Skip to Content

Books

A clash of commerce and culture

Other People’s Money — and How the Bankers Use It by Louis D. Brandeis was a collection of articles about the predatory practices of big banks, published in book form in 1914. Nearly a century later, it remains in print. In 1991 Danny de Vito starred as ‘Larry the Liquidator’ in the film Other People’s Money. The wanton boys of banking sport with us in life and art and in Justin Cartwright’s latest novel.

26 March 2011

12:00 AM

26 March 2011

12:00 AM

Other People’s Money Judith Cartwright

Bloomsbury, pp.257, 18.99

Other People’s Money — and How the Bankers Use It by Louis D. Brandeis was a collection of articles about the predatory practices of big banks, published in book form in 1914. Nearly a century later, it remains in print. In 1991 Danny de Vito starred as ‘Larry the Liquidator’ in the film Other People’s Money. The wanton boys of banking sport with us in life and art and in Justin Cartwright’s latest novel.

Other People’s Money — and How the Bankers Use It by Louis D. Brandeis was a collection of articles about the predatory practices of big banks, published in book form in 1914. Nearly a century later, it remains in print. In 1991 Danny de Vito starred as ‘Larry the Liquidator’ in the film Other People’s Money. The wanton boys of banking sport with us in life and art and in Justin Cartwright’s latest novel.

Opening with a record of the service of thanksgiving for the life of Sir Harry Trevelyan-Tubal, CBE, Bt, at St Paul’s cathedral, listing attendees both fictional and real — Alfred Brendel played Chopin — it moves to a villa in Antibes where the fading Sir Harry, his voice ‘thin and distorted, like a wartime radio broadcast’, is attended by the loyal and lovelorn Estelle Welz,who has been ‘the pilot fish to his whale’ for the last 32 years. The private bank Tubal and Co., founded by Moses Tubal (sly reference to Shylock’s friend in The Merchant of Venice) in 1671, is now led by younger son Julian, alumnus of the Dragon school and Eton and heir to a double-barrelled name achieved by marriages to ever ‘fairer’ consorts.


Sir Harry’s tenet of ‘loans one third, assets two thirds’ has been fatally ditched on the hedge fund and derivatives rollercoaster (supposedly vindicated by the Gaussian curve for which the equation is given) and Julian must get power of attorney to release funds from family and other trusts to flesh out the accounts for a possible sale to Cy Mannheim of the American bank First Federal.

In a converted lifeboat station in Cornwall, Artair MacCleod, first husband of Sir Harry’s wife Fleur and recipient of Tubal alimony in recognition of his bringing ‘a captive wood nymph’ to Sir Harry’s bed, mounts local productions of Thomas the Tank Engine and writes his life’s work, a five-hour performance based on the life and novels of Flann O’Brien. Daniel Day-Lewis is in his sights as star of the film.

In a post-modern comedy and tragedy of manners — Flann O’Brien wrote a book, Artair observes, in which the characters refused to obey the author and took over the story — Cartwright deals with his in their clashes of commerce and culture with tactile and also olfactory relish. On his diet of free Binster’s Pies and Pasties, Artair has ‘acquired a pasty aroma: there’s something farinaceous about his piss too’. Fleur, in her turn having received the ‘transfusion of youth’ through coupling with her South African personal trainer, recoils from her elderly husband’s ‘dimpled, dry, veined, fungal Somme-landscape face’.

The old ways invoked by the ‘Luxe, Calme et Volupté’ of Matisse are shown as not necessarily best, and the new, in part personified by Melissa, budding journalist and traveller in the blogosphere who unwittingly exposes Julian’s machinations via the rather unconvincing whistle-blower alan39@hotmail.com, are only gently spoofed.

Cartwright stays the outsider that Tubal once was. ‘OPM’ (other people’s money) they shout in dealing rooms when deals go bad. ‘WFP’ (wait for paperback) I might murmur in the bookstore.


Show comments
Close