It had to happen. Someone who lost a fortune in the scandalous Madoff swindle would write about it and get a book contract. What’s amazing to me is the speed at which this double transformation transpired. Madoff was charged with massive fraud on Dec. 11, 2008.
Six days later, one of his victims, Alexandra Penney, an artist, best-selling author, and former editor of Self magazine, had begun a blog called The Bag Lady Papers on Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast website. She describes googling “The Hemlock Society” as one of her first reactions to the news. She begins taking the subway for the first time in 30 years. She describes her maid Yolanda as being like family but plans to fire her two days after telling her the news about her great loss. She fears she will now have to iron her 47 crisp white shirts herself.
During seven weeks of misery shared online, Bag Lady elicited thousands of comments to her blog, ranging from sympathetic to snarky to enraged. A number of the comments attack her writing for being pretensious and shallow. There is little evidence in these four long posts that the experience of material loss leads to spiritual gain.
But it does lead to material gain. Today the New York Times announced that Penney has a lucrative book deal. Looks like she won’t be a bag lady after all. In this case, a penny squandered on Madoff is a Penney earned.