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New Left Review 99, May-June 2016

Nicholas Dames


More than thirty years later, the onset of the 1980s retains a darkly mythic pull over Western imaginative media. [1] Leigh Claire La Berge, Scandals and Abstractions: Financial Fiction of the Long 1980s, Oxford University Press: New York 2015, $78, hardback 230 pp, 978 019 937287 One memorable, iconic version of that transition is Paul Thomas Anderson’s 1997 Boogie Nights, where a murder/suicide at a New Year’s party coincides exactly with the opening moments of 1980; it is the bloody pivot moment in the film’s narrative of the capture and dismantling of an artisanal industry—in this case, pornography—by newly overabundant capital seeking any and all commodities to transform. The banner that stretches outside the scene (‘Good Bye 70s . . . Hello 80s’) might just as well be a Dantean warning. This is not just an American narrative; witness Elena Ferrante, in the final volume of her Neapolitan quartet, The Story of the Lost Child, offering a similar lament:

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Nicholas Dames, ‘Fictions of Capital’, NLR 99: £3

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