Sunday, January 20, 2019

BOOKS: Bad Blood and The Swans of Fifth Avenue

I've started my reading year with a couple of excellent stories, one nonfiction, and one based on a true story. 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue - Melanie Benjamin 🎧 12h 46 min

The original Real Housewives? In the 1960s, a group of very rich, very elite women in New York City 'adopted' Truman Capote as their darling. He was openly gay, and a famous writer at the time, and they were all living large. Babe Paling in particular became best friends with Truman. This is the story of their friendship and how it all went bad. 
I spent as much time looking up the characters and the events to see how much was true, and Melanie Benjamin did a lot of research as it is pretty true to life. She explains in the afterward her fascination with Truman Capote of the '70s, whom I also remember, and that while the events are true, like the Black and White Ball Truman hosted,  the conversations are obviously made up. 

I had a great time listening to The Swans of Fifth Avenue, narrated by Cassandra Campbell, excellent as usual. It made me want to watch Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, although end of life Truman was pretty awful. 

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup - John Carryroo 🎧 11h 37 min

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the biotech company Theranos, is the worst of everything that can happen, and she reminded me of Trump. She had an idea for changing how blood tests are done, and even though she didn't have the technology, or the background to actually carry it out, she thought it was such a great idea that she carried on as if it actually worked. Which it didn't. 

But she had ambitions and connections which allowed her to get investments of millions and millions of dollars. She was an impressive person with strong convictions who convinced people of what she could do. General John Mattis, and George Shultz, former Secretary of State, were both strong supporters of Theranos. 

This was such a crazy story. The brashness of a CEO who doesn't take no, who expects loyalty from others but cuts them loose in an instant when there is a hint of disloyalty, uses non-disclosure agreements to hide any information that they don't want public, who says stuff and expects it to happen for no reason other than they said it even if it isn't possible. The other crazy part was the amount of money that was flying around when Theranos couldn't do anything! They were deceiving their ability to run the blood tests and signing contracts with large companies and not doing anything they said they could.

Some ex employees got concerned, and an investigative reporter, John Carreyrou, blew the whole thing open. It is stories like these that make me so worried about the idea that regulations are bad. Rampant capitalism can be terrible, and if an immoral person has no regulations, this is exactly what can happen.