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Things to be Thankful For

There are sad things in addition to the continuing collapse of the visible financial world and I ran into two of them in the past few days.


First of all, the suicide of David Foster Wallace. My son once interviewed him ten years ago for a university newspaper when he visited the school, and then told me about his books. Ever since I always recommended “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, a book of essays. He apparently hung himself at age 46.

I never read his early novels, which sound Pynchonesque and interesting. I did read a bunch of essays and short stories and they range from really laugh-out-loud funny (A Supposedly Fun ?) filled with recursive footnotes, to accurately acerbic (The Depressed Person) to frighteningly creepy (Girl With Curious Hair). I just ordered ‘Infinite Jest’ , his 1009 page novel, which is currently out of stock.

One should be thankful to avoid such fates.


The other day I called American Express to complain that they charged me twice for one Economist gift subscription nine months ago. I just noticed the error now. The woman on the phone went to great lengths to help me.

“I can’t do it, Mr Derman,” she said. “i can’t change such a huge charge.” “

“Huge??” I said, “It’s ninety-eight dollars.” American Express must see many multi-thousand dollar charges for travel, hotels, clothing, traders’ meals-with-wine in the good old days.

“Well Mr Derman,” she said, “It’s huge to me.”

Fair enough and I was a little embarrassed. When she signed off I asked where she was located and she said “Manila.”

I guess one should also be thankful that ninety-eight dollars doesn’t seem that huge.

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