13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Aaron C. Brown
- Published on Amazon.com
This has nothing to do with the quality of the book, but we have here the most shameful example of ballot-stuffing I've ever seen on Amazon. Of the first 32 reviews, 28 are five-star low-content raves from people who have never reviewed a book before (many with names like "A Customer" and few verified purchases), 3 reviewed one other book (and 2 of those mentioned that they know the author); only 1 is from a real reviewer. Moreover, all the five-star reviews get loaded with "helpful" votes to bring them to the top, the one negative review is slammed with "unhelpful" votes. I understand the temptation to have a few friends prime the pump with favorable reviews, but get some people who actually review books on Amazon to post reviews with some information; and limit it to two or three; and forget the rigged voting.
This is an extraordinary account of what it feels like to trade--and a book with the literary merit to electrify readers with no interest in Wall Street. Most books by traders, such as Victor Niederhoffer, Nassim Taleb or George Soros, filter the raw mental processes through a layer of rationalization. The authors want to impress you with their intelligence, not let you see their inner demons. Dillian is unfilted. Readers should be warned that means lots of farts, snot, bruises, vomit and other impolite things, and this in a book without a trace of grit. We never feel or smell these things, they are like crude graffiti neatly written on the wall of an antiseptic bathroom. Virtually every character (definitely including the author) is insulted and demeaned in ways that are highly incorrect politically. His customers are dirty, douchebags, hicks, slow or dozens of other bad things, never anything good. His coworkers are 95 percent bad things, 5 percent good (but only briefly).
Women, in particular, incite a constant obsessive objectification--and this in a book with absolutely zero sex. The only two women in the book who do anything other than provide a show for junior high school level crude lewdness, are his two psychiatrists who are described only as the "Russian model" and "startlingly attractive". Two words each for the medical professionals who saved his sanity, and only about appearance. His wife is barely in the story, except for a very crude sexual slur by another trader. The electric fan story is sufficient grounds for a sexual harassment suit. But it's not only women. Race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, weight, taste in music or clothes and anything else is grist for unpleasant smears.
However, this is not a crude rant, it is a Tourette Syndrome release of tension that is very common among traders. I have never seen it captured on paper like this. Polite authors pretend it doesn't exist, superficial ones treat it as a humorous foible. No one else, as far as I know, has had the honesty, writing talent and courage to expose it in himself. You don't understand traders if you don't understand their need to short-circuit the part of the brain that censors inappropriate behavior.
This book is not an insightful account of mental illness. For most of the book, the author acts like a "seami alki," that is an alcoholic with self-esteem and anger management issues, a combination sufficiently common among traders to require a slang term. His struggles with bipolar and obsessive-compulsive issues are treated matter-of-factly, accurate without being revealing. In fact, Dillian's clinical issues may mislead readers into treating his account as an unusual one. You don't need to be crazy to act like a trader.
The book is also not a useful account of how Wall Street works or why Lehman Brothers failed. The author's understanding of these things is about the level of fulminating editorials by people with no experience in finance. By tradition, it takes thriving through three complete market cycles to acquire trading wisdom. The author made it only though half of one cycle, and the upswing half which is less educational than the downswing. He is like a race car driver who knows little about automotive engineering, physics or how NASCAR makes money. He doesn't have to know those things to drive, he needs only practical intuition, and his ignorance makes his descriptions of the thrills of racing more honest because it's not filtered through what he learned from books.
Unfortunately, the book could perpetuate some false beliefs. There is no positive mention of risk management in this book. The author seems to trade whatever he likes, for whatever reasons he like, in whatever size he likes, without oversight or coaching. Now Lehman had some risk management issues, but letting junior traders run wild was not one of them. Lehman actually had very good trading floor risk management, better than many other firms. Dillian implies that if you made money you were a hero, however many rules you broke. This is definitely not true. Making money was a necessary, but not sufficient, condition of success. The firm required consistent, explainable profits from risk-controlled strategies (on the trading floor, but unfortunately not in every department).
Both the firm and the economic environment conspired to disguise any capital or funding constraint on trading, and the author dealt only in liquid, exchange-traded securities. Lehman's middle and back offices took care of much of the plumbing. This makes his experience somewhat narrow. It's not inaccurate, but it's only part of the story.
So read this book to understand what a trader does, and how he does it, and how he feels about doing it. Do not read it for deep understanding of either finance or mental illness. Read it for the pleasure of an exceptional writer tackling an important profession with breathtaking skill, courage and honesty. But don't believe any of it, except the feel.