So somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew this was a book. I saw the movie about a dozen or more times as a kid, the one with Richard Pryor and John Candy, where Brewster is a minor-league baseball player, learns that he has a dead uncle who leaves him $300 million under the contract that he must first spend $30 million in 30 days. He runs for president, he hires the Yankees to play his ball club, he invests in icebergs, and he ends up finding out that people are parasites.
The novel that it is based on has a similar enough premise. Brewster is an affable 25 year old man about New York who inherits $1 million dollars from his grandfather. An uncle of his who hated this grandfather decides to thwart him by offering Brewster an inheritance of $7 million, but before he can get it he must be completely penniless and without asset. He assigns a friend, curiously named Swearengen Jones, to oversee the venture with some vague buut basic rules about charity, bad investment, gifts, and what does and doesn’t count as an asset. One of the funniest and most fundamental problems he finds is that money makes money just by existing, so he has to overspend his interest. He luckily happens to leave in a world prior to Glass-Steagall, so when he loses 100,000 dollars when a bank goes under…it’s just gone.
This book is from 1902 and it shows. It’s a complete farcical novel, and ultimately not very good, but it’s funny and curious in a lot of ways. The most interesting part of the physical book to me is that the library edition I got was published in 1907. Shortly after the novel came out, someone wrote a play. And this copy has photo inserts from the stage play. So in a funny turn, this is almost a movie tie-in edition, a good 10 years or so before the first movie of it would come out. Also, get this: it’s been produced like 15 times as a movie, including four times in Bollywood.