Thursday, October 30, 2008

Margaret Atwood's "Payback"

Commercial law scholars looking for a fascinating literary diversion should consider picking up Margaret Atwood's new book "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth". This short book is a free-ranging (indeed sometimes annoyingly meandering) exploration of the concept of debt in religion, literature, and society, interspersed with frequent references and allusions to the modern realities of debt and the current credit crisis, for example when Atwood observes that "Hell is like an infernal maxed-out credit card that multiplies the charges endlessly." (p. 168). The essays are a nice reminder of the fact that, at a basic level and throughout history, debt is a very human enterprise. Going through it also provides a handy recommended reading list for distracted commercial lawyers, transforming Thackeray's Vanity Fair and Marlowe's Tragical History of Doctor Faustus into, in many odd respects, payments books.

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