By Julia M. Klein
Nov. 3, 2011
Michael Lewis has a gift for explaining technology and finance through oddball characters and quirky humor. In Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, the author of Liar’s Poker, Moneyball, The Blind Side, Panic and The Big Short regales us with his adventures in what he calls “financial disaster tourism.”
Lewis’ reporting takes him to the struggling European countries of Iceland, Ireland and Greece, whose debt problems have been much in the news lately. He also visits Germany, whose potential to bail out its neighbors is Europe’s last best hope, and returns, finally, to his native California, where high fixed labor costs and federal and state budget cuts have forced many municipalities into crisis.
Lewis segues from Icelandic fishermen-turned-bankers to savvy Greek monks and Irish real estate speculators as he tracks the financial follies that imperil Europe’s economic stability. Borrowing money one couldn’t pay back, it turns out, was not just an American disease; it was an epidemic that infected much of the Western Hemisphere, with adverse economic effects that are still being felt both here and abroad. Following the twists and turns of Boomerang, adapted from Lewis’ recent articles in Vanity Fair, it’s sometimes hard to know whether to laugh or cry.