Essays, Reviews, and Comedy
Wall Street, Business, Politics, and Culture
What New Orleans Tells about the Perils of Putting Schools on the Free Market (Newyorker.com, July 30, 2018)
Are New York Taxis Such a Bad Investment? (Newyorker.com, July 17, 2017)
Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman: Princes of Tech Disruption? (Newyorker.com, May 12, 2017)
What “The Organization Man” Can Tell Us about Inequality Today (Newyorker.com, December 29, 2016)
The Thrill of Losing Money by Investing in a Manhattan Restaurant (Newyorker.com, September 9, 2016)
Why We Pine for Manufacturing (Newyorker.com, August 6, 2016)
What Tech’s Unicorn Cult Can Learn from the Art World (Newyorker.com, June 12, 2016)
What Hillary Clinton Gets (and Bernie Sanders Doesn’t) About Wall Street (Newyorker.com, December 10, 2015)
How Dodd-Frank Hurts Governors in the Money Primary (Newyorker.com, October 7, 2015)
Goodbye to Wall That: The Decline of the Trading Desk Memoir (Newyorker.com, August 26, 2015)
Edge and the Art Collector (n+1, July 22, 2013)
Outsourcing Jobs (n+1, December 20, 2011)
Oil, Gas, and Energy
Trimming Oil Output Won't Keep OPEC States Afloat (Wall Street Journal, October 18, 2016)
Can Liberals Frack? (New York Times, April 11, 2016)
Two Questions on the Legacy of Aubrey McClendon (Medium, March 7, 2016)
What Prohibition Can Teach Us About Climate Change (Huffington Post, February 24, 2016)
For the Internet of Oil, It's 2002 (Medium, January 17, 2016)
The Improbable Story Behind America's Fracking Billionaires (Newrepublic.com, November 1, 2013)
Private Empire (n+1, July 18, 2012)
41 Things to Do After Finding Out that Your First Child’s Due Date Is Donald Trump’s Birthday, June 14 (Medium, May 13, 2016)
The Madness of Airline Élite Status (Newyorker.com, February 22, 2016)
Google and the G Thang (n+1, September 16, 2015)
My Life as a Cellphone Holdout (Wall Street Journal, August 9, 2013)
I Do Not Want to Dance the Hora (Slate, June 29, 2012)
A Moral Equivalent of Football? (n+1, January 15, 2014)
Oklahoma State of Mind (New York Times, April 16, 2013)
Lost Generations (New York Times, March 9, 2012)
Dispatches from the Jewish Imagination (n+1, August 16, 2007)
Boiling & Pouring (n+1, August 22, 2006)
The Contrarians (2002)
"The Contrarians [is] a novel of ideas in a tradition not much observed in our own literature...Extremely clever."
— Richard Eder, The New York Times
A bold, funny, and insightful novel about a young Wall Street analyst's fall from grace.
Chris Kelch is at the top of his game, one of Freshler Feld's rising stars. At only 28, he's the #5 rated equity research analyst in his sector. He made nearly half a million dollars last year. And his personal life is on a roll: his girlfriend, the pampered Kersten Henry, couldn't be more supportive. Kelch's single-parent, lower-middle-class, Midwestern roots seem far behind. But when a thinly veiled profile of Kelch runs in a prominent magazine, his life begins to unravel. The article reveals "the truth" about Kelch’s character, equity research, and Freshler Feld. It raises accusations of intellectual sloppiness—and corruption. And it makes Kelch feel like a dupe: its author promised him that their interview would remain confidential.
Then Kelch’s marquee stock falters, and things go from bad to worse. His closest friends, his arrogant assistant, his no-nonsense mentor, the department’s celebrity managing director, and maybe even Freshler Feld’s CEO himself have questions they want answered. As the moment of reckoning—or escape—approaches, Kelch is forced to examine just about every assumption and decision he has ever made in his life.
With suspense and style, The Contrarians not only creates one of the most memorable "ordinary guys" in recent American fiction, it also examines, as no novel has done before, the culture and character - the rise and the seeds of the fall - of late nineties Wall Street. Writing with the same wit and exhilarating prose he brought to his critically acclaimed first novel, Great American Plain, Gary Sernovitz has created both a razor-sharp portrait of Wall Street and a uniquely original novel about what it means to work, live, cope, and succeed in contemporary America.
Great American Plain (2001)
"[A] rock-solid first novel...Sernovitz's debut is a trenchant, often touching meditation upon isolation, despair and thwarted ambition."
— Publishers Weekly
Edward Steinke, with all the ambition and steadfastness of his 24 years, believes in only one thing: Perfect Execution. This is the sales technique from the 1954 masterpiece Classic Sales: Theory and Technique, Ed's secular New Testament. Unfortunately for Ed, he is selling the Brackett 180-X piano organ at the South Exhibition Hall of a large Midwestern state fair, and Perfect Execution is proving perfectly useless. Barry Steinke, Ed's sullen, cocky younger brother and employee, is less than supportive: having already surrendered his adolescent dreams of becoming a rockabilly superstar with his group, The Hotels, he cannot understand Ed's commitment to professional success. Through the eyes of their parents, customers, and ex-girlfriends, we come to see that, in Ed and Barry's running struggle, what is at stake is nothing less than their conception of themselves and the world.
Between the brothers comes Leila Genet, imaginative but timid, frozen by life, who wanders the hall looking to escape into "the stupid happiness of the Fair." Barry falls in love with her. Ed falls into doubt, debt, and-perhaps-in love with Leila too. And then comes the surprisingly difficult matter of convincing Leila that neither of them are, in fact, as maladjusted as they seem.
Great American Plain is a cross between John Updike's The Poorhouse Fair and Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine-and, with its large cast, deeply humane vision, and three unforgettable characters, it establishes Gary Sernovitz not only as a uniquely gifted writer but one of the funniest voices to appear in years.