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The Wall Street collapse as page-turning thriller

By Branko Brkic 8 October 2009

It’s a book that takes you inside the minds of the men who stood atop last year’s financial meltdown, and it’s way more engrossing than at least one of the tasks you’ve got planned for this morning. Go ahead, treat yourself.

Very seldom will a young, first-time author get a full chapter of his new book published in Vanity Fair, one of the world’s most prestigious and sophisticated glossies (think Graydon Carter, Annie Liebovitz, Christopher Hitchens, the recently deceased Dominick Dunne). But Andrew Ross Sorkin, 32, has just done it with Too Big to Fail, his insight into the powerlessness and sheer panic of the US’s major league moneymen on the eve of the Wall Street collapse last September.

Sorkin, who graduated from Cornell University in 1999, is a financial columnist for The New York Times and the newspaper’s chief mergers and acquisitions reporter. But that doesn’t mean he can’t string a rollicking book-length narrative together. In concise third-person prose and the sort of scene editing that would make The Wire’s David Simon proud, he takes you inside the emotional lives of men like Morgan Stanley’s John Mack, Goldman Sachs’s Lloyd Blankfein and treasury secretary Hank Paulson as they grapple with decisions that could affect the entire planet.

Based on dozens of hours of interviews, the Vanity Fair excerpt opens with Tim Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, out for a morning run along the East River. The date? September 17, 2008. While we all know what would happen next, Geithner and the other characters in the excerpt certainly don’t. Which is what makes this generous taste of Sorkin’s book a worthwhile way to kill 45 minutes.

Read more: Vanity Fair

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