March 12th, 2009

Sober Reading

Sales of the great Victorian novelists have gone up 15% in the last few months- or so it says here. The implication is that these times echo those times- and that we're looking to the past to understand what's just happened to us.  A week ago Howard Jacobson in the Independent was urging us all to read Little Dorrit.  By the same token, I reckon we should all be reading Zola's la Curee (which I just did) not only for its insight into the  psychology and lifestyle of the super rich- but also because it goes beyond Dickens- who didn't really understand finance- in showing us just how the bastards operate.

It would be nice to think we we're all busily learning the lesson of the recession, but I don't for a moment suppose we will.  Dickens and Zola couldn't prevent this present catastrophe from happening.  Merdle died in vain.  Art comforts us after the event, but we're deaf to its warnings.   For the time being- while it's enforced on us- we'll be sober, sensible, ready to be schooled- but show us the flash of easy money and we'll rise to it again- as we always have done- stupid as fish.