Thursday, September 06, 2007

Book Review: Mergers and Acquisitions


A few months ago, Miss M sent me an article from New York magazine about one "DNasty," a cynical investment banking pee-on who blogged anonymously about his time working for The Man... the very same Man I used to work for a few years ago, as it were. This guy happened to have some famous friends in the publishing and online world, and one of them linked to his blog. Two weeks after the link went up, a well-known power agent called him and set up a meeting. Dana Vachon (I guess DNasty didn't sound professional enough to keep as a nickname) then secured himself a $650,000 advance to write two books - fictional accounts of his time in investment banking and growing up amongst the ultra-wealthy in Greenwich, Connecticut. His first book, Mergers & Acquisitions, was met with much fanfare and he was soon dubbed "The Next Literary It Boy" and was compared to everyone from Bright Lights, Big City author Jay McInerney to Liar's Poker mastermind Michael Lewis. Fairly big shoes to fill for a 28-year-old whose dad's connections were used to get him the investment banking job in the first place. On top of that, the production company behind Babel optioned the film rights for M&A.

Words cannot describe how jealous I was.

I hated Dana - and all I had read was that one article about him. But he had stolen my fantasy life and I couldn't get over it. I figured I better read his book and see what all the fuss was about.

As I alluded to above, the strange thing to me was that he wrote a novel - a fictional story - rather than penning a non-fiction memoir-type of book, which I thought might have been more intriguing. Wasn't that what drew people to his blog and got him the book deal in the first place? He had been writing about things that were really happening, and as I've said many times - the truth is usually stranger than fiction. Perhaps he didn't want to risk being sued, perhaps he didn't want to hurt people's feelings, or perhaps he didn't want to burn bridges?

After reading the book, I don't think he had any of those concerns at all - as it turns out, he wanted to completely stretch the truth to fairly ridiculous limits. The book spends hardly any time in the corporate world and you certainly shouldn't read it if you want to know anything about investment banking or what it's like to be an investment banker. What it does focus on is the lives of the extravagantly and flamboyantly wealthy people who are connected to the author (I mean, to his made-up character named Tommy Quinn who shares almost every trait of Dana Vachon's) in one way or the other.

But guess what? By and large, he pulled it off. The first few chapters of Mergers and Acquisitions sucked me in, and my jealousy started to wane. He is a really good writer, so no one can claim that he doesn't deserve the success he's achieved. The best thing about the book is that it is funny as hell (if you are not easily offended), which was not at all what I was expecting. I was actually laughing so hard at one point that tears started streaming down my face, and my husband (who read the book before I did) started laughing just remembering that same scene. My only criticism is that It Boy Vachon did such an excellent job with the completely unbelievable, far-fetched parts of the book, that the few serious subplots really ruined it for me. He had all this momentum going and then it would just drop into these boring, pitiful, depressing sections, usually revolving around his girlfriend. And the ending was a disappointment.

But I will cut the guy some slack - it's his first book and I think adult fiction is extremely hard to write well. To come up with some of the hijinks that ensue in this novel requires a big, twisted imagination. I shouldn't be surprised that the movie rights were optioned because there were certain scenes that read just like a script, and I could almost see it being acted out on the big screen. I just hope they change the ending.

If you'd like to learn a bit more about the book, a very clever web site for the company "JS Spenser" (where the main character worked) provides some clues without giving anything away. There's a picture of Dana in all his yuppie glory under the "Investor of the Week" section.

While I didn't think this was the most phenomenal book I've ever read (mostly because the slower parts just didn't seem to fit), I do await the next novel from this Boy Wonder, and I hope he lives up to that huge advance!

- e

1 comment:

abby said...

Exactly how I pictured him. God, he so looks the part of preppy New England (or Westchester County). Like one of the Kennedys w/that shock of hair. Dig the tie. I'll check out the book.