For the second time, my colleague Rep. Ken Gidge, D-Nashua, recommended a new book, Boomerang, Travels in the New Third World, by Michael Lewis.
Why not, I thought, and two days later, I've handed the book off to someone else.
Yes, I read the entire thing. It's a small book (200 or so pages) and while cumbersome in places--after all, it deals with the collapse of entire nations--for the most part, it's an extremely quick read.
We travel to Iceland, Greece, Ireland, Germany and California to look the changing, that is to say the failing, world economy.
Of course, Germany is in much better shape than the other locations mentioned, but many German bankers apparently bought into the fallacy that top-rated bonds were in fact safe, so Lewis goes to Hamburg for a look. In search of female mud wrestling (apparently no longer available), Lewis takes us to the Reeperbahn, one of the most notorious red light districts in either the old or the new world, and in the process--here's what you won't read in most reviews--Lewis becomes sidetracked into a look at the German fascination for things scatological--look it up if you don't know it. As a side note, I recalled that on a Eurorail trip from Amsterdam to Copenhagen, friends and I (you can guess one of them) spent a night in Hamburg. The Reeperbahn didn't seem all that wild, but we suspected that ladies of the night were using one of the floors of our hotel room, renting by the hour. But I digress...ah yes, memories of Hamburg.
Parts of this book, like that one, are subtly hilarious, sardonic might be the most descriptive word, but the overwhelming message is all too serious, one that Ron Paul has attempted to bring home during the past year.
We are simply living beyond our means, not as bad as the Greeks who simply refuse to pay their taxes and only got angry against the status quo when a band of bearded monks seemed to be taking cheating too far; not as bad as the Icelanders where fishermen ruined the nation's economy by dabbling into arbitrage and international high finance; and not as bad as Ireland where a real estate boom went bust much worse than anything on this side of the pond.
Make no mistake; however, by the time Lewis takes us to California, including a zany bike ride with Arnold, we realize that that this country isn't that far away from becoming a basket case either.
For a quick, fun and enlightening read, try Boomerang.
Oh yes, I finished it during the state of the union address Tuesday night. Like most Republicans I've asked, I had absolutely no desire to listen to the Demagogue in Chief, so I went to scatological Germany instead. I kept flicking the TV on; the Anointed one was still talking, so I joined Lewis in California at a fire station before Obama wrapped it up and the talking heads came on.
Thanks to Ken Gidge. I interrupted a look on the final chapter of the Romanovs (another Robert Massie book, this one from 1995, delving into DNA testing of Nicholas and Alexandra) to take this world tour with Michael Lewis. As always, thanks to the Manchester Library for getting this in a hurry--I really wouldn't mind waiting a few days, but thanks indeed!
Book recommendations are always welcome. Nothing more scatalogical, please. I've had enough of that for a while!