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When a person reads a good book, sees a great movie, or watches a spectacular performance, what do they take away from it? Some aspect will remain with them, forever associated with that experience for the rest of their lives. It can be anything from a funny line, to a dramatic scene, to a character with an irrepressible personality. Whenever I read a book, there is always some aspect or particular character that stays in my mind. Something about them makes them linger in my mind, setting them apart from others. After reading The Big Short, the thing that will remain with me the most is the radically unique characters. When it comes to unique characteristics that set you apart, many characters in the Big Short fit the bill. However, there is only one whose boss declares that he loves them and, “I have nothing bad to say about him except that he’s a fucking whack job,” (64, Lewis). Such a description is certainly memorable. However, it is not even close to being nearly as memorable as the man himself. Greg Lippermann had a persona that exudes craziness and strangely captivating rudeness that warranted the attention and memory of those who met him in the real and literary worlds.
The persona that Greg Lippmann exudes throughout the novel came to the reader in a unique package. If the only thing people knew about Greg Lippmann was a physical description, most people would not automatically assume he was a brilliant Wall Street stock broker. The common image of a stock broker on Wall Street dose not usual come from a man who sports hair “in the fashion of an 1820’s Romantic Composer or a 1970’s porn star,” (63, Lewis). It sounds as if he was attempting to pull off a suave, debonair, classy look that failed disastrously. That would be more common of a comic relief character rather than a serious, intelligent business man. Yet Lippmann’s success contradicts that theory in no short time. Even the wardrobe choices of “loud ties,” (63, Lewis) rather than the more subtly neutral colors commonly found on Wall Street, gave the impression of a big, brash persona rather than the more clam and intelligent one that clients seemed to expect when trusting someone with their money. Then again, Wall Street was described in the book to have been so mismanaged at this point, that no one seemed to care who they gave their money to. Taking that in to consideration, it is no longer surprising that this was a man whom seemingly intelligent people trusted with their money, even considering how is meeting with the Eisman group went. Setting appearance aside, there is no doubt that Greg Lippermann was a financial force to be reckoned with. However his personality was another area where he was memorable to the reader, because as a said earlier, it was best described as, “a fucking whack job,” (63, Lewis).
Whether you met him in real life or through the medium of literature, the personality Greg Lippermann exuded was only part of the persona cannot be easily dismiss from one’s mind. Lippermann was a man with a personality that very few people were likely to forget. This is made abundantly clear when the reader first interacts with him in the novel. When he is introduced as being the result of an experiment, “if a team of experts had set out to create a human being to maximize the likelihood that he would terrify a Wall Street customer,”(62, Lewis) a certain image begins to form. The picture the reader sees is of a man who does not meet the usual criteria of the successful Wall Street stock broker. If he is a near perfect example of someone who was designed to alienate customers it would be the logical assumption that his career would suffer as a result. However the reader, as well as those who knew him in real life, comes to find he is brilliant at his chosen trade. He tells us himself that, “whatever he’d been paid by his employer was not anything like what he’d been worth,” (63, Lewis). Lippermann made his clients and more importantly himself a fortune by playing the stock market game. He had a bit of a big head, but despite this was not a terrible human being. Those who knew him and interacted with him in the professional world all agreed that, “he simply evoked extreme feelings in others,” (64, Lewis), because of the strong differences in that existed in both his character and appearance that differed from what society deems normal. The reactions Lippermann’s personality produced were certainly strong; however this may have been part of his persona that seemed to break all the unspoken rules of Wall Street.
Yet another facet of the unforgettable personality that encompassed Greg Lippermann is that fact that despite his success in the industry, he broke nearly every unwritten rule of Wall Street in the process of earning it. Even the professionals he worked with were amazed at some of the things he would do. On more than one occasion he publicly announced to anyone who would listen that he had no allegiance to the company he worked for, he just happened to be working for them (64, Lewis). While this was a very common feeling amongst the workers of Wall Street, this was not something a sensible and successful person was supposed to admit, let alone announce repeatedly. To do so should have been career suicide, and yet he survived. Not only that but He continually hinted to anyone who would listen just how much this company he had no loyalty for was paying him and giving him in bonuses. He seemed to bring it up in the middle of a conversation, despite people continually saying, “but I didn’t ask,” (63, Lewis). Successful Wall Street brokers were supposed to be extremely tightlipped about such details, but the essence that made up Greg Lippermann did not seem to be able to tolerate any type of conforming to normality. Also, it shows us that he had a need inside of him that demanded he show how much he was worth to the world, perhaps because he was so dramatically different from the rest of the world. The more a person came to experience the persona projected by Lippermann, whether in real life or in the text, the more confused and befuddled they seemed to be that a man who completely disregarded the few rules in place in the stock market could be such a success. I know that I was certainly confused by him despite analyzing his character in preparation for writing this paper. Despite all of this, the controversy of his persona paid off in the end.
In the course of a lifetime, a person will meet hundreds of ordinary people and quickly forget them. However, they will also meet a handful of incredibly memorable people it is impossible for them to forget. Greg Lippmann was many things, but all of them were memorable. Whether the person he interacted with knew him in real life or in the pages of a book, his unique style remained implanted in their minds. Nothing about him was in any way a nod to conformity, whether it was in his appearance, the way he acted or the way he conducted business. He looked like a 70’s adult film star, had a personality that should have scared customers away, and broke nearly every rule he came across. Yet at the same time managed to be likable and great at his job. The more the reader learned about him, the more controversial and hard to pin down they realized he truly was. Lippmann may not have been the easiest person to interact with, but the reader will never quite forget the charming whack job of Wall Street.
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