Sunday, 13 July 2014

A Date with The Wolf of Wall Street

Author: Jordan Belfort
Type: Autobiography
Publisher: Two Roads
Pages: 518
Originally published in: 2007

Back in December/January when everyone was off to the cinema to see The Wolf of Wall Street, I was one of the most excited moviegoers. Having in my mind that I am a big cinema buff, whose favourite actor is Leonardo diCaprio and who puts Scorsese among her most favourite directors – this was obviously the film for me. Needless to say I loved it! But while other people’s reactions is usually to get the DVD as soon as it is out, my initial response was to go to my favourite Waterstones and buy the book!

By twelve o’clock I was dizzy, and I was starving. In fact, I was dizzy and starving and sweating profusely. But, most of all, I was hooked. The mighty roar was surging through my very innards and resonating with every fiber of my being. I knew I could do this job. I knew I could do it just like Mark Hanna did it, probably even better. I knew I could be smooth as silk.

Let me just say, usually I need a few pages to really get into a book, and after that I keep reading until I finish it, the same way an alcoholic cannot drop the bottle before he has every last drop of it. This was not the case. From the very first paragraph I was in, fully and consciously, Jordan Belfort had me around his finger, and I was hungrily taking in every single sentence he had for me. For yes, just like in the film, Jordan has this amazing persona that attracts people and makes them listen. This becomes plainly obvious in the book – on those pages you do not get diCaprio’s magnetism to lead you on; you do not get his seducing voice or flirty stare – it is plain words and they still get you. That is, the film does not exaggerate Jordan’s way with words.

Back in February: enjoying a chai latte and Mr Belfort's stories on the life of the rich and dysfunctional 

Now, the Wolf has not turned into my personal hero just because I admire his intelligence, wit and charisma. Unlike those fanboys, who suddenly decided that ‘this is the life’ and ‘he is the man’, just after seeing the film, the readers of the book will get an even deeper insight into Belfort’s life and internal struggles. Yes, he is a billionaire and he did cheat the system and whatnot, but do not think that there were not consequences in his life, or that he does not come in terms with his drug addiction. What may surprise you is that, generally, The Wolf of Wall Street is a story of a man, who has to face his drug abuse in order to save his marriage, his job, and even his personality, which is being completely altered by the non-stopping use of Quaaludes, cocaine… actually, frankly, whatever drug you can think of, he has probably taken it.

The book is a page turner. It is going to make you laugh more than a few times; will make you cringe a couple of more; will disgust you and make you seriously question Jordan’s decisions at other points. All in all, you are either going to love it or hate it, for the book has a character – Jordan’s character. And just as you have a strong opinion on him, you are going to have one on his book because he is not the kind of a man, or an author, that will leave you somewhere in the middle, with mixed feelings. No, it is going to be either one or the other. Personally, I loved it.

As for a comparison to the film – something inevitable when there is a book adaptation – the book gives a lot more detail (unsurprisingly). The best thing is, a good part of the book has found its way to the big screen – some of your favourite movie scenes are coming word for word from the pages. Even the unbelievable ones have actually happened (according to Jordan’s autobiography at least). But then after that, you get even more: you see what happens at the end, when he has to leave Stratton Oakmont; you witness the hell he goes through when he almost loses his new-born boy; you are there when he has to go to a rehab.

Nonetheless, it is a book on excess. On the overindulgence. On the constant hunger for more money, more drugs, more alcohol, more cars, more sex, more everything and anything. You are not going to like the young Strattonites, or the culture they are a symbol of; you might even be sicken by the way of living Jordan promoted, but if you want to know everything about it (and be able to criticize it) – this is the read for you.

“They were drunk on youth, fueled by greed, and higher than kites.”

Final verdict: if you are interested in these kind of stories – the poor boy who becomes a billionaire con-man and then loses it all – then chances are you are going to enjoy this one a lot. But it is not for the faint-minded – there is a lot of strong language and graphic content –proper 18+ material. Also, at 518 pages, it is quite a long read. Then again, as soon as I finished it, I started looking around for Catching the Wolf of Wall Street….

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