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Toy Story

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The Lost Tycoon style goes too far at times, as though Lewis were already practicing his funeral oration for Internet America, entranced by the speech's literary possibilities. Then again, the sheer unlikelihood of a sustained bull market that sometimes seems to be built on the prefixes e- and i- may well prove him wise. What's more, his comic fatalism seems sincere, part of his person, not his bag of tricks, and it contrasts nicely with Clark's utopian zeal. In one of the book's hallmark scenes, he goes with Clark to the Bay Area office of a buttoned-up Swiss bank. As part of an obscure vendetta against a European who owes him money, Clark intends to open a modest account (a couple hundred thousand dollars). The banker, a symbol of old-fashioned prudence, quizzes Clark on his tolerance for risk and his investment objectives. Clark just stares. The questioning, Lewis writes, "was a social gaffe, on the order of inviting the fastest gun in the West to court at Versailles."

Besides the echoes of Fitzgerald, there's a lot of Tom Wolfe in Lewis's book -- a vintage New Journalism verbal snazziness and a Wolfe-ish profusion of exclamation marks ("The customer was laughing! At the Bank Julius Baer questionnaire! At the Bank Julius Baer!"). Like both of his apparent masters, Lewis seems to want to make a statement about a period, not just a man, and about a general cultural mood. He achieves the effect, but at a cost -- a cost only high-tech hardheads will mind paying. By reducing the Internet craze to a grand yarn about one man's insatiable appetites -- for money, for stimulation, for a big sailboat -- Lewis has chosen roundness over detail, humor over complexity. More power to him. Troy, no doubt, fell for reasons besides Helen, but Homer would not have been Homer if he'd listed them.


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