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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Edmund Andrews Encore: The Last on Busted, I Hope

Why does this guy still stick in my craw? After a flurry of news--both in mainstream media and on blogs--interest seems to have subsided. Why do I check the reviews of his book on Amazon every day? I think I figured out the source of my extreme irritation with him. Read on, if you are interested.

First, in case you don't know who this fellow is: Andrews had a piece in the New York Times with a neat twist: he was an informed economics writer for the paper of record and in dire financial straits owing to a mortgage that ate up most of his take-home pay. He presented himself as responsible for his folly--and then excused himself because he did it for "the love of [his] life." Somewhat contradictorily, he also presented himself as a victim of lenders gone wild. No links to Andrews: he's gotten enough publicity.

Then, Megan McArdle of the Atlantic, busted him in her blog. It turned out that his new wife had declared bankruptcy twice, the second time after they were married. Most unsavory was the revelation that her second bankruptcy involved wiping out a $29,000 loan from her sister.

So at first I thought my irritation with this guy came from his omission of relevant information that pretty much ruined his narrative. Then, when the responses from the mainstream media started coming out, my irritation increased.The New York Times presented Andrews as a victim of a scary blogger; NPR presented him as a nice guy with an oopsie. Now I know the blogosphere can be a nasty place, but all this reminded me of the vain efforts of the power structure to control new media back in the sixteenth century. Ye olde (then the relatively new) printing press was making it difficult for the power structure to control information. Flash forward to the English Revolution! I was really put off by the circling of the wagons around Andrews; cronyism ("I'll promote your book if you promote mine") trumped ethics, in my opinion. (No links to all this either; you're probably sick of all this too, if you were ever interested.)

And now for my finale: the source of my irritation. I figured it out! The book just came out. In it, Andrews presents himself as now having not paid his mortgage for 8 months. He claims he is waiting to hear from the lender about terms.

Uhhhh. Didn't he get his book contract a few years ago? Presumably. That would mean that his desire to present a narrative of victimhood shaped his behavior. This makes me question the choices he chronicles in the book, since he was writing about them as he made them!

I also find it interesting that his advance (he mentioned $30,000, not sure if that is the whole thing or just a portion) is about the amount he owes on his mortgage AND is almost the exact amount that his wife borrowed from her sister (which has been excused by the bankruptcy filing). So he has two good places to put that advance.

Thanks for reading, folks. Does anyone have anything to add or should I just give it a rest?


Duchesse said...

You go, Frugal! Perhaps Andrews is the James Frey of nonfiction, or not. But asking these questions is a good thing. I applaud the spirit of inquiry, focus on chronology and facts and asking, Who does Andrews' version of the story serve?

There was one line that set off my radar when I read his Times piece: "As for me, I had two utterly compelling reasons for taking the plunge: the money was there, and I was in love."

I thought, The money is NEVER 'there', it's a demand loan, you idiot. And love is wonderful but it does not justify big financial risk. She has no job, and you don't have the net worth to pull this off.

This is first I hear about her bankruptcies. What were these people pretending not to see?

Chance said...

I'm with you Dr. Scholar. When I first read about this, I thought there was something very fishy about the story and you named it -- the advance. I know enuf about publishing to figure he had that advance for at least 12 months if not longer. What was the book about before he didn't pay his mortgage for 8 months?

My partner and I didn't feel the need to stretch beyond our means and buy a new house (at the top of the market) when we got married. We are both in heavy student loan and credit card debt and agreed to not even think about a house until we paid it off. I don't buy the argument that love means debt. Anyway thanks for posting this, I have been troubled by his article and now I feel much clearer.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Duchesse--Do a google search on Edmund Andrews/bankruptcy or check out Boston Gal's Open wallet blog, or Megan McArdle and the Atlantic. Or even look at Clark Hoyt's discussion at the Times in defense/mild chiding of his fellow writer. Hooray for the blogger who sought out the rest of the story.

@Chance--I would really like to figure out the time line.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Chance--Oh yeah--and thanks for your comment! It is possible to have true love without a big house! Duchesse made that point too.

Funny about Money said...

What a pathetic story about those two.

Having a daughter-in-sin who soon will have to declare a second bankruptcy, I find it hard to feel a lot of sympathy with Andrews or his wife. As McArdle points out, there's a fairly common profile among individuals who declare personal bankruptcy. The young woman I know fits it to a T. Some unfortunate things have happened to her that appear, on the surface, to be none of her fault...until you realize that they happened because of previous unwise decisions--and whole series of interlinked foolish decisions--and because of chronic refusal to apply any of her considerable intelligence to basic financial management.

Some people script their lives as soap opera. Bankruptcy makes for great drama. Makes for highly salable books, too.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Funny--Is she going to marry your son???? Can you help with her financial education? (Of course, people only listen when they're ready.)

Bettykin said...


At the risk of re-irritating your craw, I had to add my 2 cents to this discussion.

Where do I sign up for the "who does this guy think he is" club?

I also blogged about him back in May during the Megan McArdle kerfuffle. (

I'd sort of forgotten about him until I read in the New Yorker that he's one of the NY Times reporters taking a buy-out in lieu of being laid-off.

Not to worry. I'm sure he's got his finances in order by now what with his book advance, all the money he's been saving by NOT paying his mortgage and, of course, all those book royalties.

Thanks for hosting a blog where common sense and responsibility still rule the day :-)

Frugal Scholar said...

@Bettykin--Wow! A blast from the past. I wish someone would do an update on this guy. Thanks for your kind words.