Book Review: The day Wall Street exploded by Beverly Gage

On a mid-September day an explosion rips through the financial district of Manhattan in the most devastating terrorist attack in American history up to that point.  The attack is attributed to people who come from outside the country and subscribe to an ideology that its critics say is anti-American.  This all sounds very familiar, but the story here takes place on September 16th, 1920 when an explosion at the corner of Wall Street and Broad Street rocked the House of Morgan and the New York Stock Exchange.  The day Wall Street exploded : a story of America in its first age of terror (2009) by Beverly Gage captures the events of that day as well as the events leading up to that day and its repercussions.

The explosion, graphically detailed in this work, was part of a series of violent acts with Anarchists, Socialists, & labor activists on one side and industrialists, police and private detectives on the other side.  Gage summarizes the history of radical violence dating to the Haymarket affair in 1886 and the subsequent execution of numerous radicals not actually proven to have anything to do with the bombings.  Subsequent events include the Homestead strike, the Ludlow Massacre, assassination attempts on Henry Frick, John D. Rockefeller and Jack Morgan, the successful murder of President McKinley by an anarchist, bombing of the Los Angeles Times office, and the Red Scare.  The cast of characters include proponent of violence Johann Most, anarchists Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, labor activist Bill Haywood and socialist Eugene Debs.  The story of Nicolo Sacco and Bartolemo Vanzetti also ties into the Wall Street Bombing with some theorists today believing they had a direct involvement.

The investigation of the bombing is presented as something of mystery with FBI agents, private detectives, and New York City police all attempting to be the first to solve the crime with none succeeding.  Many anarchists, socialists, and immigrants are rounded up with a good portion deported, but the bomber is never found.  Some wonder if there really was a bomb or if it was an accidental explosion of dynamite destined for a construction site.

This is is an excellent and informative history of an overlooked period in American history.  Gage writes that the ultimate demise of the radical movement in the 1920s as well as the House of Morgan/NYSE “business as usual” approach in the aftermath of the bombing have contributed to the absence of this era from many history books.

Author Gage, Beverly.
Title The day Wall Street exploded : a story of America in its first age of terror / Beverly Gage.
Publication Info. Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2009.
Description viii, 400 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm.

Book Review: Fool by Christopher Moore

Christopher Moore boldly reinterprets Shakespeare’s King Lear from the perspective of King Lear’s fool Pocket in the comic (but darkly so) novel Fool (2009). Having previously read Moore’s Blood Sucking Fiends and Lamb, I knew to expect that Fool would be funny and clever as well as raunchy and full of penis jokes.  And Moore doesn’t disappoint with perhaps a record of penis joke density in published literature.

Crude as it is, Fool imagines a world where Pocket the Fool is in fact pulling the strings behind everything that happens in Lear, becoming a man of intrigue who starts wars for his own purposes.  The novel also is full of anachronisms and literary allusions to dozens of Shakespeare’s plays.  Don’t try to match Fool up to the real King Lear though, because the author admits that they don’t corroborate much.  Fool gains points for creativity but loses points for rampant misogony and repetitious jokes that weren’t too funny to begin with.

Fool makes good mind candy that you can pretend is high brow.

Author Moore, Christopher, 1957-
Title Fool / Christopher Moore.
Publication Info. New York : William Morrow, 2009.
Edition 1st ed.
Description 311 p. : map ; 24 cm.