The end of the 2008 financial crisis marked the beginning of an agitated love-hate affair between Hollywood and Wall Street. Movies that satirized, maligned, or celebrated the exploits of the veiled “masters of the universe” became incredibly popular. Hollywood had found its new villain, and the following years saw the release of a string of movies like Margin Call (2011), Too Big to Fail (2011), and The Big Short (2015). Steve James’s new documentary, Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, might be described as the anti-Big Short. It refuses to play into the tropes and excesses of its precursors. For one, it makes no attempt to glamorize the work of bankers or bamboozle the viewer into dumb awe with a barrage of inscrutable technical terms—CDS’s, MBS’s, tranches, and the like. Instead, the only source of the fantastic comes from the film’s very premise: Abacus is a profile of the only bank to have been criminally charged with mortgage fraud in the wake of 2008, and the family behind its operations.
Men Without Women By Haruki Murakami Translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel and Ted Goossen 228 pp. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. $25.95 In his new book Men Without Women, Haruki Murakami tells the stories of seven heartbroken men to explore the condition of solitude—of being a Men Without Women, which the titular story insists is “always a relentlessly frigid plural.” The fidelity of the stories to this central theme is tight and precise, giving the collection an overall feel similar to one of the “days” in the Decameron—if, instead of the plague-ridden Italian countryside, the aching lovers roamed across Murakami’s melancholic Tokyo. In Murakami’s treatment, solitude emerges as a chronic condition whose incurability stifles the possibility of action.