My review of Michael Lewis's "Going Infinite"
Oct. 14, 2023
6:00 AM PDT
My hopes and dreams when I tucked into “Going Infinite,” Michael Lewis’ controversial book about Sam Bankman-Fried, were the same as they always are when reading our foremost chronicler of financial renegades and miscreants. First, I wanted to be entertained by Lewis’ honeyed prose and syrupy storytelling—the snappy character descriptions, the laugh-out-loud asides, the crystalline explanations of complicated subjects. Second, I wanted Lewis—who demystified bond trading in “Liar’s Poker,” collateral debt obligations in “The Big Short” and the net worth of baseball players in “Moneyball”—to once and for all explain to me how and why crypto is a giant scam.
Lewis satisfies one of my goals completely, and the other obliquely. Despite the valid criticism you’ve read elsewhere—that Lewis got rolled by his subject, that the great business journalist failed to dig deeply into the deposed FTX pooh-bah’s shenanigans, that the otherwise empathetic author didn’t consider Bankman-Fried’s victims—“Going Infinite” is indeed a wonderful read. It has all the Lewisian flourishes you’ve come to expect. Only Michael Lewis would wander into Bankman-Fried’s sleeping quarters, just minutes after the Bahamian police had arrested the FTX kingpin, to find a stuffed animal named Manfred he had been carrying with him on all his travels. “He’d had it since birth and refused any substitutes,” writes Lewis, “and so Manfred was about to turn thirty-one years old.” Moreover, thanks to the Act III that presented itself to Lewis in the form of FTX’s spectacular collapse in late 2022, this story has something all great narratives must: a beginning, middle and end. (Lewis is covering the epilogue of sorts with a podcast about Bankman-Fried’s fraud trial, “Judging Sam.”) Comparable to John Carreyrou’s book on the Theranos hoax, “Bad Blood,” or Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s tick-tock on the downfall of Harvey Weinstein, “She Said,” “Going Infinite” will have readers on the edge of their proverbial seats, even though they know full well how the story plays out.
As for elucidating the flimflam that is the crypto industry, Lewis gets partway there while expending relatively little effort on the task.