Slate Fare

Participatory Book Club

Katha Pollitt and Andy Serwer on David Denby’s American Sucker.

Book cover

Last fall we launched a participatory experiment in our “Book Club” section, inviting Slate’s readers to share their views on the book being discussed by our reviewers. (Here’s that experimental Book Club; the link to the reader discussion area is at the top of the page.) On Monday, Feb. 16, we’ll begin our second participatory Book Club, a discussion of David Denby’s American Sucker. Leading the Book Club as its official reviewers will be Katha Pollitt, a poet, essayist, and columnist for The Nation, and Andy Serwer, an editor at large at Fortune and a contributor to CNN’s American Morning.

Here’s how a participatory Book Club works: First, you need to get the book we’ve chosen. Read it by the deadline. Then, offer your views to other readers and Slate’s critics in a designated section in “The Fray,” linked to from the Book Club page. In fact, a participatory Book Club looks a lot like Slate’s standard Book Club, a review in the form of a multiday dialogue between two of our regular writers. The difference is the parallel discussion in the Fray. Our official reviewers will join readers in the Fray debate, and, we hope, draw upon observations from the Fray in their ongoing discussion of the book. Slate editors and writers will join in, too, and from time to time the author of the book under discussion will weigh in and answer questions.

And now for the book: American Sucker is a memoir of one man’s misadventures in the stock market during the dot-com boom and bust. In 2000, Denby, a film critic for The New Yorker,realized that his marriage of 18 years was breaking up. Hoping to hold on to his apartment, he resolved to make a million dollars off the stock market to buy his wife out. As an amateur investor, he was sucked into the frenzy generated by CNBC and Wall Street at the height of the boom. And he became friends with people who at the time were Wall Street celebrities but would soon become Wall Street pariahs. The resulting story is one of greed, obsession, and the American dream of self-improvement. We chose the book because it’s short, suspenseful, and sure to provoke disagreement.

Please join us Monday, Feb. 16, for the next participatory Book Club discussion.