From Salon: Exclusive Interview with Author Michael Lewis about His Book “Liar’s Poker,” the Culture of Wall Street, Strip Clubs, and Hypocrisy


By Elaine Magliaro

Michael Lewis’s first book Liar’s Poker, originally published in 1989, has been reissued on its 25th anniversary. Scott Timberg of Salon said that Liar’s Poker “was not only the start of a major journalistic career — author Michael Lewis has gone on to numerous other triumphs — but it’s one of the key documents of how our world of casino capitalism was made. Subtitled ‘Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street,’ the book gives a close-up look at what happens when finance is radically deregulated. His scenes in Salomon Brothers’ offices in New York and the City of London are also populated by oversize characters, some of whom you can’t help liking.” Timberg noted that the 2014 edition of Lewis’s book includes a new reflection written by the author.

Timberg spoke with Michael Lewis during his recent trip to New York. It’s a fascinating  interview about Liar’s Poker, the culture/spirit on Wall Street and how it has changed over the years, deregulation, and big trends that originated at Salomon Brothers–where he worked–and then “swept over” Wall Street.

Excerpt from Timberg’s interview with Michael Lewis:

You have a great line in the afterword of the book, which I want to read back to you and have you unpack: “Wall Street has gone from being the loud guy who organizes bus tours of strip clubs but still loves his wife and kids to the quiet guy who fakes a pious devotion to his family while secretly cheating on his wife every chance he gets.” Tell us what you mean by that.

It’s the spirit of the place that’s changed. I was just trying to get at, you know, Wall Street actually was a place filled with loud guys who ran bus tours of strip clubs. My point is that now I think all the Wall Street guys are cheating on their wives implies the sneakiness of it, the hypocrisy. There was no hypocrisy then; it wasn’t that way. It was what it seemed, and I liked that about it. I’m not a strip club kind of guy, but I didn’t mind that some guys were. It didn’t bother me as long as they said that’s what they were. That’s the difference.

Wall Street presents a face now, very self-consciously, and the phoniness of it I find repellent, much more repellent than bad behavior. Hell’s hottest fires burn for hypocrites, there’s a line in the book — Edwin Edwards, that’s what he said during a campaign, and amazingly, Edwin Edwards is back running for Congress again — but that’s what I mean. I have much more time for the vulgarity than I do for the hypocrisy.

I’ll put that on a T-shirt. You wrote a review I liked a lot of John Lanchester’s novel, “Capital,” last year, and you talk about the jolt of energy that deregulation brought to London at the time. The culture changed in a huge way, and I wonder if there would have been any other way for Anglo-American culture to go. Would there have been a way to wake up from the ‘70s without leading to this?

It’s a really good question, that I have absolutely no answer to. But you’re really right, that period felt like an antidote to what came before it, but somehow the antidote was more virulent than the problem. It’s hard to imagine another path; the path at the time seems so clear. The signals coming out of Reagan and Thatcher were so clear. The reason it was so unbridled and unself-conscious in Salomon Brothers is that it was an environment where there was no reason to doubt that what you were doing was the greatest thing in the whole world. There was no skepticism in the marketplace, and that’s what we have now, which we didn’t have then. People now understand that the market can do really bad things — at least some people do.

Click here to read the entire interview.


Michael Lewis on Wall Street: “I have much more time for the vulgarity than I do for the hypocrisy”
Exclusive: The great Michael Lewis on the legacy of “Liar’s Poker,” Wall Street and strip clubs, and Paul Krugman (SALON)

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5 Responses to From Salon: Exclusive Interview with Author Michael Lewis about His Book “Liar’s Poker,” the Culture of Wall Street, Strip Clubs, and Hypocrisy

  1. Seeing the LDL – too much on the rh side; I’m barking under a new moniker for the moment.

    Mr. Lewis is spot=on!

    When my career was in flourish, you could put your money in stocks and believe in the purity of the monitoring of the system. Then the cats went away and vile rodents multiplied and played.

    They should simply, as a lark (but surreal one at that) – let Goldman Sachs hold a recruiting class under the title “Wall Street Bandits Wanted: apply for your think tank job on looting today”!

    For then, there would be no hypocriscy;
    and having selective’s such as Corruption of Federal Agencies 101

    would be telling it like it is!

  2. buckaroo says:

    Wall Street is able to be corrupt because of the inequitable tax code – clean up the tax code & you will do away with a lion share of the perfidiousness of dissolute behavior of the wealthy & their votary

  3. Unable to concur – buckaroo.

    Matters NOT – what Code & Rules are – when even the USAG’s can get rich – by nolle prosequi

  4. Mike Spindell says:

    The fault dear reader lies not in taxes, but in ones’ eyes.

  5. Mike Spindell says:

    Thanks for reminding me that this is one of the books I’ve put on my must read list.

Comments are closed.