Fiction & Accounting Venn-Diagram

In honor of both my accounting finals being over AND my internship at American Short Fiction coming to a wrap, I am dedicating this post to accounting & fiction. Think of a venn-diagram – “fiction” written into one circle and “accounting” written into the other.  Here are just a few names that might reside in that overlap. I’m pretty excited about this attempt…

1) David Foster Wallace, a terrific and ground breaking fiction writer and essayist known for his ginormous book Infinite Jest. His last book was, you guessed it, about accounting. Searching around the NYT for a bit, I found this: “David Foster Wallace and the Literary Tax Accountant”.  According to the article, Wallace “pursued tax arcana with an exuberantly obsessive relish.” After enrolling in accounting courses and corresponding with a handful of I.R.S. agents and CPAs, Wallace came up with the world and characters of his posthumously published novel, the Pale King. A plus: his exchanges with various accountants (the brunt of his research) are housed here at the University of Texas at the Harry Ransom Center. Class field trip?

I think that Wallace’s interest in tax accounting /research was genuine. He studied tax accounting with a philosophical interest in system logic and ultimately built his book around the premise that “tax work may be the gateway to transcendent ecstasy.” A bit far fetched and absurd, yes, but let’s think: essentially, within our tax structure lies the minutiae, collective compartments, and number-coded ecosystems of our lives, no? Hmm…

2) Zach Helm. He wrote the screenplay for Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, starring Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, and Jason Bateman. I mention Zach Helm because his movies house some pretty endearing accountants.

Take Stranger Than Fiction. I love Harold Crick, an IRS agent sent to audit a local baker (Maggie Gyllenhaal). He starts to like her, but when she offers him cookies after a long night of work, he gives the standard IRS reply: “I can’t accept gifts.” All this reverses in one lovely scene. Watch here. (I guess I should include a disclaimer to the youtube clip – that yes as an *actual* accountant, one should care about auditor/auditee protocol).

I remember watching Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium when I was 23 (Natalie Portman’s character’s age in the movie) and feeling (I will divulge at the risk of sounding dorky) really moved by the premise of this movie, as if I, too, were Molly Mahoney (Portman). And now that I’m in accounting school, I guess I am a bit of a Henry (Bateman) too. Watch Jason Bateman doing his accounting thing here.

3) Hailing from the cold northern snowlands of Uppsala, Sweden; Asa Larsson, a tax lawyer slash author,  is one of my favorite crime novelists. If you’re looking for scintillating and chilling crime fiction and liked the Dragon Tattoo series, I definitely recommend her work. So good.

I think I’m out of space for now. This has been a pretty lighthearted post – for a lighthearted semester end!  Happy holidays to everyone.

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