Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A review of Frozen Desire by James Buchan

This review appears on Amazon here. Please head on over and click that like button if this review flicks your bean of value or pulls at your protuberance of persuade-ability.

5 stars - A truly unique and brilliant work that makes a significant contribution to our understanding of money

"Previous reviewers have had trouble catagorising this 1997 book. The loose consensus seems to be around it being a history of money. I think though, its better described as a biography of money, or perhaps money's memoirs.

Broadly speaking, the book does proceed chronologically, but it focuses in on money's most memorable moments; the birth of coinage in Lydia, Judas's betrayal of Christ for thirty pieces of silver, Columbus and the Gold of the Americas, John Law (the best portrait of the man I've read), etc. All the while Buchan draws on a quite staggering knowledge of literature and history to create a rich narrative for money which he grounds in a few carefully chosen vignettes detailing some of his own experience with money.

In terms of other writing about money it sits somewhere between Marc Shell and Glyn Davies (admittedly a big space). Although it's not an academic work per se, it lacks none of the rigor or detail of academia but the writing is less economical. Indeed, it can be a little too flowery for my taste at times. Also, Buchan has the habit - which tended to grate with me - of splitting up sentences with hyphens, making the reading of the book harder than it needed to be.

However, these are minor points against what is a truly unique and brilliant work. I'd give it six stars if I could. Whilst I'm not convinced by Buchan's central thesis, that money is frozen desire, I am deeply impressed by his knowledge, I was enthralled by the telling of money's story, and believe this book to be a significant contribution to our understanding of money."

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