In the Stocks

“I never expected it,” says R., “but when my favorite uncle S. died he left me some money—well, lots of money. And yet it wasn’t enough to fund my own revolution the way I used to dream (Belize looked promising), and now I can hardly afford my Park Slope apartment. It would help if I had a job, but I can’t possibly work for anyone and right now I don’t have to. Anyway, there’s plenty left for lunch, the Pinot Noir is a bargain and will go very well with that venison steak in morel reduction you ordered.

“The worst part is, all uncle’s money is in stocks—my own private social security account before I even retired. I hadn’t even started to work! He’d wanted to help me with my writing career, that’s what the will said, but it’s strange, I mean he’d only read these poems I wrote at 16. I should be grateful, but then, you know, all that money really burns a hole in your conscience.

“I got these statements every month. At first I couldn’t really look at them. I was told never to throw them away in case I got audited, so I just put them in a shoebox in my closet. Now I have six closets. It’s like they pay for their own storage space. So for a while I couldn’t read them, just thought of it as money in the bank, like a savings account. Then a box tipped over one day and they came spilling out. All those numbers and names! What did they mean? And how could I be expected to read them?

“Those were the Nineties, the tech-bubble hadn’t burst, and there was a sense you could do no wrong with stocks. I read the names on the portfolio, boy, they would not have gone over well in my college chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops: Gap, Walmart, Wrigley, News Corp., and Archer Daniels Midland, world’s largest exporter of genetically modified soybeans. At least they sponsor NPR. I had no idea what the other companies did and their names were no help (I suppose that’s the point): Rentokil, Cendant, THX-88. And then the T-bills, lots of T-bills. The federal deficit could keep going up forever and I would finance it.

“Uncle’s portfolio outperformed the market consistently, that’s what the investment advisor said when I went to see her in her big midtown office with panoramic windows. The barren, ravaged land across the river encouraged the long view—it was either stocks or barbarism. I was wearing my USAS button on my leather jacket and plunged in on the subject of ethical investing. She was sympathetic. She’d heard of people who refused to invest in companies that didn’t promote Christian values or were linked to violent television. It turned out that Uncle had also set some limits: no weapons manufacturers, but he’d had faith in the drug companies (even when they wouldn’t let go of the AIDS drugs patents), and he’d started to go soft on Philip Morris when they rescued the Brooklyn Academy of Music. But what about companies that, you know, treat their workers well and don’t destroy the environment and don’t finance wars? I was getting bolder. What about companies that actively try to improve the lot of the poor?

More from Issue 3

Issue 3 Reality Principle

Not utopia, but it was nice.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

With how many people did people used to sleep? It’s hard to tell. Language changes, and there’s the problem of bragging.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

Dear Oprah, None of us can prove our books are of genuine worth yet. Instead, we’re impatient.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

Do not think that we were being horrible, indifferent parents.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

Today the concept of global peak oil is widely accepted in the energy field.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

People read less, but ideas once derived from books, and now turned into circulating rumors, are all they have.

Issue 3 Reality Principle
Radiohead, or the Philosophy of Pop
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A Violent Season
Issue 3 Reality Principle
First Love
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The Neoliberal Imagination
Issue 3 Reality Principle

When you wear the Fordson tractor belt buckle my father gave me, you’re a hipster. When I wear it, I’m a redneck.

Issue 3 Reality Principle
Two Fairy Tales
Issue 3 Reality Principle
What Independent Film?
Issue 3 Reality Principle
Or Things I Did Not Do or Say
Issue 3 Reality Principle

And yes, one knows what it is like to receive a harsh review; and yes, one is aware of the basic inhumanity of the critic’s task.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

A specter is haunting the academy—the specter of close reading.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

Levitt, then, far from being a rogue, is really Becker’s dutiful heir.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

A Rushdie novel, like its author, is a public figure, its thingness easy to lose in the sound and the fury.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

The point of these shows was not just how people would be altered, but that they could be altered.

Issue 3 Reality Principle

“Does he who fights douchebags become, inevitably, something of a douchebag?”

More by this Author

January 26, 2017
Enter the Pussyhat
Issue 16 Double Bind

When even whiteness is freighted in liberal circles with maudlin guilt, no color is safer than South Asian brown.

Issue 12 Conversion Experience

After a lifetime of crashing into fire doors I find the open corridoricity of Chicago a great freedom.

Issue 5 Decivilizing Process

We attempted to come up with an alternative title, but nothing pleased us as much or suited us as well.

Issue 16 Double Bind

I can confirm that, at least in my day, Harper’s employees did indeed get a discount at Hammacher Schlemmer.

Issue 9 Bad Money

Computer games are the latest cultural form to benefit from the collapse of the old categories of high- and lowbrow.