This article reads William Gaddis’s 1975 novel J R as a way of probing the relation between finance and fiction in the 1970s, showing that the novel is related to the revolution of the junk bond market in the 1970s and 1980s, as personified by the junk bond king, Michael Milken. While the question of junk bonds may appear to have little purchase on the much bigger story of the economy as a whole, the author argues that junk bonds were integral to the transformation of the finance economy in the direction of an entirely debt-driven one and that a literary work such as Gaddis’s novel may offer an insight, however complex and convoluted, into this particular transformation. The article concludes with some critical remarks on Gaddis’s critique of capitalism.
William Gaddis’s J R and the Many Faces of Junk Bonds
mikkel krause frantzen is a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen. He is affiliated with the collective research project Finance Fiction—Financialization and Culture in the Early 21st Century. The author of Going Nowhere, Slow—The Aesthetics and Politics of Depression (Zero, 2019), his work has appeared in Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, the Journal of Austrian Studies, Studies in American Fiction, boundary 2, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Theory, Culture, and Society.
Mikkel Krause Frantzen; William Gaddis’s J R and the Many Faces of Junk Bonds. differences 1 December 2020; 31 (3): 91–116. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-8744525
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