Street Freak: Money and Madness at Lehman Brothers Hardcover – Sep 13 2011
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“[A] disturbingly candid memoir . . . the highly personal journal of a poor kid who quit the U.S. Coast Guard to chase his dream of becoming a trader. . . . His narrative crackles with authenticity . . . the dominant tone is unsparingly confessional and even modest. Dillian’s snail’s-eye view is what makes his book a valuable companion to previous volumes on Lehman. . . . From hair-trigger decisions to trashy banter, Dillian captures how the market feels from inside the belly of a trading room. . . . [A] blunt and sometimes hilarious account.” —Bloomberg
“This revealing, personal memoir of a volatile period in the dual lives of a big-time trader and the fallen American giant Lehman Brothers is depicted in the fueled words of Dillian, a major figure at the company. . . .Writ[ing] in a style that veers from gonzo lucidity to precise trader chatter . . . Dillian offers a candid look at the demise of a corporate behemoth.” —Publishers Weekly
“Thank God for the 3rd element, because if it wasn’t for lithium Jared Dillian might still be in the psych ward looking for his shoelaces. Instead, we get Street Freak, the best Wall Street memoir in a bunch of years. This guy can really f***ing write. Street Freak is more than just a great read, though. For anybody who’s ever gone off the rails, or thought they might, it’s a comforting reminder that there’s always a way back.” —John Rolfe, coauthor of Monkey Business: Swinging Through the Wall Street Jungle
“Always vivid, by turns hilarious and sad, this is an electrifying memoir about not only money and madness, but the madness of money. It left me wondering yet again about the shifting boundaries between sanity and insanity.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Summer Without Men
“A scathing critique of selfish, scrambling men so driven to earn a buck that they lose all sight of the world beyond the tickers. . . . Dillian hardly fit the mold of the rich, Northeastern prep-schooler, and his outsider status served as a great attribute, offering him a clearer view of an industry both morally and economically bankrupt.” —Kirkus Reviews
"A bipolar math whiz [and] amusingly caustic writer whose new memoir pulls no punches about a financial career that nearly cost him both his sanity and his life." —Fortune.com
About the Author
Jared Dillian is the founder of the subscription-based daily financial market report The Daily Dirtnap. He was a trader for Lehman Brothers from 2001 to 2008. He lives in South Carolina. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.See all Product Description
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I like to think of Dillian as the next Michael Lewis with a sprinkle of Bret Easton Ellis: Liar's Poker meets American Psycho.
Hats off to him for having the balls to say how he really feels!
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.
And, thankfully, this is more than just a book about Wall Street. Dillian is refreshingly honest about what was going on in his head through all of this. He leads us through the ups and the downs of both his personal and professional life, culminating in his eventual diagnosis with bipolar disorder.
I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to get wrapped up in a great story.
The characters are real and the trades are real. A department head is "a walking molecule of testosterone... who patrolled the aisles, rotating his shoulders and practically his entire torso just to tell people to go f--- themselves." And Jared recounts some of his biggest winning and losing trades with play-by-play accuracy.
While has-been traders like this reviewer will jaw-drop at how Jared literally moved markets on the "Street," it's the dark and deeply personal episodes of the "Freak" that make this a special read. Jared was a great trader, but luckily for us he's an even better writer.
It reminds me of the book about Jesse Livermoore: it is a first person view of a guy's way into and through Wall Street. The writing is entertaining and sometimes even funny and I found it found it hard to put down.