Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Cinder Buggy - part 23 - Chapters XLI and XLII - steel wealth and stock bubbles

Click here for Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 of my review of The Cinder Buggy.

      After reading Chapter XLI, I have a better feel of the entire scope of Cinder Buggy.  While the Enoch-Aaron conflict played a major role in the story, Cinder Buggy was about much more. The birth and growth of the American steel industry is one of the most consequential events in the history of mankind.  That fact is lost on most people today for a variety of reasons:

  • The near destruction of the steel industry in the past 40 + years and the American establishment's rationalization thereof.
  • The anti-capitalist, anti-industrialist orthodoxy that dominates establishment education, entertainment and information media.
  • Modern western life is defined by the debased currency. government dependency, bread-and-circuses culture that prevents the victims (all of us) from recognizing long term trends and historic events - even as those events change our lives forever.
      Cinder Buggy fictionalizes steel's birth and growth and inserts Enoch and Aaron (and their families) into that story. But the reader never loses focus on the historic larger context in which those characters exist. By reading the story, one gains a greater appreciation of steel's place in history.  Garrett, especially in Chapter XLI, shows the breadth and scope of this story.  Chapter XLI also continues plotlines that first appeared in Chapter XXXVI.   While Garrett based much of the steel story on the Enoch-Aaron conflict, he went beyond that conflict to show the steel industry reaching the pinnacle of success. 

      Garrett, writing metaphorically, attributes the events of Chapter XLI to a "sign" in the "financial heavens" [p. 336] and "that sign which stood higher and higher in the money firmament." [p. 339].  This reference is as close as Cinder Buggy comes to expressing a religious view - although he writes more explicitly on religious matters in the "Apologue" to American Story.  Garrett appears - over three decades - to have sharpened his focus on God and America's relationship to God.  The New Deal and its transformation of America is reflected in Garrett's sharpened focus between Cinder Buggy (1923) and American Story more than three decades later.  

      Chapter XLII tells the reader about wealthy people with more money than they know how to spend. They cannot decide how to spend their money or enjoy their wealth. They bounce from one pointless luxury to another.  Garrett had not yet encountered the tax free foundation that uses the immense wealth of an industrialist to fight capitalism long after its industrialist-benefactor has died

This is another example of the story being less focused because Garrett wrote in pre-New Deal times.  Had Garrett written Cinder Buggy post-New Deal, he would have depicted the newly created wealth of Chapter XLII in a far different light. 

       In discussing the public's rush to purchase the new steel stock shares, Garrett refers to "panics inverted . . . [that] have a large displacement in the lierature of popular delusions." [p. 345].  Garrett writes as if he had lived through the 1990's stock market bubble.  Fifteen years ago, the world's only copies of Cinder Buggy sat ignored in library archive rooms while investors (unaware of history) poured their retirement money into a large bubble. 

      That a novelist would  write of panic buying in 1923 - just as the bubble that would ultimately burst in 1929 was beginning - should be sufficient reason to study his books.  That the same novelist would be shelved for decades while generations of new Americans would pursue new inverted panics is worse than a tragedy. 

Click here for Part 24



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