The rich really are different, as this lightly presented but utterly serious presentation proves beyond argument.

BILLIONAIRES

British cartoonist Cunningham serves up the tales of four moguls with outsize influence on the lives of the rest of us.

The new gilded age is America-centric, though far from confined to the U.S., since “there are few geographic barriers to enormous wealth.” Around the world, the ultrawealthy have asserted policies to undo governmental controls on the economy and dismantle the welfare state, however benign, whether breaking the backs of unions or obliterating pension funds. Cunningham focuses on Rupert Murdoch, David and Charles Koch, and Jeff Bezos. Murdoch began by assuming control of a lucrative media network in his native Australia, then worked his way into mostly crafty acquisitions of other networks in the U.K. and U.S. by recruiting leading politicians to evade monopoly statutes. Of course, he made his share of errors, including his purchase of MySpace, which he bought for $580 million in 2005 but dumped six years later for $35 million. The Koch brothers, by Cunningham’s account, were even more politically aggressive, and their meddling has “only helped weaken democratic safeguards that had previously kept at bay would-be demagogues like Donald Trump.” They inherited a fortune, too. Only Bezos came from a comparatively modest background, though, to judge by this narrative, he has been no less politically ruthless. Cunningham’s drawing style is faux naif, representational in the manner of Derf Backderf, if a little less controlled, but his writing style is terse and declarative: “Murdoch’s drift to the political right began in 1975. That year, Australia suffered a constitutional crisis.” His own tendency is clearly to the left, but regardless of stance, it seems inarguable that we are all at least complicit in the power of the mega-rich. “None of us have to buy from Amazon,” he writes. “It isn’t against the law not to contribute to Jeff Bezos’s fortune.”

The rich really are different, as this lightly presented but utterly serious presentation proves beyond argument.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77046-448-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment.

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

A cocky bad boy of finance recalls, in much detail and scabrous language, his nasty career as a master of his own universe.

At a young age, in an industry with many precocious bandits, Belfort ran a Long Island–based brokerage with the deceptively WASP-y name of Stratton Oakmont. It was a bucket shop habitually engaged in crooked underwritings. Its persuasive boss was a stock manipulator and tax dodger; he details the stock kiting, share parking, money laundering and customer swindles. Many millions poured in, and cash brought with it excess upon excess. Along with compliant women and copious drugs, there were multiple mansions, many servants, aircraft, yachts and, for all the guys on the trading floor, trophy wives. Among his under-the-table and beneath-the-sheets activities, the author’s most imperative seemed to be sex and dope-taking, despite his professed abiding love for his (now ex) wife and kids. Belfort’s portrait of his family is vivid, as is his depiction of the merry cast of supporting players: sweet Aunt Patricia, a Swiss forger, evil garmentos, Mad Max (Stratton’s CFO and his father). The melodrama covers coke snorting, Quaalude eating, kinky sex, violence, car wrecks, even a sick child and a storm at sea. “A cautionary tale,” the author calls it. It is crass, certainly, and vulgar—and a hell of a read. Belfort displays dirty writing skills many basis points above his tricky ilk. His chronicle ends with his arrest for fraud. Now, with 22 months in the slammer behind him, he’s working on his next book.

Entertaining as pulp fiction, real as a federal indictment.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-553-80546-8

Page Count: 522

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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Well-told and admonitory.

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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