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Reading Response: "Mansion: A subprime parable" by Michael Lewis

Alem is an entrepreneur and writer with an A.S. in digital filmmaking.


Interesting essay this, "Mansion: A subprime parable" by Michael Lewis.

It starts off as an informative inside look at both sides of the housing market, but ends up being a psychological theory of American cultural behavior and its consequences. The author considerers himself as "upper-middle class", which in his words is a sneaky way of saying, "I am well off" without having to say "I' m rich." After falling victim to Americas brainwashing he decides to move his family into a mansion only to realize that he did not belong in or need to be in one. At one point he goes as far to suggest the mansion itself was in agreement saying, "I turned my attention to survival. The mansion was not satisfied with making us uneasy. It wanted us out." After this statement he goes on to give examples of eerie, annoying, and unpleasant things that were happening in the house.

For instance, hearing the cries of a previous owners dead cat and getting a call from the equipment-supervisor about his unknown house surveillance system. At the end of this reading many sentences stood out to me but one of the authors statements really got me thinking. He says, "people who buy something they cannot afford usually hear a little voice warning them away or prodding them to feel guilty. But when the item in question is a house, all the signals in American life conspire to drown out the little voice." Why is that I ask? I have always wondered why rich people, mainly celebrities, always buy these big mansions. I mean just because you have a lot of money doesn't mean you need a 50 room estate to accommodate you, your wife and your 2 or three kids, and maybe a dog or two. Another thing, the people who buy these "homes" are rarely ever "home." They are usually out on the road making a movie or playing sports. Is it for safety? Do they want to protect themselves from the poor savages who live on fixed incomes? Are they superficial and vane to the point of excess over access? Or are their minds just trained to follow a basic formula, get rich-get big house? I think it's all of the above but, all of the above caused by the last of the above.

I've always wanted to live in a mansion myself. Why? After reading this essay I think it's because this country brainwashed me into believing that if a big house means success then the biggest house means the biggest success. Little did I even stop to think about the upkeep a mansion requires. Living in one of these things appears to be like owning a strip club, which was one of my other dreams (in my younger days). By the end of each month you have to pay rent or mortgage, lights, liquor, food, water, strippers(workers), surveillance, security, and the list goes on. No wonder all of these actors never have enough money even after making enough in one film for you or me to live off of for the rest of our lives. They bought a mansion!!! Some bought two or three!!! And they don't want to give them up. So next time I see an actor starring in a movie they previously wanted no part of or appearing in numerous movies back to back, I just may go online and see how many houses they own. What have we become?

This Essay can be found in a book titled "The Best American Essays" by Mary Oliver.

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