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The government had a massive, unprecedented plan to save the banks. We had the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and a truly globalized economy, both powerful cushions against what happened in the early thirties. It couldn’t get that bad again—could it? Yet the more I read the diary, the more I realized that no one living in the 1930s had known for certain that they were headed into a depression, either, until they were in its midst. And even then, they constantly scoured the landscape for signs of recovery, as we are doing today.

S. Army and joined his three brothers on active duty during World War I. At the end of the war, which coincided with my mother’s graduation from Oberlin, my parents were married in Cleveland. In 1919 my folks settled in Youngstown, where my father opened his law office. ). I recall little before 1934, though I clearly remember that my parents constantly discussed money problems and “pinched” every penny. When I was six or seven years old, I fell and cut my forehead. As I lay on the sofa, bleeding badly, my mother phoned my father (yes, we had a phone) and asked whether we could afford to have a doctor come to the house (no, we had no car).

Neither was he a trained economist or financial professional; especially in the early years of this diary, Roth seemed to genuinely struggle with some basics of investment and economics. He admirably held no illusions about his acquired expertise. As if constructing a kind of economic palimpsest, Roth would occasionally go back and annotate his earlier entries and did not hesitate to pronounce himself wrong. ) Perhaps most important, though, Roth did not have the novelist’s or screenwriter’s luxury of knowing where the story was ultimately going.

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