OK, at the risk of sounding like a member of the Old Wodehousians or something, I subscribe to the London Review of Books. This is not because I lack books to read, I now tell myself that the stack (tower would be more apt) of unread books I’ve accumulated are not in fact a waste of money but I’m merely stockpiling things I would like to read until I have time to read them sometime in an ill defined future.
One of the reasons I like the LRB is that the contributions are not limited to book reviews but can range fairly widely over the landscape. I offer as Exihibit 1 a recent piece by John Lanchester (a favorite author) Cityphilia. It starts out a bit crabbily describing how his neighbour and friend who works in the City in London is paid an exorbitant amount and how those of his ilk have distorted the cost of living in London. ( I was in a hotel in Mayfair about 6 months ago in the mid afternoon having a sarsaparilla after a day of meetings. As I looked around the bar I counted 7 tables that had young men and women in very expensive suits all with documents covering the table and all in some frenzy of negotiation. Why the bar was preferred to what are likely posh offices was not clear, however it was clear the hedge funds had landed.)
What is great about this article is how he deconstructs the whole subprime mortgage mess for the uninitiated such as myself. One of the reason I enjoy John Lanchesters articles so much is that no matter how heavy the subject he always leavens it with some humour or twist. Consider the introduction to the section where he begins to discuss the mortgages;
"During boom times, banks lend money more and more freely, and begin to
look for growth in places where they hadn’t before. In this case, the
growth area for American financial institutions was in lending money to
poor people whom they wouldn’t previously touch. The banks didn’t
exactly go skipping around trailer parks handing out leaflets offering
Buy One Get One Free mortgages – except that they did, sort of."
Have a look, you won’t be disappointed.