Under the Black Flag

Speaking of Gorging

A few weeks ago, I attended a most wonderful party, with music, pretty girls, lots of champagne—and even some people who did not move their lips while reading the labels of the expensive bubbly and Scotch whiskey they were imbibing.  Namely, Tom Wolfe, Lewis Lapham, Graydon Carter, Edward Jay Epstein, and other such New York swells.  The occasion was Lapham’s Quarterly “About Money,” a 220-page-thick issue featuring mostly dead writers such as Aristophanes, Karl Marx, Ben Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Edith Wharton, Cicero, even Henry Ford.  (“What a treat it must be,” said Graydon Carter, one of the speakers, “to be able to publish great writers without having to deal with them.”)  Other speakers were the very much alive Tom Wolfe, whose contribution was included in the volume, the producer Harvey Weinstein, and actor Richard Dreyfuss, who read out a passage by Ayn Rand.  All in all, a very pleasant evening which left me more confused about my feelings toward money than, say, Oscar Wilde, who wrote that “when I was young, I thought money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know that it is.”

Well, here I disagree with the great Oscar.  I recently wrote in the British Quarterly Review how most of the very rich I have known, and I’ve known plenty, were not only miserable human beings but also ghastly toward...

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