28 January 2008

Chapter Three

Continuing my reading of Nicky Marsh's book.

But chapter three, she's narrowing her attention to issues more akin to those that inspired me to request a review copy of the book in the first place. For this isn't about literature and attitudes toward hoarding or the exchange rate -- this is about Brit lit and attitudes toward "the City," the financial district of London.

One of the books prominently featured here is "What a Carve Up!" by Jonathan Coe (1994). This is very much a pomo novel. Its about a novelist, Michael Owen, which is always a good post-modern start. Michael has been hired to write the history of a particular eccentric family, the Winshaws. Increasingly, Michael's research uncovers ways in which the Winshaws' lives intersect with his own, so that he becomes central to his text.

One of the objects of that research is Thomas Winshaw, a banker. Through Michael's eyes, then, Coe describes Thomas' obsession with computer screens and the visually self-enveloping character of his work in the City.

Thomas, who supervises traders, installs a camera so he can stare all day at a screen that shows "nothing but row upon row of his traders, themselves staring at screens ... It seemed, at such moments, there was no end to the glassy barriers which he could put up between himself and the people (did they really exist?) whose money formed the basis of each day's intoxicating speculations."

This reminds me of last week's news out of France. Of course a superviser who followed Thomas' methods would never have found any harm in Jerome K's dealings. He would simply have seen that Jerome came in on time each day, sat at his desk, stared at his screen, and pressed buttons on the keyboard.

At any rate, on the evidence of Marsh's quotations from Coe, I have to credit the latter with at least that one arresting image of the work life of one sort of banker.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.