Can an Economist Write a Great Novel?

Michael Klein is an economist at the Fletcher School (and a good friend of mine).   MIT Press will soon publish his first novel called Something for Nothing.

Here is a quote from the publisher about the book’s plot.

“David Fox (Ph.D. Economics, Columbia, Visiting Assistant Professor at Kester College, Knittersville, New York) is having a stressful year. He has a temporary position at a small college in a small town miles from everything except Albany. His students have never read Freakonomics. He thinks he is getting the hang of teaching, but a smart and beautiful young woman in his Economics of Social Issues class is distractingly flirtatious. His research is stagnant, to put it kindly. His search for a tenure-track job looms dauntingly. (The previous visiting assistant professor of economics is now working in a bookstore.) So when a right-wing think tank called the Center to Research Opportunities for a Spiritual Society (CROSS)–affiliated with the Salvation Academy for Value Economics (SAVE)–wants to publish (and publicize) a paper he wrote as a graduate student showing the benefits of high school abstinence programs, fetchingly retitled “Something for Nothing,” he ignores his misgivings and accepts happily.  After all, publication is “the coin of the realm,” as a senior colleague puts it.

But David faces a personal dilemma when his prized results are cast into doubt. The school year is filled with other challenges as well, including faculty politics, a romance with a Knittersville native, running the annual interview gauntlet, and delivering the culminating “job talk” lecture under trying circumstances. David’s adventures offer an instructive fictional guide for the young economist and an entertaining and comic tale for everyone interested in questions of balancing career and life, success and integrity, and loyalty and desire.”

Author: Matthew E. Kahn

Professor of Economics at UCLA.

10 thoughts on “Can an Economist Write a Great Novel?”

  1. Wrong question. The relevant prize for first-time academic novelists is this one. “The silky involutions of the DSGE model parted moistly under his probing fingers …”

  2. How dare those students not have read Freakanomics! I mean what will a professor do when he can make smirking asides to his students based on questionable studies that have surprising results when written that way?

  3. I can think of a couple of people in the business world (insurance, banking) who wrote great poetry in the last century. Why not a great novelist & economist?

  4. The better question is, can a writer create a great economy? Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, no doubt.

  5. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world

    When the mode of the music changes
    The walls of the city shake

  6. Kenneth Grahame, the author of The Wind in the Willows, was a central banker. Does that count?

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