Playful yet thoughtful, challenging yet engaging with its four manuscripts of interconnected narratives resulting in, in part, a novel-within-a-novel structure, Trust is a fictionalised tale of an early twentieth century New York power couple. Or at least, that’s how it initially appears.
Through fiction, Diaz explores the fiction of money as Benjamin Rask becomes a wealthy man by playing the part of a wealthy man – a billionaire successfully playing the financial markets in the years leading up to the 1929 Wall Street crash and the resultant Great Depression. Yet the crisis makes him even richer – with more than a hint that through discrete sales earlier in the year, he was responsible for the crash. There’s a lingering sense that he’s pulling the strings of the national economy.
Whilst on the surface Rask betrays potential Great Gatsby traits with his extreme wealth, lavish parties and more, Rask and his equally aloof and eccentric wife, Helen, take little interest in New York society. Invitations may be at a premium but the financier leaves it all to staff – right down to the guest list. It’s not unusual for him to not even attend his own functions. To Rask the act of making money is all important through well-timed investment decisions. Focus is required – he attributes his success to his strong intuitive capabilities, intense research and his acute understanding of the financial world. Everything else is secondary.
Within the narrative of Trust, Rask is fictional character. Or is he? Andrew Bevel is concerned it’s too like him – so much so Ida Partenza becomes the secretary – and ghostwriter – to the financial mogul as he decides to put the records straight. And then the final section blows all the putting of records straight in all preceding sections out to sea. As Ida’s father says,
You can’t eat or wear money, but it represents all the food and clothes in the world. This is why it’s a fiction. … Stocks, shares, bonds. Do you think any of these things those bandits across the river buy and sell represent any real, concrete value? No. … That’s what all these criminals trade in: fictions.
It’s no easy read. But, unexpectedly, considering it’s subject of financial institutions, stocks, bonds, the making of money, it’s also engrossing.