "touristy" even before the Gildens got there, and is now even better known for their having written about it. And of course an important part of hipster travel is being able to decry how the place you've discovered is being spoiled by its being discovered by others (but never oneself, oh no). Oh, those terrible others. But not us, of course. Everyone told us we were lovely, and we have no reason to disagree.

Eye-rolling aside, this book is much longer on charm than it is on smugness. Both Karen and Ray are talented writers and have a gift for highlighting the humor to be found in ordinary challenges like operating a Turkish washing machine, finding some oil to keep a bicycle in good repair in a tiny Turkish village, and figuring out when the ferry to Kos is actually going to leave. They also take a most amusing turn as restaurant reviewers for a newsletter they had once thought of starting and sending home to family and friends (but were soon too happily relaxed to continue with and so only published one issue). Their stories of meals here and there made my mouth water even as I smiled at the wit which which they described their settings and circumstances.

Like Troika before it, this was a short read but a pleasant one. As it will probably be the closest I get to a low-key Mediterranean idyll, I consider the brief time I spent swimming, biking and lazing about with the Gildens to have been well spent. Though I hope they never come Saratoga, WY, where I grew up, motto: "If you're in a hurry, you're in the wrong town." We already have enough tourists complaining that it's getting touristy.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

100 Books 31 - Alastair Reynolds' TROIKA

Well, that was over way too fast, but I knew it would be going in. Novellas are like that. It was awesome while it lasted, though.

Alastair Reynolds is one of those rare authors who has yet to disappoint me. His brand of atmospheric, astronomical space opera is exactly the kind of stuff that I got into science fiction to be able to read -- like Asimov but with modern ideas about character and structure, and a delicious noir flavor to the storytelling. His Revelation Space books brim over with these qualities and more, and throw Reynolds' background as a working astronomer into sharp relief (who else could imagine a civilization's robotic remnants constructing a vast machine that literally sings a star to pieces to keep its secrets?) These books are also very good for making readers' skins crawl with depictions of, e.g. giant "Lighthugger" spaceships and fantastic future cities infected with the "Melding Plague" (in which electronic and biological components mutate and fuse together in baroque, Gigeresque ways on both gargantuan and minute scales) while spinning tales of a small group of people taking on an ancient enemy of all sentient life. I mean WOW.

Since leaving that universe behind, Reynolds has kept the flavor but moved on to other milieus, constructing satisfying narratives and grand thought experiments in great big novels that I still rip through like pulp fiction (the imponderables he poses, I ponder after I'm done and on subsequent re-reads). I'm never sure what he's going to be up to next -- for Terminal World > (see my GoodReads review of same)) he seemed to be playing with steampunk tropes but what he was really exploring was what it would be like to live at different resolutions (i.e., zones in which the laws of physics operate at different degrees of fineness); in Century Rain he explores the idea of an alternate earth on the other end of a wormhole, which is mostly taken up by Paris in the 1950s, while the "real" earth is destroyed and uninhabitable due to cataclysmically bad decisions made in the use of nanotechnology -- and it all comes together!

Which is to say that I approached Troika with high expectations that have most certainly been met. The title, a Russian word for things that come in threes as well as for a type of sled mostly concerns* three cosmonauts, citizens of a Second Soviet Union that is the last of Earth's space-faring nations, who have been sent to investigate a vast alien artifact that has appeared at the edge of our solar system. What they discover there is, in true Reynolds fashion, bigger, weirder and more unsettling than any of them could have imagined, and has major consequences not just for them (death, madness, weird identity bleed-through, feeling like they're being drowned in liquid mercury, the usual) but for the vestiges of civilization they have left behind and to which they return. Two major plot bombs detonate in the last 20 pages that manage to cast every bit of what the reader has experienced in the other 100 or so into a shade of doubt, but not in that Ellen Tigh is the last Cylon and makes Six cry so much she loses her baby kind of way.

Other of Reynolds' readers have complained at times that his novels could stand to be about 3/4 as long as they actually are. Myself, I don't see the bloat; I like the expansiveness and don't see anything in them as padding, but that his novels are mostly pretty long I cannot deny. I hope he'll keep reaching for those big books full of big ideas, but in Troika like in his previous short fiction and the last hardcover novella he unleashed on us, The Six Directions of Space, he has more than proven that a) He is listening to them (I hear he's very approachable, and hey, he's written back to my sweet little old sci-fi loving mother when she's emailed him a few times, so this does not surprise me) and b) he can write tight while still pleasing his "big book" fans. If he continues to do a little of both, it's just possible that we'll all be happy.

Al Reynolds is just that good.

*It also refers to a movement from Sergei Prokofiev's Lieutenant Kije Suite, "Troika", around which, weirdly enough, a significant plot development revolves and to which you can listen via the YouTube clip I have embedded below. It's good stuff!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Long have I looked forward to having this novel in my hot little hands, but longer still did I wait, after having it, to read it. But only by about a month or so.

For the most part, it was worth the wait, though I did despair a tiny bit at first. While I can't say that Phoenix Rising gets off to a slow start (on the contrary, it very self-consciously and deliberately starts, quite literally, with a bang), it does get off to rather a false one, as we come in at the end of a prior adventure, knowing nothing that is going on but getting to peek in on a daring rescue and escape -- from Antarctica, no less. Which is to say we are firmly in Indiana Jones territory, here.

And, like in the chronicles of Dr. Jones, we have a bit of a lull after the prologue's pyrotechnics. The bossman is far from pleased with how that rescue/escape was conducted, and also, of course, that it was necessary at all, and jets have been ordered cooled, to rather dull effect, however sparkling the banter between our two heroes is supposed to be.

Fortunately, things pick up after a bit.

In our two heroes, Wellington Books and Eliza Braun, we seem for most of the novel to remain in Indiana Jones territory, character-wise, if there were some way to split that territory rather neatly in half. Books, as his surname suggests, partakes of Dr. Jones' rather tidy, intellectual, academic side, attending lectures, cataloging and studying artifacts and documents, tinkering a bit. The distaff side of the partnership, Braun, partakes of the buckled swash, all smart assery, armed to the teeth, flirtaceous, action-oriented and impatient with the dullness she sees as comprising Books' entire existence. When their boss, the wonderfully named Dr. Sound, re-assigns her to Books' domain, she takes it as punishment and grouses over it for just long enough to really slow down the narrative.

Just as the reader is starting to nod off, though, Ballantine and Morris get around to what they really wrote this book for: to ape not Indiana Jones but Sherlock Holmes, if Holmes had lived in an alternate steampunk universe with Babbage engines at his disposal, and if Moriarty had been able to sic not just gorgeous lady assassins but also bio-mechanical monstrosities on him. This without straying, in their romp through literary madness and mash-ups, into the territory of the loathsome works of Seth Graham-Smith, for which I vigorously applaud them.

Speaking of loathsomeness, I've seen a few reviewers make allusions to Stanley Kubrick's really not-so-wonderful Eyes Wide Shut when writing about Phoenix Rising, and the criticism is a fair one. The one of the two conspiracies Books and Braun are rather more effective at penetrating has a penchant for what amounts to Victorian key parties, which is possibly meant to be saucy (as Braun is herself rather saucy, demonstrating many times throughout the novel that she is not above using her feminine wiles to achieve what her pistols and stiletto-bladed hair ornaments cannot) but comes across as rather shockingly creepy in a novel that up to that point has felt like a relatively light-hearted adventure romp, though this perhaps cushions the blow the reader gets when that conspiracy's real secret is discovered. I still have the willies from THAT.

Handled by lesser writers than Ballantine and Morris, this might just be cheap pulp fiction, but individually they both have a lot of good work under their belts and it shows in the appealing character dynamics they have built between Books and Braun. I know both of the authors personally and can't help, as I'm sure they wouldn't have even thought of trying to prevent, imagining each of them in the roles of their heroes, whose banter is reminiscent of that I have enjoyed over evening cocktails and bleary-eyed Panera breakfasts at Balticon.

Thanks for the ride, guys. Save me a seat on the next one?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

100 Books 29 - Simon Schama's THE AMERICAN FUTURE: A HISTORY

For this reader, Simon Schama’s The American Future: A History is read in the shadow of three other formidable and remarkable books: Robert D. Kaplan’s stunningly prescient An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future, Marc Reisner’s searing Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water , and Schama’s own, luminously strange Landscape And Memory . These books provide a lot of shade to the reader opening up The American Future, but it’s dappled shade; much of The American Future shines brilliantly all on its own, a pleasure to read (especially after what I’ve endured lately, reading-wise) and an edifying one

I come from Wyoming, a place Schama often mentions as he discusses the anti-Chinese race riot that took place in our railroad town of Rock Springs, and the expedition exploring the Colorado River that John Wesley Powell launched from nearby Green River, which means, among other things, that my education in American history is a piecemeal affair. We begin to learn Wyoming history exhaustively in fourth grade, and many of us again got a good booster shot of same in high school, but American history? I got it as far as the Reconstruction, the Civil War treated mostly as a reason why there were occasional Buffalo soldiers and why a lot of the guys who came West to man our forts and protect settlers from Injuns no longer had their birth allotment of limbs. Other Wyoming students’ mileage may vary, but that was my experience. The rest I’ve had to learn on my own, which I have done rather desultorily as many other subjects have caught my attention over the years (have a look at my other blog, Suppertime Sonnets, for a sampling of those!) so I am fully as culpable as our public education system for my continued sense of ignorance – but this has also left me capable of being surprised and even delighted by stories of lesser-known-to-me types like Hector St. John de Crevecoeur and all the generations of the Meigs family and Fred Bee, like the controversies that played out in the founding of our national military academy at West Point…

I come away from reading The American Future with a renewed gratitude and respect for the Free Exercise Clause as well as the Establishment Clause (I’ve a history of finding the latter more important than the former due to my own secular bias), a renewed sense of mourning and sympathy for the tragedy that befell the Cherokee (my own ancestors; it’s unlikely I would be here writing these words had not the hateful Andrew Jackson and his cheerleaders sent the girl history would eventually know as Nancy Jane Sherrod’s parents packing off to Oklahoma, where she eventually met “Old” James Sherrod and married him and moved to Wyoming to establish our odd clan, five – wait, now SIX generations of Wyomingites living on the high, dry plains that John Wesley Powell clucked at and observed would never make good farmland) – these and more seeming more appropriate from the reading of a good history book than from something with a title like The American Future.

But this is a history of the American future, another subtle and elusive concept for a book from the wonderful Simon Schama (I’m still not entirely sure I grasp what his earlier Landscape and Memory is essentially about: exploring the very much domesticated and undeniably altered territories we like to imagine as unspoiled nature, or as sullied nature, but really can’t deny bear our imprint everywhere, has felt the impact of our imagination, our policy, our activity… but it’s also a survey of culture and language, as all Schama’s books are. Tricky, tricky.). Chronologically Schama wanders back and forth in each section; the story of West Point and our military (that part which most strongly evokes the Kaplan book I mentioned above; Kaplan’s westward journey begins at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and is as strongly colored by his initial conversations there with modern citizen soldiers as the first section of The American Future is by the story of the tension between Hamiltonian and Jeffersonian visions of what a national American military academy should be – Jefferson’s vision prevailed, which is why there is a focus on works and engineering there to this day, which I, for one, celebrate – especially now as our National Guard is busy helping my old hometown keep the flooding North Platte River from destroying it) zig-zags between the establishment of its founding principles, stories of those principles in action examined through the lens of Montgomery Meigs, who served in the Civil War as the Union Army’s Quartermaster General and deserves to be much more storied for what he achieved in that position, the founding of Arlington National Cemetery, and the modern experience of visiting that cemetery. It should be dizzyingly difficult to follow Schama’s thread as he careers through and around all of this, but it isn’t – his prose is too easy on the eyes and brain, for a start, and his British-born perspective, an outsider’s and a lover’s enthusiasm evident in every page, is too beguiling and contagious.

The sections on religious life and the settlement of the West (and the Dustbowl!) continue this theme or lack of theme with the same energy and curiosity, illustrating a lot of competing visions for what America’s future was going to be, and examining, a bit, how those visions compare and contrast with what has really become of this country. I could have used a bit more of the latter to balance out all that history, but am entirely satisfied with what I did get, a refreshing and thought-provoking read from one of my favorite writers of non-fiction. Landscape and Memory and The Power of Art are still my favorites of his, but this one ranks right up there.

Bravo, Simon. Again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


I'm not going to spend too much time on this one, because I've already lost over a week.

Too Good to be True is actually quite a good title for this overlong, overwritten, under-edited book, while it's subtitle "The Rise and Fall of Bernie Madoff" is not. Sure, this one is very informative on the subject of Madoff and his phony hedge fund Ponzi scheme, in its way, but it does not follow a smooth narrative curve like that "rise and fall" bit implies. Instead, one is treated to a very lightly edited pile of pages in which a handful of sentences make verbatim appearances over and over again (yes, it would seem I've stumbled onto the nonfiction equivalent of A Feast for Crows) and in which "paragraph*" simply refers to "a group of sentences that have nothing much to do with each other but are arranged to look like what ordinary users and readers of English might consider to be a paragraph with the use of random indenting." Ditto "chapters." Ugh.

This should have been a fascinating read for me. I love charlatans; one of my favorite films of all time is Orson Welles' F for Fake,, in which Welles riffs elegantly and amusingly on the famous art forger Elmyr de Hory, his biographer Clifford Irving (who went on to commit his own tremendous hoax, a complete fake biography of Howard Hughes) and Welles' own "War of the Worlds" prank. Stories of forgeries and cons delight me even if they often also make me angry, as Madoff's stupefying stunt most certainly did.

But instead, I could barely finish this book, and might not have were I not already quite behind on reading 100 books this year, eyeball deep in a literary example of the sunk cost fallacy. As it was, I required lots of breaks from it in the forms of some other, far more engaging and delightful, books I'll be blogging about here soon.

Madoff is definitely a man who deserves a place alongside Elmyr and Irving and their fellows in the pantheon of fakers. The financial swindle he achieved -- and his success in keeping the details forever out of our purview by pleading guilty from the outset and denying us the discoveries of a jury trial -- is the largest ever, and might still have been going on had not the housing/sub-prime bubble collapsed in 2008, triggering a run on his faux hedge fun by all of his investors (well, at least all of those who knew they were his investors, for, one thing I learned from this book, a lot of people who had invested in other "instruments" actually had their money hoovered up by the Madoff machine, for he was paying a lot of hot shots a lot of money to funnel investment into his phony fund) that yanked the apex of his pyramid right down when even his hoary originals, who had happily been collecting phony dividends for decades, started asking for their principal back.

Which is to say that Madoff did it exactly right. He built a reputation as a whiz-kid and a man of probity, computerizing markets before most people even knew that a mouse was not a microphone and cozying up to the financial industry's regulators when most people were still regarding them as tiresome foes instead of the willing partners Madoff and Greenspan and that whole despicable crew seduced them into being. At the height of his influence, Madoff was the man who taught all the new green lawyers starting their careers at the Securities and Exchange Commission (knowing they need only put in a handful of years before they could leap to the private sector and make the big money, the corrupt cops turning pro as criminals) how Wall Street works! He chose his prey well, too, avoiding those who knew how hedge funds actually worked and how to read a balance sheet and zeroing in, instead, on socialites who could be trusted never to run the numbers or ask how his amazing strategy worked or ask to see evidence that their money was being used to buy stocks at all, every man and woman of them an Emperor parading naked through Manhattan and Palm Springs and London and Paris, believing they were modeling exclusive designs (for part of Madoff's secret was implying always that not everyone was cool enough to invest with him, so that being offered the opportunity to fork over your cash to fund his yacht-intensive lifestyle was a sought-after privilege!).

See? Fascinating. But I chose the wrong book about it, and now am so sick of the subject that I'm disinclined to hunt down a good one. Boo!