Culture > Books

Books: The dismal science

Books | How to make worldwide disaster uninteresting

Issue: "Clinton: Capitol crimes?," Sept. 26, 1998

You'd think with the yo-yo stock market that a book about international economic meltdown like The Warning would make for an exciting read. But the main character, Buddy Korda, is a meek, Walter Mitty-type assistant branch manager given a message from God that the stock market will collapse in 40 days and a 7-year famine will follow. Korda's enemy is Thad Dorsett, a former juvenile delinquent turned fast-track Wall Street trader, and behind him, the ominous bank owner, who is described thus: "He was pompous, rude, and tremendously overbearing." OK, so he is. But this sentence belongs in the character sketch a novelist begins with in the developing novel. Later, it's thrown out as the character is revealed in speech and action. Angels and divine intervention protect our hero Korda, and his overly saccharin wife upholds him and never for a moment doubts anything her husband says or does. Events play out exactly as prophesied. So the major premise of the book completely undercuts any possibility of dramatic plot development and a course of rising action. Korda predicts disaster; it happens. The end. Adding to the weight of dullness are Mr. Bunn's frequent, interpolated essays-in-dialogue, overexplaining basics of economics: "Paper money is a promissory note." And on and on and on. We had this in Business 101; we don't need it in a novel. And they say economics is the dismal science. Perhaps more disturbing here is that everybody relies on feelings, good guys and bad guys alike. Korda gives a talk in church and says, "It really felt right back there." A pastor who hears Korda speak says, "I have never felt such an affirming flame before." Nothing here is anchored in the objective truth of God's Word or the reality of grace.

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