If Theodore Dreiser or Henry James were transported to the early twenty-first century, they'd surely recognize the banking crisis as the defining narrative of our time: the rise and fall of the men who sift the globe's money through their fingers. In their stead, Adam Haslett has absorbed the newspaper headlines and reimagined them as a pitch-perfect, tightly plotted novel of a singular moment in all-too-recent American history.
In the character of Henry Graves, the head of the New York Federal Reserve, Haslett has created a powerful intelligence able to sense the connectedness, the flow of money, behind the stage set of everyday life. The novel hums when it inhabits Henry's mind as he channels the unvoiced poem of capital. Henry stands at his office window one Friday afternoon, watching New Yorkers as they leave Manhattan and head out to the suburbs for the weekend,...
Beyond the Book
Many of the reviews and articles about Union Atlantic
(like this one, or this one) laud Adam Haslett for writing about the collapse of the financial markets before it happened. He handed his editor a first draft of the book the week that Lehman Brothers folded in 2008, one of the events that precipitated the current recession. But the book is set much earlier, in the spring, summer, and fall of 2002, and one of the book's pleasures is the way it nominates this particular moment for historical attention. In the long shadow of the 9/11 attacks, some of the events that crop up in the novel include:
- The housing bubble: When the dot com bubble burst in 2000, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, making mortgages a cheap and safe place for newly skittish...