- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Books"
And eating sweet rolls, Ho-Hos, and Ding-Dongs. Just watch your fingers on those pages.
Jeremy Olshan gives us advice on making money found in great novels. "Don’t expect, however, to find explicit tips on spending, saving and investing baked into the texts like messages in fortune cookies. Novelists and dramatists seem suspicious if not disdainful of those who dole out advice about money — which is perhaps why, when they do offer worthwhile personal-finance counsel, the words tend to be put into the mouths of imbeciles."
Here are his gleanings:
- Read Defoe to understand money. In Robinson Crusoe, the narrator finds a drawer full of gold while searching his ship's wreckage. "I smiled to myself at the sight of this money: 'O drug!' said I, aloud, 'what art thou good for? Thou art not worth to me, no, not the taking off the ground; one of those knives is worth all this heap; I have no manner of use for thee; e’en remain where thou art, and go to the bottom as a creature whose life is not worth saving.' However, upon second thoughts, I took it away."
- Read Trollope and Dickens to spot the next Bernie Madoff. "Rereading these Victorian novels," Olshan writes, "I’ve been struck, in a way that never occurred to me in high school or college, by how often the plots turn on bad financial decisions."
- Read Eliot and Flaubert before swiping that credit card. "Emma Bovary isn’t brought down by cheating on her doctor husband but by racking up ruinous amounts of debt."
- Read Dickens to learn the difference between saving and hoarding.
- Read Tolstoy before heading to the car dealership. "The old poker player’s adage that if, after a few minutes at the table, you can’t tell who the sucker is, it’s you, is more or less true in every financial transaction."