Live the Questions

Words of Torah, funny anecdotes about my students, rants about education policy, and observations on politics, progressive Judaism, activism, and culture will all make appearances on this blog. Each post will end with a question for the reader; please respond if you feel moved.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Read A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss!
I am a devotee of historical mystery novels, and this is definitely the best one I've read in a long while. Besides being well-paced, exciting, and striking that delicate balance between keeping the reader totally in the dark (Conan Doyle) and making the solution so clear it's frustrating (Jonathan Kellerman, l'havdil*), the book exposes the reader to some fascinating ideas. I usually find finance dull as dishwater, but this novel describes the very early years of the English stock market-- just before the South Sea bubble of 1720-- and draws implicit parallels between financial issues these days and back then.

Liss not only tried to make his novel true to period events, cultural norms, lifestyles, etc. but also attempted to give the reader a window into the attitudes and worldviews of English people in the 1700s. Thus, he deals with the rise of paper currency and the dramatic shift in understanding value that it caused; his detective experiments with ratiocination as a crime-solving method (beating out Auguste Dupin by a century); and his characters confront the ruthless methods of large corporations in their early stages.

And the protagonist is a pugilist and Portugese Jew. What could be better?

* I couldn't find a good link to explain "l'havdil" so I'm doing it here. It comes from the root that means to separate/ to draw a distinction. We say "l'havdil" when we are mentioning two things together-- usually something holy and something not holy-- that aren't in the same league, as if to say, "don't think these are analagous." Hence my use of l'havdil when I mention Conan Doyle and Kellerman in the same sentence.


Post a Comment

<< Home