We make our lives within the cycles of capitalism, and they shape our existence as inexorably as the cycle of seasons and weather and plenty and famine shaped the lives of our peasant ancestors. For the most part, we feel that we understand what makes the money come, and where it goes, not a whole lot better than our rural fathers understood what made the rains come and the crops grow. Like them we are are left to brood, pray, and occasionally sacrifice a fisher-king ... when the plains seem too brownThis is the opening of Adam Gopnik's essay on Thorstein Veblen in The New Gilded Age, a collection of pieces from the New Yorker.
When I bought The New Gilded Age I was in the first flush of my New Yorker love. I'm incredibly glad I did. It's about the culture of affluence and plenty, and, who knows, the current financial problems might just be the point at which we finally realise that we literally do have to pay for things. I re-read large chunks of it every couple of years. I particularly recommend Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg, which was my first intro to the Gladwellian style of brilliant, reductive storytelling that was totally convincing on an intuitive level (see Lewis, Michael), Moby Dick in Manhattan and Our Money, Ourselves.