A friend’s dad, retiring soon after a career sitting under fluorescent lights, sent him this excerpt from a book called SHADOW DIVERS with the note: “Slapped me in the face. Too late for me though.”
Jami Attenberg is a 40-year-old novelist with three books out. Her essay on The Rumpus about having success but having no money is pretttttyyyyy great. It’s framed around the past half-year, as she’s tried to figure out how to live the life she wants, and also live within her means. “I have slept in 26 locations in the last seven months,” she starts. “This was never my intention, this peripatetic life, but looking back now at the age of 40, I can finally see I have been doing it for decades. I wanted so much more for myself at some point, though I cannot even remember what exactly it was that I wanted anymore. Now it is only just to write.” Read the whole thing, it’s gooooood (even if you’re not a writer, mean it).
Before we traded in our Konigsburg for Kafka and our Dahl for Dostoevsky, the authors of our childhood laced their stories of mystery and imagination with advice on money and finances. Money was something in this stories, but not everything.
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Lesson: Be resourceful and borrow—if you must.
Consider the classic tome from the great and recently deceased E.L. Konigsburg. In it, young Claudia Kincaid is confronted early on with the consequences of being a compulsive over-spender. Almost as soon as she decides to run away to the comforts of the Met, she realizes she can’t. She’s broke. Solution? She does what we all do: makes nice with her little brother Jamie (Dad)—who is responsible and likes to save his money—and convinces him (Dad) to go with her (finance her big, New York City lifestyle). She’s also not above fishing for change in the museum fountain, which is great, for obvious reasons..
Once Jamie agrees to join forces, they run away with his $24.43. (How many of us, upon first read, thought that was a ton of money?) But here’s a dark and ugly truth about Jamie’s fortune. He got it cheating at the card game War on the bus with his friends. Somewhere in there is a lesson about dishonest forms of accumulating wealth. But we like Jamie and assume he won’t grow up to exist on ponzi schemes, insider trading, gambling, or whatever else those fat cats do.