Money Changes Everything
Twenty-Two Writers Tackle the Last Taboo with Tales of Sudden Windfalls, Staggering Debts, and Other Surprising Turns of Fortune
Edited by Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell
We live in a tell-all culture. Sex, troubles with our kids, complaints about our spouses, and even our indiscretions are acceptable dinner table conversation-or at least OK while sharing a latte. Our money side in contrast is kept hidden from view.
Money is loved, feared, and worshiped. Some see it as dirty, not in keeping with a spiritual life, unnecessary. It can make a god-fearing person swear and ordinarily loving couples spit fire. Money can change everything.
The editors of this book put it this way, “To shine a light on how much we make, how much we spend, how much we owe, and how much we’ve got secretly socked away is to give others a potent glimpse into the values we live by. Because of this, admitting to money troubles can often feel like admitting to a weakness of character.”
The money troubles coin has two sides. “Shrinks have coined the phrase “affluenza” to describe the angst and aimlessness that arise from being so wealthy you don’t have to work for a living. Yet despite their insistence that affluenza can be a genuine hardship, therapists are finding it a hard sell to make others feel sorry for their clients. Most people can sympathize with the pain and struggle of the less fortunate, but the anxieties that attend being “too rich” are much harder to imagine” write the editors.
So silence and hiding are the order of the day whether the wolf is at the door or the view from the penthouse leaves you wanting.
Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell, brought together twenty-two great writers who agreed to write about how their lives have been shaped, complicated and/or enhanced by this often hidden aspect of our lives.
The writing is sometimes comic, as in Chris Offut’s story Porn Bought My Football. It can also be achingly sad and as in Marian Fontana’s, A Dollar A Tear, about the money she received after her husband was killed in NYC on 9/11.
The writing is always brilliant.
Fred Leebron and Kathryn Rhett are married and each recalls their version of the money game as they describe their early lives together. Did they really experience the same things? His is titled For Richer, hers, For Poorer. It represents the wedding vow but also the way money can divide otherwise loving couples.
Walter Kirn in Treasure Me tells of failed marriages because they were based on his using his money to perhaps buy affection and love. He “tallies up just how much it costs to have sex” and does it in a very funny way.
Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket series and no slouch in the money earning category wrote a few pages titled “Winning.” His idea for this essay was to buy a $1200 bottle of wine. He begins by asking, “Do you want to know what a $1200 bottle of wine tastes like? Of course you do.”
His agent warns him that he shouldn’t write this essay. “$1200 on a bottle of wine?” she asks. “It’s immoral. People are going to attack you. People are going to call you an immoral person” she warned.
“That’s what I’m interested in,” said Daniel. “I keep telling people about this bottle of wine. First everybody wants some, then everybody thinks it’s immoral. This is the thing with money.”
And so it is and the remaining eighteen writers pose equally thought provoking ideas through their behind the scenes, behind their money accounts. Have some fun with these writers and think about your own money stories. How has money or a lack of it had an impact on your life over the years?