n+1’s first book, Diary of a Very Bad Year: Confessions of an Anonymous Hedge Fund Manager, has been much in the news the past month, with nice notices from the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal. It also was praised by such specialist outlets as Jack Covert’s CEOReads and Pensions & Investments (a reporter liked the “strange little book”) and cruelly given only three stars by the magazine formerly known as BusinessWeek, which thought the hedge fund manager (HFM) hadn’t had a bad enough year.
HFM has maintained his anonymity, though he appeared at several readings and hosted a book party. (The blog Capital New York suggested that HFM’s “brilliant disguise in fact may be his utter ordinariness.”) Still there have been some attempts to out him, most notably by a commenter on the Newsweek website, who claimed, beneath an interview with HFM, that he was probably her “Ponzi-scheme running ex-husband” or some other criminal. “Re-read the article with the mindset that this is a man behind bars for PRETENDING he was an HFM … ‘I HAVE BEEN DEALING WITH MOVING, SOME PERSONAL DEVELOPMENTS THAT HAVE TAKEN UP TIME…’ You can say that again! It’s no surprise that he is still chasing after recognition as an ‘expert,’ still conning people with his TALK, and all with no regard to who may suffer as a result. Truth and ‘success’ exist in the light, not in shadows of anonymity.”
An ancillary controversy has developed around interviewer Keith Gessen, who appeared in author photos looking alarmingly sad, then happy, and wearing two remarkable hats. At n+1, we hoped the more pathetic Gessen would sell books, and venerable BookCourt in Brooklyn agreed, saying Gessen looked like a “pound puppy,” and “puppies sell books,” but n+1 contributor Christian Lorentzen said in a Tweet that the photo would just scare readers “and/or make them sad. Is it supposed to depict him worrying about the state of capitalism?” The McNally Jackson bookstore in downtown Manhattan now offers a 20 percent discount for anyone re-posting his photo. Gessen was also questioned at Bloomberg News about the awkward pause in the transcript when HFM mentions Shirley Jackson’s story “The Lottery,” and humbled again at the Observer’s Daily Transom (by a former n+1 intern) for not having read it.
A more substantive result of all these discussions has been a renewal of n+1’s call for progressive taxation, in interviews to anyone who will listen and also in Mark Greif’s 2006 essay, “Gut-Level Legislation, or Redistribution,” which we have posted to the site for the first time. It represents our considered opinion as to what should be done to our friends the HFMs. In the words of Marx and Engels, “a heavy progressive income tax” is in order, of the sort we used to have in this country before the right wing convinced everyone that taxation is un-American. The un-American thing is not taxation but inequality.