December 18, 2008

Talking About Money

In The Madoff Inheritance, Daniel Henninger of the Wall St. Journal says

A big lesson of the past year is that we all should be talking more about money. One reason we don't talk about money is we are afraid of what we might learn.
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Though living in an era of fantastic money tales, it is remarkable how little serious literature is written about money in business or money in politics. In fiction or drama characters can be made to say truths real people would never tell a journalist.

That's what he found in The Vosey Inheritance, a 1914 British play adapted by David Mamet that played off Broadway last year.

One answer emerges from the Voysey drama when Edward tells wealthy family friend George Booth and Vicar Colpus that he plans to admit the fraud and face justice (Mr. Voysey having conveniently died). They try to talk him out of it. They want Edward to continue the scheme. For them, at least, the scheme seems to work. They want to believe it can still work. Edward demurs, and they are outraged that he will not continue business as usual.

 Vosey Inheritance

From the New York Times review of The Vosey Inheritance

Edward Voysey ( Michael Stuhlbarg), who has just inherited the reins of the firm and breaks the bad news, is the only member of the family moved to shame at the discovery that the just-deceased paterfamilias had been bilking clients to support his brood in style. Edward is determined to call in the law, come clean, and face the consequences.
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The wonderful Fritz Weaver plays Voysey père, whose casual admission, in the first scene, that he has been monkeying with the business sets Edward on his voyage of disillusionment. (The business is a firm of solicitors, which translates, practically speaking, to personal bankers or brokers.)

Coolly explaining to his perturbed son the practice of borrowing from one client’s account to pay dividends due to another, he sighs, “Oh, why is it so hard for a man to see clearly beyond the letter of the law!”

It is not so hard, if such double vision serves a man’s personal interest. After their father’s sudden death and the revelation of his free-form accounting, Edward’s brothers profess perfunctory shock and dismay. But they also begin bringing him around to the idea that little good will come from airing dirty laundry that had, after all, been kept from public view for 30 years with little injury to any of the parties involved.

Posted by Jill Fallon at December 18, 2008 9:06 AM | Permalink