Join us for a special evening celebrating the launch of THE COUNTING HOUSE, a new novel by Gary Sernovitz, appearing in conversation with Nathaniel Rich.
“Because we had a very bad year.” Thus begins the existential crisis of the Chief Investment Officer of a prestigious college endowment whose failure to hit his performance targets leads him to profound questions about life, his job, his marriage, parenthood, and the philosophy of investing—and reveals more about the hubris, delusion, brilliance, hope, and disappointment on Wall Street than any novel in years.
With its wry appreciation for the absurd, The Counting House may be the funniest novel ever written about American business. Sernovitz’s story is rooted in an insider’s knowledge—and the insider’s language—of real people and real firms.
Known throughout simply as “the CIO”, Sernovitz’s protagonist sits at the center of modern finance: hundreds of hedge funds, venture capitalists, stock pickers, bond traders, and private equity managers visit him every year, asking for money. He helms the engine room of the modern academy: the six-billion-dollar endowment he presides over allows the school to compete for students, faculty, prestige, moral purpose―and solvency. The CIO is a winner in bourgeois America's highest dream: "doing well by doing good."
And then all that he thinks he understands―about investing, about his own talents, about every choice and non-choice that brought his life to where it is―begins to fall apart. At first, slowly, amid endless fascinating conversations with his staff, his wildly talented (and sometimes hilarious) trustees, and the motley money managers that march through his office. And then quickly, in an epic showdown with a reclusive, legendary hedge fund manager, his university’s richest and most stingy billionaire alumnus.
Readers of this fast-paced novel, told mainly in dialogue, share in the thrill of a unique voice that blends high and low, literary and street-smart, numbers and people to tell a highly original story of the inner life of a professional investor: a story that reveals how the workings of modern life rest upon the market's unforgiving truths. Fans of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities and Michael Lewis’ The Big Short will revel in Sernovitz’s take on chasing alpha from the ivory tower.
Gary Sernovitz has spent the last quarter-century working in and observing how money works, from Goldman Sachs to nearly twenty years at a private equity firm where he is now a managing director. He has also brought his keen writer's eye to America and business through two previous published novels, a non-fiction book, and numerous essays and reviews in The New York Times, The New Yorker online, n+1, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere. A native of Milwaukee and longtime resident of New York, Gary now lives in New Orleans with his wife and daughter.
Nathaniel Rich is the author of the novels King Zeno and Odds Against Tomorrow and two works of nonfiction: Losing Earth, a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Award, and Second Nature, which features the story “Dark Waters,” adapted into a film starring Mark Ruffalo. Rich is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and teaches at Tulane.
The Chief Investment Officer of a prestigious university sits at the center of modern finance: hundreds of hedge funds, venture capitalists, stock pickers, bond traders, and private equity managers visit him every year, asking for money.