The greed, excess, and decadence of the long 1980s has been famously chronicled, critiqued, and satirized in epochal works like White Noise by Don DeLillo, American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. Leigh Claire La Berge offers an in-depth study of these fictions alongside the key moments of financial history that inform them, contending that throughout the 1980s, novelists, journalists, and filmmakers began to reimagine the capitalist economy as one that was newly personal, masculine, and anxiety producing. The study's first half links the linguistic to the technological by exploring the arrival of ATMs and their ubiquity in postmodern American literature. In transformative readings of novels such as White Noise and American Psycho, La Berge traces how the ATM serves as a symbol of anxious isolation and the erosion of interpersonal communication. A subsequent chapter on Ellis' novel and Jane Smiley's Good Faith explores how male protagonists in each develop unique associations between money and masculinity.
The second half of the monograph features chapters that attend to works-most notably Oliver Stone's Wall Street and Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities-that capture aspects of the arrogance and recklessness that led to the savings-and-loan crisis and the 1987 stock market crash. Concluding with a coda on the recent Occupy Wall Street Movement and four short stories written in its wake, Scandals and Abstraction demonstrates how economic forces continue to remain a powerful presence in today's fiction.
Leigh Claire La Berge is Assistant Professor of English at St. Mary's University.
Table of Contents: ; Scandals and Abstraction: Financial Fictions of the Long 1980s ; Introduction ; Chapter 1. Personal Banking and Depersonalization in Don ; DeLillo's White Noise ; Chapter 2. Capitalist Realism: The 1987 Stock Market Crash ; and the New Proprietary of Tom Wolfe and Oliver Stone ; Chapter 3. "The Men Who Make The Killings": American ; Psycho and the Genre of the Financial Autobiography ; Chapter 4. Realism and Unreal Estate: The Savings and Loan ; Scandals and the Epistemologies of American Finance ; Coda