“The easiest way into Wall Street is by the Hall of Delusions through which many have entered who forgot to return. That door stands always wide open. No legend of warning affronts the eye. There ought to be one, and it should read: ‘No Safe Conduct Here.’”
It almost boggles the mind that the journalist Garet Garrett wrote those words a little more than a century ago in his satirical book on Wall Street, Where the Money Grows. Although many books in this genre have appeared since such as the delightfully funny Gents with no Cents by Ron DeLegge, Garrett’s work has a timeless quality to it. Garrett’s depictions of characters that populate Wall Street like the Hoodoo (a one-time Master of the Universe who ran into some inevitable bad luck), the Manipulator, and the Wolf are completely relevant to today, except that they now have more powerful technology at their disposal.
Perhaps the most enjoyable chapter in this highly readable 66-page book is the final chapter, “Taking Trouble Home,” which depicts an imaginary but not unrealistic conversation between a Wall Street trader and his wife. Whatever harassment he received in the trading pits was just a warm-up for the haranguing received at home: “It seems to me you are never short of stocks when the market goes down. Can’t you see that the market is going down?” Naturally, she was only just getting started: “Yesterday I saw in the paper that one stock had advanced fifteen points in one day. Why couldn’t you have had that?”
Garrett’s portrait of Wall Street as a place where dreams are fulfilled or shattered rings as true today as it did in a time when only the most successful players arrived to work in their automobiles.