Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kurt Vonnegut on the Stock Market

"The name of the book was The Big Board. . . . It was about an Earth-ling man and woman who were kidnapped by extraterrestrials. They were put on display in a zoo on a planet called Zircon-212.

These fictitious people in the zoo had a big board supposedly showing stock market quotations and commodity prices along one wall of their habitat, and a news ticker, and a telephone that was supposedly connected to a brokerage on Earth. The creatures on Zircon-212 told their captives that they had invested a million dollars for them back on Earth, and that it was up to the captives to manage it so that they would be fabulously wealthy when they were returned to Earth.

The telephone and the big board and the ticker were all fakes, of course. They were simply stimulants to make the Earthlings perform vividly for the crowds at the zoo—to make them jump up and down and cheer, or gloat, or sulk, or tear their hair, to be scared shitless or to feel as contented as babies in their mothers' arms.

The Earthlings did very well on paper. That was part of the rigging, of course. And religion got mixed up in it, too. The news ticker reminded them that the President of the United States had declared National Prayer Week, and that everybody should pray. The Earthlings had had a bad week on the market before that. They had lost a small fortune in olive oil futures. So they gave praying a whirl. It worked. Olive oil went up."

—Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Slaughterhouse Five

This was quoted in The Market Wizards by Jack D. Schwager and the reason I am posting this--besides the fact I love Kurt Vonnegut--is because DT is hosting a book club next Tuesday, and he chose The Market Wizards for the first book. I just started reading it (d/led it) and am enjoying it immensely. I'm sure DT wouldn't mind if I invited you to join, so please feel free to click here or on any other links to his site, check it out, and begin reading.

On a side note, somewhat related, I suggest you also check out The American Ruling Class, a movie/documentary with an appearance by Kurt Vonnegut. It follows two ivy league graduates who seek advice on how to live their lives. Anyway, read more about it here or watch it here. I strongly recommend it.


Dinosaur Trader said...

Great stuff there with the Vonnegut. I'd forgotten.


Complacent Panda said...

I like Vonnegut. Sometimes he comes off as a liberal, or at least people portray him that way (e.g. using Slaughter-House Five as an anti-war book), but I think he's much more of a non-partisan slightly-disillusioned/slight-schizophrenic satirist. There are far too many jokes made about the anti-war crowd, albeit jokes are thrown at war too.

I'm tired. Too much talking.