The Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort (2 out of 5)
I have seen this book for awhile at the store but kept putting it back. Then word leaked about the Martin Scorcese film with one of my favorite actors (Leonardo DiCaprio) starring as Belfort. It’s no secret to anyone that I have a huge fixation with the decade of excess, so naturally this is the sort of book I would enjoy. I wasn’t able to put it down. It was like a car accident in the toy aisle at your local Walmar. The best description I can give (in a semi-coherent manner) is Wall Street the movie meets Less Than Zero the book.
Jordan Belfort is precisely the type of corporate pig I would not mind roasting on the nearest spit. However, for all of his misdeeds, mistakes, and misdemeanors, you find yourself unable to put it down. Even for just a bit. There are never any sort of apologies or excuses for his myopic, miscreant behavior. He’s incredibly forthright about what he did, with whom, when, and how much money he blew through. Quite the story, but not an altogether original tale, as anyone who has read a biography of someone who worked in the stock market sector in the 1980’s, knows. The 1980’s were fittingly named The Decade of Excess, and this book is a testament to some more wild and crazy times at the expense(s) of others. Not much is mentioned of what happened to Belfort after the good times roll. Maybe that’s best left up to our imaginations, or read his followup book Catching The Wolf Of Wall Street. I think I will leave it with just this book. Belfort’s a little bit too narcissistic for my liking, and that’s saying something considering some of the books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen.
Some history may be helpful if you live under a rock and haven’t seen the trailer or heard of the movie being released. Jordan Belfort started and ran one of the largest brokerage firms in the later 80’s. He was banned from trading for life in the mid 90’s, and did time for his money laundering activities. The book is his memoir of that time. Any excerpt where they discuss wild spending, wild sex, wild drug usage, and widespread criminal activity, well, is more than a little accurate. That’s it. To a tee. There’s not much humanity to be found with Belfort; but with a book lineup card like that, did you expect there to be? There’s a wife and child at home, and of course there’s the requisite fallout from his philandering ways with hookers and is found out.
One of the things that did bother me was that I was hoping there would be more background on the HOW of Belfort’s dirty deeds done at the expense of others. He never really explains the finer workings of the inflatable dog and pink pony show that he was running at Stratton Oakmont (really, could a snootier name be found?). If you’re going to write a book based on swindling others out of millions of dollars in a mirage of a stock market, people reading that book kind of want an idea of HOW it got to that point. You don’t get that. You get Belfort’s daily affirmations of greed and gluttony. You also get the worst fucking phrase I have EVER read in a book: “luscious loamy loins.” It’s repeated several times. Unfortunately. As is the hooker hijinks from which the horrid phrase sprung.
I could sit here and say I wasted my time reading this because he’s a machischmo schmucko (phrase doesn’t exist but it’s still better than “luscious loamy loins”) and he reviled me. True enough. However, he succeeded in the capturing of the attention of the person reading it. I have had a hell of a time getting into ANY book in the past month, and this one I managed to get through in two days. Because he does capture your attention and keeps it until the end of the book. The Big Bad Wolf he may be, and The Big Bad Book it may be, but it is addictive reading. And yes, it’s true that I enjoy highly scandalous biographies of high-profile weirdos and louses, and this was no diffferent. Except that it’s now a movie directed by a highly talented director and starring a highly talented actor. And for that alone, you should at least give the book a shot. You could easily just see the movie without the book, but why? If anything, you have more material to compare and contrast with what Hollywood pumps out of this book.