Top critical review
Dumb, dumber, and greedy
on July 10, 2004
Having read a good but cautionary review when the book came out and having an interest in the topic, I waited for a copy at the local library. Good idea. Buying this book to learn something about investing would be like buying the stocks Denby chose to make money. At least the reader's intentions or motives would be a bit more rational. Denby apparently has watched too many movies and read too many great books. What he really needed was some good common sense.
The title is misleading. Denby's entire downfall is not based on his being "American" or a "sucker". Yes, he was greedy and willing to be gullible. He waxes eloquent on greed and envy. But these are besides the point. Yes, he listemed to precisely the wrong people. But his initial, critical, deadly mistake was to assume that he could make a million dollars in one year by not doing anything other than "invest". He was greedy, envious, naive, uninformed and lazy. He wanted so much to make that million that he ignored red flags, warning bells, and first-year business student advice on investing.
He has a cynical view of investing, based on Keynes' observations as to the risks involved. That pretty much explains how he thinks he can make a million in one year just by buying technology stocks in 2000. Denby also decides that taking risks means being irrational, that progress requires irrational behavior. What he fails to do is to listen even to the people who he indirectly accuses of having duped him; even Henry Blodgett told Denby to be more careful. Denby seems convinced that Alan Greenspan's effort to raise interest rates was the market's true undoing, This is a bad case of denial from the recent dot.com bust debacle.
Denby's self-absorption with his attempts to maintain his liberal, upscale, upper West Side lifestyle and apartment in the face of a pending divorce speaks volumes for his willingness to do incredibly foolish, shortsighted and greedy things makes this more of a lesson in how not to dissolve a marriage than any sort of morality play, note of sympathy, or tale of snake oil salesmen swindling a poor, innocent, well-read but naive movie critic. It is hard to feel sympathy, even for such a large, personal loss.