Young people besotted with glamour want to become movie stars, or World Cup winners. For Riya Jain, the protagonist of Ira Trivedi’s There’s No Love on Wall Street, a dorky pre-med student who bestows pet names on the frogs she dissects, the fantasy is less predictable. She wants to be an investment banker on Wall Street.
There’s No Love on Wall Street: Penguin India, 260 pages, Rs 199
Anyone who has ever had an 18-hour day in their life might find this dream a little impoverished, but Wall Street’s vistas of money, power, nightclubs and expensed cab fares are too much for Jain to resist. Once she schemes her way into a summer internship at “Goldstein Smith”, the view inevitably loses its sparkle, and Jain must claw out of the abyss of amorality, boredom and free junk food into which she fell so eagerly.
Watching her do it is not pretty. Trivedi recreates a Wall Street that is more The Devil Wears Prada than Tom Wolfe, but her callow young heroine is so lacking in self-awareness that the reader is never sure if this criminally vapid world is a satirical construct. One devoutly hopes it is. If investment bankers are required by their jobs to be quite so bored and boring, no wonder they’re paid so much to stay in them.
In Hollywood’s versions of Wall Street, as in Wolfe’s novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities, the inanity of the world is as clear as its devastating appeal: To the lupine men who work here, banking is dangerous, obsessive fun. But Wolfe and Oliver Stone, flaws and all, are fiercely ambitious stylists. Trivedi is not. When Jain explains how her obsession with the job has to do with the “glamour” of the lifestyle, enraptured by banker women in skirt suits and pearl necklaces, you wonder why she never opened a copy of Vogue in her life. It’s difficult to feel sympathy as she complains on page after page about having to work through endless slides of PowerPoint and correcting pitch books—isn’t this precisely what office sitcoms are for?
Vapid : There’s no fun on the Wall Street of Trivedi’s novel. Jin Lee/Bloomberg
The book’s plot gathers steam in the final third as Jain, rescued by a journalist friend, finds her feet and wins through. But it’s too little, too late. The formula that usually requires us to sympathize with the girl who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing cannot apply in a world where no one, least of all the girl herself, even knows the difference.