A graduate of Duke University in 2002 and an analyst for J.P. Morgan for a few years after that, Dana Vachon is a writing wunderkind
along the lines of Jay McInerney in Bright Lights, Big City
and Bret Easton Ellis in Less Than Zero
. However, the similarity ends with the theme of young guys on the razzle, because Vachon's protagonist, unlike his predecessors, observes and learns without falling into the honey pot. Tommy Quinn graduates from Georgetown and lands a job with J.S. Spenser, an investment banking firm. His major was Interdisciplinary Studies, a kind of Liberal Arts wastebasket, and he knows nothing about finance. In the brain-deadening Spenser training program he hooks up with Roger Thorne, a really crass human being, but one who knows all the moves. The genesis of the friendship sets the tone rather well: They are both wearing Gucci loafers and Rolex watches.
The story begins at Roger's engagement party, with Tommy waiting for his erstwhile girlfriend Frances to arrive. Everyone thinks that she has been at a spa, but she has really been in an upscale Home for the Unsure, being ministered to by a freaky shrink. The story then moves backward through Tommy's ruminations about meeting Roger, "the John Audubon of preppy flesh," and about connecting with Terence Mathers, Spenser's guru of mergers and acquisitions. At the end of Mathers's first speech to the new Spenserites, Tommy says: "We had all partaken of the capitalist Kool-Aid and the applause was as much a tribute to the stupidity of young men and women after four years of elite education as it was to the success of Spenser's training program." Greed is definitely good in this atmosphere--the more the better--but Tommy is not really a full-fledged participant. After Tommy blows his first assignment, he and Roger are sent to Cabo San Lucas on a major deal. What happens there is life-threatening and hilariously over-the-top but perfectly plausible and moves Tommy to rethink his life path. Vachon has left his own fledgling financial career behind, and instead has written a first-rate first novel that is smart, funny, witty, and wise. --Valerie Ryan
From Publishers Weekly
Greenwich, Conn.–bred Vachon did a stint at JP Morgan after graduating from Duke, an experience that no doubt influenced this dizzying romp through investment banking heaven and hell, which rises and falls among numbing corporate indoctrination, pressure-choked deadlines, fabulously swank parties and an obscenely over-the-top business junket complete with kidnappers. At the heart of it all is Tommy Quinn, an upper-middle-class kid from Westchester whose Georgetown degree in Interdisciplinary Studies leaves him bereft of finance know-how. No matter, once Tommy hooks up with Princeton grad Roger Thorne (who has a real pedigree, a reputation for sexual prowess and a hot sister), and the two pursue careers based mainly on smoke and mirrors. Vachon's glee in poking fun at this complex, debased world is evident in his purposefully excessive descriptions of sex (particularly Roger's "dude"-laden monologues), drugs and ruthless execs, but there's a certain amount of drooling involved, too, in the intricate descriptions of jewels and bonuses. Tommy's romance with Frances Sloan, a troubled trust fund heiress, is predictable (though still diverting), and his and Roger's careers (along with several gratuitous deaths that mark them) have denouements and aftermaths that feel forced at best. Imagine a tyro Jay McInerney without the pathos and the been-there, done-that offhandedness. (Apr.)
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