Yesterday at NYU Law School, we had a book panel to discuss my recent publication, Bonfires of the American Dream in American Rhetoric, Literature, and Film.
Our Dean, Troy McKenzie, said in introducing the panel that he'll never look the same way again at the film It's a Wonderful Life (which I compare in the book to The Wolf of Wall Street). It's true that I view Wonderful Life as a pretty dark film, offering interesting contrasts (in light of Wolf) between American views of the rich and the poor in the 1930s and 1940s versus today. But I myself still get choked up when I watch it, even though (or perhaps because) I find its happy ending so unpersuasive.
Next my colleague Christopher Sprigman spoke, offering comments about the lack of US social solidarity that I diagnose and seek to explain in the book.
Then Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution discussed the class and racial social divides that also feature prominently in the book, addressing both their historical roots and data suggesting that they are especially bad today.
After that, I offered some background about the book, and then we did Q & A. Here, among other things, I got to explain an earlier throwaway comment to the effect that Piketty got Balzac wrong in Capital in the 21st Century.
In the "things that make you go hmm" category, the event was attended by NYU law students, tax colleagues, members of the broader NYC tax community, visiting assistant professors at the law school (both tax and non-tax), other NYU visitors, and precisely zero (other than panelists) non-tax tenured or tenure track members of the NYU Law School faculty.
I believe that a video of the event with subtitles will be publicly available once it's been cleaned up for dead time, etcetera.
If I do say so myself, there were some testimonials at the panel to the effect that the book is fun to read. It's also mercifully short - the first book of mine about which this can accurately be said. But then again, one learns from experience (I hope).
If any of this sounds tempting, it is available for $18.99 here.