Cancelling Michael Lewis


“If you want to read a moral condemnation of crypto theft, you can get that anywhere. You go to Michael Lewis for character and story.”    –Matt Levine


Michael Lewis’s new book “Going Infinite: The Rise and Fall of a New Tycoon” came out this week. I got a copy earlier but only after signing an NDA that I would not disclose anything about it until after the publication date, which was Tuesday, October 3rd.

I watched the October first 60 Minutes interview Sunday night, as did everyone interested in crypto or Lewis. I had just finished Going Infinite, so it was fresh in my mind. The interview closely tracked the book, with no big surprises.

Well, maybe one surprise: An immediate and rabid backlash, saying: “Lewis has jumped the shark, his career as a writer is over, he beclowned himself, he has lost the plot; he is defending FTX fraud and the indicted felon SBF, I always knew he was a fraud/idiot/sycophant, etc. This 60-Minutes interview is unhinged.” My favorite Twitter reaction to the broadcast interview was “ARE YOU KIDDING ME?”

Let me remind you that none of these folks had read the book, which was deeply embargoed until after the broadcast (that NDA was very aggressive just to get it a week early for pod prep). My guess is those be the take-it-or leave-it terms if you want to do a rare 2-segment interview on 60 Minutes.

My biggest complaint about the book is that I had to read it quickly to prep for yesterday’s MiB interview; my normal process with any work from Lewis is to slowly, delightedly luxuriate over them, typically while on vacation.

Social media excels at just a few things, but none more than “Manufactured Outrage.” The mob mentality can be useful, and I wanted to tap into that vein of vitriol so I could find tough questions for Lewis, regardless if they were angry and uninformed. So I posed the question on Twitter: “If you were interviewing Michael Lewis on FTX & SBF, what would you ask him?

Mixed in with the vitriol and genuine ignorance were lots of really good questions. I cut and pasted two pages of them, and managed to work a lot into our conversation. Did you get too close to your subjects? (“I always get up close and personal with my subjects, this was no different”); How much did FTX pay you? (LOL); How did the death of your daughter affect your writing process” That’s something I won’t even attempt to describe here but instead encourage you to listen to his beautiful and heartbreaking response.

I got in as many Twitter questions as I could in our limited time. What makes Lewis a great interview is the same thing that makes him a great writer: Thoughtful, detailed answers that paint an engrossing picture of his subjects. If I had 2+ hours I would have let him wax eloquent the entire time. But there was so much to get to that I constantly interrupted him with follow-ups and new questions. Next interview, when we are less harried, I’ll do what I usually like to do with Lewis: Give him a small nudge and then stay out of his way.

I understand that Twitter engagement is down, and so to have any sort of response, some twerps engage in ever-greater outrage. Don’t just blame Elon, as Axios shows, engagement is off even more at Facebook. This sort of nonsensical bullshit is woven into the DNA of social media; you should expect stupidity and lots of it.

As to the mainstream media, the reviews in the NY Times, LA Times, and Washington Post have similarly been unkind. (Update: Longer profiles in The New Yorker and The New York Times are much more nuanced). And while I disagreed with the reviews’ key takeaways — I enjoyed the book a lot — at least these folks akshully read it before writing their critiques. Sure, they brought some personal baggage to the criticisms (some heavier than others), but so do the rest of us.

Speaking of which:

My disclosure: I have known Lewis on a professional basis for the better part of a decade; I’ve interviewed him a half dozen times, sat at a bar drinking alone with him late into the night, and have had a few meals with him. I have a good professional, working relationship with him as an author. After his daughter died, a mutual friend suggested I give him a call, and I said I didn’t want to intrude. She insisted, and I was on the phone with him (mostly listening) for about an hour. I came away impressed with his humanity, and his personal recognition that despite his recent tragedy – or perhaps because of it – he was very aware of how much good fortune had fallen unto his life.

I’m careful not to “imagine” friendships with famous guests of the show to whom I serve as a useful idiot, but he is a one-of-a-kind person I am very happy to know personally.


That mutual colleague who suggested I call him mentioned to me last December that Lewis would be in NYC for a few days around the 30th anniversary of Liar’s Poker, did I want to pull together a dinner?

On very short notice, the table looked like this: Michael Lewis, Richard Thaler, Jim Chanos, Matt Levine, Rebecca Patterson, Charity Dean, Dave Nadig, and myself. Our agreement was that SBF and FTX were not on the agenda (I imagine he did not want to get subpoenaed). But late in the night, after we all killed more than a few bottles of wine, he did say “Whatever you imagine it to be, it’s 10X worse.” I wondered aloud as to possible crimes and made some specific guesses – for which Lewis thoroughly disemboweled me. Chanos leaned over, and loudly said, “As your attorney, I advise you to stop speaking.”1 It was hilariously, delightfully humiliating.

I share those anecdotes so you know the biases I bring to this. My side hustle is that of an opinion writer and podcast host, and so my approach to interviews is different than that of an objective journalist. But I believe that full disclosure is the best policy, and so if you listen to our conversation, you have an informed sense of my perspective.

Lewis, for his part, laughs off all the criticism. He finds joy in writing, and while this might have been a different sort of book, it is thoroughly his, through and through. He shared what he saw from his “fly on the wall” perspective, and he lets the reader judge for themself what crimes might have been committed.2

He once surprised me, saying something I initially disagreed with but eventually came to recognize as truth: The book you write and the book the public reads are two different things. That was never truer than with SBF, FTX, and Going Infinite.

My suggestion? Read the book. At the very least you will find it informative and entertaining.


UPDATE: October 7, 2023

If you don’t want to spend 12 hours reading the book, spend 75 minutes listening to him discuss it.

MiB: Michael Lewis on SBF & FTX



Revisiting Liar’s Poker, 30 Years Later (April 22, 2022)

MiB: Michael Lewis on Pandemic Planning (May 8, 2021)

MiB: Michael Lewis on Coaches and Risk (May 25, 2020)

MIB: Michael Lewis, Podcaster (April 6, 2019)

MIB: Michael Lewis on a Writer’s Life (December 13, 2016)

Michael Lewis’ Portrait of Two Men Who Changed the World (December 5, 2016)



1. This was not the first time my counsel Jim Chanos had shared that advice with me.

2. Lewis also goes into more detail on his own podcast, Against the Rules. He brings on crypto skeptics like Molly White, and former Southern District of New York prosecutor Rebecca Mermelstein, and others, where it is very apparent he is not cheerleading SBF or FTX…


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