Richard Dienst's commentary on the financial crisis and its aftermath is framed by a question. Who, he wonders, "will write the history of these troubled times?"
Not Dienst. Instead, this is an astute portrait that collects an assortment of clever observations and contrasting characters - from Bono to Barack Obama - on one rich canvas. Indeed, his tracking of the "apocalyptic rhetoric" of late 2008 is exquisite: a crash became a slump then a depression and finally a "meltdown".
On the question of "how much debt is too much?", Dienst believes the answer is no longer the preserve of the insolvency practitioner working within failed models of loss adjustment. Rather it is something that has shifted from "economics to philosophy, from psychology to sociology to anthropology". Indeed, he plunders the tale of the Californian farmhand who secured a $720,000 mortgage - a story frequently used as an emblem for the excesses of subprime - to ask "why not?" His leveraged position, the author reasons, was no more incredible than those fashioned by Wall Street's so-called visionaries.