Monday, October 20, 2014

New project

I've been reluctant to mention this here, for fear of jinxing a still inchoate new thing, but I appear to be moving towards (and into) a new book project, inspired by one of the small sidelights in the Piketty article that I coauthored with Joe Bankman (and that we will soon be posting on SSRN).

There's a short section of that article, representing one of my parts of this true joint project, in which we discuss Piketty's much-noted discussion of literature to help illuminate past rentier societies that he believes may tell us something about the future.  In particular, he discusses Austen and Balzac.  We quibble with his use of Balzac (who describes not just rentier society but more particularly the struggles of would-be arrivistes), and then briefly note other 19th and 20th century literature that is also about adventurers and arrivistes, before briefly commenting on Wodehouse's Bertie Wooster, who is the true comic embodiment of rentiers' decline amid the mid-20th century Great Easing.

This may, I am hoping, end up inspiring a book that, if it meets its objectives, will be fun both to write and to read, discussing the wealthy and the arrivistes, along with underlying social attitudes about both and their evolution over time, in fiction of my choice over the last two-plus centuries (e.g., Austen, Balzac, and Wodehouse, among others).  I'll be looking at the fictional worlds in these books, not in any close detail at the actual contemporaneous societies, and with no presumption that the books I choose to write about are the "right" ones in any sense other than that I personally find them fun and interesting (and usually, though not always, of high literary merit).

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