I’m writing to you because we’re finally releasing our newest “Small Books series” book.
Dayna and I have worked on this one for ten months. It’s called THE TROUBLE IS THE BANKS: LETTERS TO WALL STREET, and it’s a bit unusual for us—part of our project of research. In the tradition of Studs Terkel’s oral histories, The Trouble is the Banks is a collection of letters written by American citizens (and one Canadian) to executives of the banks where they are customers.
Last fall, a lot of us around n+1 became interested in the Occupy protests in Zuccotti Park. I encountered a group there that had created a guerilla website where ordinary citizens—not protesters per se—could write long, detailed, polite letters to executives and directors of the big six US banks, by name. The site then actually delivered them (by email).
8,000 people wrote these letters in six weeks. I had never read anything like them. They’re eloquent, thoughtful, and outraged. They tell you exactly what different people all over the country want from their banks, their government, and each other. They’re unlike the top-down portrayals you see on TV or in this season’s election campaigns. They come from us, representing all kinds of people—rich and poor, ex-bank employees and worried parents—of both political parties.
Every time a political candidate says “the American people,” I cringe. How do they know? Here are letters that let you hear your fellow Americans unfiltered. We chose the 150 most eloquent letters after reading all 8000. The book is amazing, and it’s coming back from the printer next week.
Please buy the book. It’s cheap! ($10; but only $8 when you bundle a copy with a one-year print or digital subscription to n+1.) It’s a mind-blower. We can send it to you right away.
We’re also doing something we haven’t done before: asking you, if you want to, to donate $5 or $10 (or more) to let us send a free copy to one of the bank executives addressed in the book; or to Mitt Romney or Barack Obama or Paul Ryan or CNBC or FoxNews or, goodness knows, whoever you think needs it. Maybe your brother-in-law who works at Chase? We’ll do it. You can fill in the recipient’s name in the ‘Comments’ box on the order form, or write us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Personally, I think a copy of this book—with or without a donation to send it to a banker, politician, or news writer—might be a better expenditure this political season than another donation to a campaign or PAC. More pleasurable, certainly.
With best wishes, and thanks,
PS. If you can tell other friends this book exists, too, I’ll be grateful forever. I got to talk about its genesis to Tess Vigeland on Marketplace on NPR a couple of weeks ago. We also got a few letters into the Week in Review in the New York Times, though not enough letters. And if your friends don’t want to buy the book through us—or don’t have a clue what n+1 is—they can also buy it through Amazon, at this link.
The most purely enjoyable book I read this past year was a paperback I’d been saving up since 2002, David Hajdu’s Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Fariña and Richard Fariña. I don’t usually read books about Dylan, and I wouldn’t ‘t usually recommend books about pop music to anyone unless they were prepared to relax their ordinary standards, but this book was great on every front, and unique. As a biography of young people who get fame early, it’s fascinating. As an explanation of why young white people cared about folk music in the 1960s (and jazz), but not rock and roll, and how it was that “rock” emerged post-1964, it’s clarifying. As a work of art, it’s just an overwhelming pleasure—Hajdu could write anything, fiction included, but has chosen this. And it includes the best Pynchon biographical cameo in print. Hajdu had to interview him by fax machine.
Mark Greif’s essay “Octomom and the Politics of Babies" now available as a Kindle Single.