Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Michael Lewis Hits a Tipping Point

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Michael Lewis Hits a Tipping Point

Article excerpt

Michael Lewis, the author and journalist highly regarded for his ability to tease human drama out of seemingly mundane subjects, arrived in Leicester Square in London on Monday night. An expectant crowd had gathered to see the latest cinematic adaptation of one of his books. Following on from the 2011 film Moneyball, inspired by Lewis's account of a Major League baseball team that used data and statistics to compete with far wealthier teams, The Big Short bears all the same hallmarks, combining analysis with a novelist's flair for character. Lewis's work is by turns creative and rigorous, befitting of a man who studied art history for his BA at Princeton and then completed an MA in economics at the LSE.

As the film retells the now familiar tale of bankers accruing riches while offering mortgages to people who cannot afford them, anger comes as a natural response. "You have compiled a collection of court-worthy evidence and yet nothing is going to change," says the broadcaster Jon Snow during his conversation with Lewis after the screening.

Unpicking the workings of high finance is a job to which Lewis has devoted himself for almost 30 years. During a brief stint as a bond salesman, he angered his employers with an article for the Wall Street Journal that argued that investment bankers were overpaid.

"I got to work the next morning and the chairman of Salomon Brothers International was sitting at my desk. He said, 'Do you know how much trouble we're in--both of us?'"

Soon after that, Lewis quit his "tedious" job to write fulltime. Today, he is the foremost chronicler of the period that transformed global finance from the relatively genteel pursuit it was considered to be before the 1980s, turning it into an industry that has become a byword for unaccountable greed and recklessness. …

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