Friday, May 08, 2020

Branko Milanovic on literature and inequality

This new blog post by Branko Milanovic discusses issues of common interest, including his book, The Haves and the Have-Nots, which helped to inspire my Literature and Inequality. (BTW, he calls my book "new and exciting," and promises to review it in his next post.)

The Haves and the Have-Nots contains brief vignettes on Pride and Prejudice (which I also discuss, at greater length), as well as Anna Karenina (which I am currently re-reading, as it happens, but just for fun and I don't anticipate writing about it).

His discussion of Pride and Prejudice was most helpful to me, e.g., because he uses the income numbers that Austen provides in the book, along with his own research in economic history, to reveal that the "middle-class" Bennets were actually, if just barely, in the top 1% if one were to rank the era's English households by per capita income. But he offers vignettes that emphasize the numbers (and their relevance), whereas I essay deep dives that look at broader cultural issues. So they are complementary efforts.

He suggests that I ought to have discussed a Fitzgerald novel, such as Tender is the Night or The Great Gatsby, in connection with the Gilded Age. But despite the similarities between the 1920s and the Gilded Age itself, I had planned to save this for Literature and Inequality's then-intended Part 2 or sequel, as part of a post-World War I sequence that might also have included Waugh and Wodehouse.

As it happens, my thinking about a follow-up book has changed since then. I decided to do something shorter and more focused - but including The Great Gatsby. More on that in my next post.

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