July 28 2011: A Gallery Of Six Book Covers On Subjects Relating To Economics, Finance and History (Pelican Books, 1961 – 1973)
I started to become fascinated by the concept of money, and the machinery of economics, finance and their roots in history, around the same time I began writing a kind of diary built on random found pennies in the streets (mainly of London, where I was living at the time, circa 1998 – 2003) . This – neither a novel, nor a work of non-fiction – remains a work in progress, and goes by the working title of Shrapnel (excerpts can be found here, should you be interested in reading them). The books shown here are the residue of large numbers that have passed through during the long process of editing and expanding this text, and along with James Buchan’s Frozen Desire (1997) make up what I’ve found the most useful or enlightening ventures into the territory.
Shrapnel itself was set aside at the end of 2006, at a stage close to completion, when other things began to take up the majority of my time and attention. Now, of course, the text seems both prescient and a little stranded in the aftermath of later events that have largely confirmed its thinking on the random, superstitious and damaging nature of money, as its existence is made real only in the negative effect of its absence in the lives it constrains and undermines. The question I’m debating with myself at the moment is whether to polish this (now strangely historical) version of Shrapnel and circulate it, or climb back inside and begin what is likely to be the revealing process of updating it.
I suspect the latter will happen but it all depends on making the time and mental space to engage with this one again: it’s not like money – nothing less than the greatest mass delusion of all time, a hallucination and fever dream that makes the excesses of the Medieval Church seem almost quaint in scale by comparison – is a small or containable subject. But that’s precisely why it seems an important one to tackle, and precisely why books like those pictured in the gallery below seem more important now than ever, despite many of them being more than forty years old, and some covering events even further back than that. Yet in many ways, this is perfect. Old mistakes are forgotten, so we throw off the measures put into place to prevent them, and make them all over again.
Some books don’t date as fast their authors might have hoped.