Posted by: chartroose | January 24, 2008

Human Capital

Steven Amidon,  2004

I was quite impressed by this book. Mr. Amidon’s quasi-tragic characters and well-developed plot seamlessly drew me into the novel and kept me there until the last page was turned.

Here’s the dominant plot in a nutshell: the novel’s main character, Drew Hagel, wants to get rich and lies about his net worth to his neighbor, Quint Manning. Believing Drew’s lies, Quint allows him to buy into his brainchild, a hedge fund that is doing remarkably well on the market. The hedge fund fails, and Drew has to think of a way to recoup his losses. There are tragic subplots in this novel that tie into the Drew/Quint interactions.

What was really gripping about Human Capital was that I didn’t like any of the characters very well. They were either too needy, grasping, selfish, immature or mentally unstable to be likeable. In spite of this, or perhaps because of it, I found myself reading almost non-stop in order to find out what would happen next.

My least favorite character, Drew Hagel, was also the most compelling to me personally because he embodied everything I often scoff at: greed, envy, deceit. He wanted to be popular with the big boys. He wanted his nouveau-riche peers to notice him and invite him to play tennis and slap him on the ass with rolled-up towels. He wanted to be invited to cocktail hour. “How silly,” I thought to myself, “he should’ve outgrown the desire to be Mr. Popular in high school.” After thinking about it some more, though, I realized that I’m not as far above all this as I thought. While I don’t care about being rich (although it would be nice), I do care about what others think. I want to be thin and desirable until the day I die. I want my contemporaries to believe I’m intelligent and capable, and I’m not above tooting my own horn whenever I get the chance. My inner, and sometimes outer, air of superiority is merely a smokescreen for those insecurities I developed as a child. Here I am, in early middle-age, still worrying about being accepted by the “in-crowd.” What a terrible thing! Both Drew and I have a lot of growing up to do. I wonder if we’ll ever reach adulthood.

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