Finance Guy’s Verbal Aptitude Surprises Keith Gessen

Keith Gessen spoke with Bloomberg News about Diary of a Very Bad Year, his recently released collection of interviews with an anonymous hedge-fund manager—or “HFM,” as he is known (he writes for us too, sometimes).

Talking to a finance guy required Gessen to overcome prejudice, he tells Bloomberg’s James Pressley.

“When we put the first interview up online,” Gessen says, “a financial blogger said, ‘No, this is made up. There’s no way a hedge-fund manager would know all these literary references and use ‘solipsistic’ properly in a sentence.'”

But no!

Pressley: Hedge-fund managers are more sophisticated than many people think. Did that surprise you?

Gessen: It did. I went to school with a fair number of people who eventually went into finance. They were great guys, but they weren’t scholars.

“His speech was rich with metaphors,” Gessen adds. “The markets are sometimes so abstract that somebody who’s good with them, a good investor, develops vivid ways of describing them.”

In fact, Gessen himself was on one occasion humbled:

Pressley: In one interview, there’s an awkward silence when HFM mentions the famous short story “The Lottery.”

Gessen: I had not read it.

Pressley: How can that be?

Gessen: They skipped it at my school.

Finance Guy’s Verbal Aptitude Surprises Keith Gessen