Daily Briefs: Econocalypse, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE. Plus: a look at upcoming books!

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Old-Timey Down-Home Global Depression Pig-roast and Hoedown: Over the weekend, your stepdad’s weird bachelor friend, Joe Nocera at The New York Times, did a great job of explaining the doctoral-level complexities of the near-collapse of insurer AIG to a bunch of indifferent General-Ed freshmen wearing Juicy brand casual wear and chewing strawberry Hubba Bubba (you). Basically, without all the underlying math, AIG made a bunch of risky bets, but they had an awesome reputation, so a bunch of other international companies with foreign accents and uncomfortably revealing Speedo torpedo thongs, used the company as the crumbly, rotting foundation of their own bubble fortunes. Now they’re all in trouble, too; thus, the need for the treasury to clasp AIG to its pliant, yielding bosoms. Gratuitous breast imagery notwithstanding, the article really is pretty great.

Now, two days later, AIG is reporting that they lost 62 billion Americos and will receive still yet another transfusion of federal money provided by Time Magazine’s You. This would be the fourth infusion of cash; this company really is like a nineteen-year-old socialite with ADHD, a nasty coke habit and a debit card. Josh Marshall wants to know why, if AIG is such a problem for the international banking system, the United States is the only country printing money and shoving it into AIG’s gaping, smelly pie-hole.

The Year of Glad: Are you a fan of maximallist experimental fiction characterized by keenly observed interiority, the pursuit of empathy in the context of a grindingly banal and alienating society and liberally studded with discursive footnotes? Congratulations on your monocle and mortarboard, Professor Owl. But while you’re deconstructing Jaques Derrida and crunching on the tiny field mice you capture in your dangerous but highly educated talons, here’s a thing: late novelist David Foster Wallace left behind a sprawling, unfinished manuscript called The Pale King, which will be published in 2010 ( 2010 is “The Year of Glad,” in the Subsidized Time of Wallace’s Infinite Jest; I am such an embarrassing prancing fancydancer that it is amazing my girlfriend lets me touch her) and in which The New Yorker suggests Wallace was attempting to jettison many of the stylistic conventions and tropes he developed over his career. The irony, the clever, multiply-claused sentences, the narrative fragmentation. Stuff which anybody who loves his previous books might have been hoping for. Uh, sorry?

But face it: Brief Interviews With Hideous Men was already pretty chilly and unlovable, except to Professor Owl types, with their fancy liberal arts degrees, binocular vision and 135-degree cranial rotation; you could sort of admire its innovative narrative surprises and razor-sharp evocation of character, but at the end of the day, that one was pretty grim. Still, the book delivers exactly what the title promises, you guys, it really stretches your Existential Dread dollar which is so important these days, what with all the money evaporating. Signed, the Smart Shopper. Also, this has been Reading Rainbow with Lavar Burton.

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