We live – it seems undeniable – in an era of crises: the global financial crisis, the debt crisis, the cost of living crisis, the housing crisis, the population crisis, the constitutional crisis, the public spending crisis. These crises, amongst a swathe of others, punctuate our collective stagger towards and beyond our own personal debt and mid-life crises. With so much to worry about, it’s tempting to respond to the less pressing crises occurring simultaneously in the academy – in economics or the humanities, for example – with a resigned shrug of the shoulders. If we’re all doomed anyway – powerless to do anything on our own – why bother worrying? Grab what you can, defend what you have, and let the devil take the hindmost. In 1990 Saul Bellow lamented the ‘distraction […] which obviously originates in the endless crises of this century’ (155). Post-2008, with despair threatening to replace hope, it’s tempting to sympathise with Benno Levin, the washed-up and doomed nihilist of Don DeLillo’s novel Cosmopolis (2003), when he asks ‘what is left that’s worth the telling?’ (61).
Christopher Hartley, “‘What is left that’s worth the telling?’: Novels of financial crisis, and the compelling case of Don DeLillo.” Open access.