God and Mammon is a long essay, or chain of essays, published as a short book (163 pages). I meant it to be a sort of experiment in ways of using the essay, that wonderful form, to connect public lives with private lives, and to link the distant American past with the surreal career of the year 2020. My idea was not to write a formal treatise on economics or monetary history but rather to talk about what I call “the emotions of money”—the psychological and cultural reverberations of that immense American subject.

I would focus on money as the American subject. I wanted to talk about its presence—or its absence—in a few characteristic lives, including my own and those of my parents, who came of age in the Great Depression. I would do reverence to America’s bitch goddess, Success, and to the even nastier bitch, Failure.