During the 1980s, Michael Lewis was a young bond salesman who made a lot of money on Wall Street. He eventually quit his job to write a book about the sloppy, over-the-top behaviour he saw in the finance world. Liar’s Poker was the book that made him famous.
Never before have so many 24-year-olds made so much money in such a short amount of time, Lewis wrote in the book’s preface. When Liar’s Poker first came out, it was more than 30 years old. There is now an unabridged audiobook and a five-episode podcast called “Other People’s Money.” Morning Brew talked to Lewis on the phone about Wall Street, sports, and how he writes.
When Liar’s Poker first came out, you thought you were capturing a lot of things we’d never see again. What’s it like to see what’s going on now?
Well, it was true that when I started writing the book, I thought: I better write this down, because nothing like this will happen again in the future. This is true. And it was very personal, because people were giving me a lot of money to help them with their money. How much did I know? So I knew right away how out of whack the capitalist system had become. It wasn’t paying people what they were worth, and I was the best example of this.
It looks like we’re getting to a point where it’s like a joke now. There’s a sense that the little people are almost making fun of what the big people have been doing with cryptocurrency, NFTs, and meme stocks. It’s this random giving of money to people for no reason. It’s because six years ago, I got a bitcoin wallet or you went to GameStop or something else. There hasn’t been a system change, but the system has been getting worse and worse and worse. There are times when I keep waiting for someone to say: “Oh, this whole financialization of everything has gotten a little out of hand.” In fact, it hasn’t happened at all. The financial sector has become more and more important, and not just as a percentage of the economy’s work, but also in people’s minds and how they think about the world.
How do you feel about the people in sports right now that you’ve written about?
He has done a lot of things that make no sense, but I don’t think they were supposed to be like this. There is a lot of pressure on them to buy in, but he makes people do it even though they don’t have to. This is how a modern manager should act in a world where he doesn’t have much control over his employees. [Kerr] is a good example of something that a lot of people who have power should pay attention to.
When you talk about sports, do you have any superstitions about writing?
Whenever I played sports, I would try to find out about superstitions as soon as possible and stop them from taking root. It’s like weeding your garden of the mind. There are some things I’m naturally afraid of. Since it’s trying to get into my writing, I can see it trying to do that. Like, for example, getting married to a laptop. Or being stuck on the idea that I have to write in a certain place. So I try to break it up so that I don’t get into a routine where the routine becomes a safety net for me. There are still things I do that help me write. I put on headphones and listen to music while I write, like I do when I write.
How do you like to write?
You can remove things from playlists sent by your oldest child if they don’t make you think in any way. It’s not art. Some of it is, but that’s not fair. If it’s art, it’s not fair to say that it’s not. But I change the playlist between books. But it’s the same song over and over again.