Money Changes Everything : Twenty-Two Writers Tackle the Last Taboo with Tales of Sudden Windfalls, Staggering Debts, and Other Surprising Turns of Fortune
The editors of The Friend Who Got Away are back with a new anthology that will do for money what they did for women's friendships.
Ours is a culture of confession, yet money remains a distinctly taboo subject for most Americans. In this riveting anthology, a host of celebrated writers explore the complicated role money has played in their lives, whether they're hiding from creditors or hiding a trust fund. This collection will touch a nerve with anyone who's ever been afraid to reveal their bank balance.
In these wide-ranging personal essays, Daniel Handler, Walter Kirn, Jill McCorkle, Meera Nair, Henry Alford, Susan Choi, and other acclaimed authors write with startling candor about how money has strengthened or undermined their closest relationships. Isabel Rose talks about the trials and tribulations of dating as an heiress. Tony Serra explains what led him to take a forty-year vow of poverty. September 11 widow Marian Fontana illuminates the heartbreak and moral complexities of victim compensation. Jonathan Dee reveals the debt that nearly did him in. And in paired essays, Fred Leebron and his wife Katherine Rhett discuss the way fights over money have shaken their marriage to the core again and again.
We talk openly about our romantic disasters and family dramas, our problems at work and our battles with addiction. But when it comes to what is or is not in our wallets, we remain determinedly mum. Until now, that is. Money Changes Everything is the first anthology of its kind--an unflinching and on-the-record collection of essays filled with entertaining and enlightening insights into why we spend, save, and steal.
The pieces in Money Changes Everything range from the comic to the harrowing, yet they all reveal the complex, emotionally charged role money plays in our lives by shattering the wall of silence that has long surrounded this topic.
Considering how freely many Americans talk about everything from sex to addiction, "why does such secrecy still surround the issue of money?" ask Offill and Schappell (coeditors of The Friend Who Got Away). It's a conundrum they say arises from a host of core ideas about what it means to live in America: an ostensibly meritocratic society, where "only the self-made man or woman represents the vaunted ideal." This collection of personal essays by 22 writers strives to open the pecuniary dialogue, illustrating the complexity of the issue through alternately touching, humorous and instructive examples. One writer worries over his newfound yuppiedom as he purchases an elderly neighbor's apartment. In another essay, the wife of a firefighter killed on 9/11 feels "overwhelmed by managing the money [she's] been given." In a third, a frugal young woman is forced to auction her family heirlooms to discharge her mother's financial debts. Artists cover their well-heeled tracks for fear of appearing inauthentic, up-and-comers spend too much to bed sophisticated women and, along the way, the reader learns that talking about money is actually just talking about life. Which isn't such a big deal, is it? (Jan.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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January 15, 2007
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Excerpt from Money Changes Everything by Jenny Offill
The Guy Next Door
I've never killed anyone before. But I once felt like I had. This man and I did not, at first blush, have much in common. I was a pot-smoking, Joni Mitchell--listening thirty-one-year-old gay man; he was a profane, eighty-year-old former longshoreman named John Maguire whose nickname was Mugsy. In the two years that I'd been living in the apartment contiguous to his, we'd never shared more words than the occasional grunt-based hello in the hallway.
And then I made the phone call that changed both our lives.
"Yeah." His voice was brusque and Bronxy.
"It's Henry Alford. I live across the hall in 4E?"
"Do you know about the auction being held on Friday? For the three apartments in the building, including yours?"
"No. I'm not a member of the co-op board, so they don't tell me anything."
"Your landlord, Mr. Z----, is about $13,000 in arrears," I explained. "So the co-op board is holding a public auction of his three apartments on Friday. You and the other tenants have what are known as statutory rights, so you can't be kicked out and the rent can't be raised no matter who owns the apartments."
"I know all about it. I've been down to the attorney general's office."
"Good, so you know your rights," I said, a small amount of relief helping to bolster my mounting anxiety about my next statement. "Well, anyway, I'm thinking about, uh, making a bid on your apartment."
As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I wanted to soften or reshape them. It was no secret that John had had two heart attacks. I added, "As a, as a--as a sort of long-term investment, of course."
"You can do what you want."
"Great. But I've never been in your apartment, and I wonder if I could look at it sometime." The evening before, I'd walked out on our mutual fire escape and tried to peek in through his windows, to no avail.
"Okay," he said.
"Well, I was wondering if I could look at it, say, right now."
"Let me put my pants on," he said, and hung up the phone.
About ninety seconds later, I heard John open his door and then knock softly on mine--an act that requires merely leaning forward, as the two doors are thirty-five inches apart. I greeted him and shut the door behind me. A wiry and fastidious man, John projected equal amounts of boyishness and scowling, a sour angel. I stood stone-still in his doorway, cowed. Although in the weeks previous the prospect of inexpensively doubling the size of my apartment had filled me with a sensation that I can only describe as tingly, that tingle now fled me. No, this was not the wonderfully grabby, slightly narcissistic feeling that looking at real estate usually engenders--the one where empty rooms symbolize solutions to your problems, the one where hobbies get their own dedicated spaces and children get their own bedrooms and novels gush from printers like lobsters from an aquarium during a Mob hit. This was much more like an IRS audit.
"Come on," John said, waving me into the living room.
We grimly and quickly toured the premises. His apartment, I could see, was almost identical to mine. We both had six hundred railroad-style square feet overlooking a lovely, tree-shaded street in Greenwich Village; each was worth about $130,000, a price that would have been higher were the apartments not fourth-floor walk-ups. John's place was immaculate. It had a sweet, slightly soapy smell.
"I'm surprised it took the co-op board so long to catch on to Mr. Z----," John said when we'd returned to the kitchen. "He's no good and he'll never be good! He has the building next door, too. You ever been in there? It's a dump!"
"I've never been in there."
"It's a dump!"
I thanked John for the tour and left.
Two days later, I realized I'd forgotten to ask him an important question, so I called again. I asked him how he was doing, and he said, "Alrighty."