I stole a copy of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail from his book party last night. I mean, I don’t think it was really theft. But there were few enough copies on display that it felt a bit illicit. It also felt heavy. The book is 600 pages long with the index, notes, etc. (544 pages without them). It weighs 2.15 pounds. And it was reported and written in less than a year, by a guy who for most (all?) of that time was still writing a weekly column and breaking the occasional big story for The New York Times. It took me five years, including eight or nine months off from my day job, to finish a 382-page book. I stand in awe. Or fear: Perhaps the Sorkinator is a relentless writing machine, sent from the future to neutralize any investment banker or financial journalist perceived as a threat to the eventual reign of the robots.
The party, hosted by Vanity Fair‘s Graydon Carter at the Monkey Bar, was kind of awe/fear-inspiring as well. As I approached the entrance on 54th Street I saw private equity kingpin David Rubenstein going the other way. I thought about saying hello but I still feel like such a dork for mispelling his name in my column a few months ago that I couldn’t bring myself to speak to him. As I walked in the front door the first face I saw was Jamie Dimon’s. I asked him if he was on the welcoming committee. He said no, he was just leaving. I said, I know, I didn’t really think you were on the welcoming committee, I just …
Then I saw my friend Jim Impoco, who helped out in editing the book, and he advised me to “take a lap” around the place. It took some shoving, but I did make one circuit, along the way seeing Morgan Stanley’s John Mack and a bunch of other men in nice suits whom I probably should have recognized. After my lap I did recognize media mogul Barry Diller, hedge funder Ken Griffin and living legends Jack and Suzy Welch as they entered/left the room. Beyond that I gave Sorkin a high five, talked to his wife, Pilar, met his little sister, and otherwise hung out with my fellow hacks. Which is one of several reasons why I will never be able to write a book like Too Big to Fail. On the way out I wrote a brief Tweet about my experience, in which I managed to misspell Dimon as Diamond. (I blame David Rubenstein.)
It was thus with some satisfaction and relief that, when I opened the book and started reading the prologue, I immediately came across two names that Sorkin had gotten wrong (it’s Robert Shiller, not Schiller, and Ben Bernanke, not Benjamin). He is human! He’s not going to kill us all! (Or maybe that’s just what Skynet wants me to think.)
Anyway, Sorkin is my friend—or at least was before I published this blog post—so I can’t credibly review his book. Plus, I’m only on page 12. (After the surreal book party I ended up at an unrelated but almost equally surreal dinner at a cigar club with Wall Street Journal deputy editor-in-chief Gerard Baker and a gaggle of conservative pundits. This cut into my reading time.) But if Sorkin’s you-were-there opening account of Dick Fuld riding to work early on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day in 2008 is any indication, I’m going to keep reading to page 544.
Update: I should have mentioned that Felix Salmon is way ahead of me on his reading, and has been posting the most eye-catching revelations from the book, both of which so far have to do with Hank Paulson being way too tight with his former employer. There’s Treasury Secretary Hank showing up at a Goldman board meeting in Moscow, and Treasury Secretary Hank telling Lehman to open up its books to Goldman. Hmmm, wonder if that’ll be in Paulson‘s book?
Update 2: Vanity Fair has pictures. Brian Grazer must have gotten there after I left. I would have recognized that hair if I had seen it.
Update 3: Moe TcazikTkacik’s account. (My spelling woes continue, although in this case I think it’s semi-excusable.)