The Longer the Thread
Emma Lathen

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The Longer the Thread



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The Longer the Thread

Copyright © 1971 by Emma Lathen

Bias Binding
It is only in theory that competition and profit-maximizing have a Doric serenity; in practice they entail one battle after another. All men may be brothers, but Wall Street knows that Cain and Abel were brothers, too.
His seething subordinates, he knew, could be left to his secretary. Miss Corsa’s splendid indifference to human passion left her capable of suggesting to these two warriors that they prepare reports on the casus belli. Any woman who can tell a soul in torment to send a memorandum is worth her weight in gold.
Sewing the Wind

Thatcher was always willing to admire a political stance that rested on having one’s cake and eating it, too.



[...] Dr. Ramírez, like many a standard-bearer before him, was too busy deceiving himself to have time to mislead others.
Union Maid

There are, of course, different varieties of fame. One kind reduces its subject to living in the constant glare of publicity. If he enters a supper club once, he doubles its earnings for the next six months. He cannot get on or off a plane without flashbulbs popping. His marriages, his divorces, his children and his pet beagle are fodder for in-depth reporting. Then there is the other fame. The subject is virtually unknown to the world at large. His private life can be conducted with decent decorum. But within a restricted group he assumes the dimensions of an epic figure. As the inner circle consists of all the people whom he ever wants to influence, cajole, persuade or terrorize, this is a very satisfactory state of affairs.

“But a riot is a triumph of confusion. Everyone loses his identity. A rock flies out from the middle of a mob, and an ROTC cadet has a fractured skull. A shot is fired from a crowded student union, and a policeman lies dead. This does not simply mean harder work for the authorities. It means young people cease to be themselves and do things they would not otherwise do.”
Cutting to Size
“I don’t know how she thinks up some of these things. Did I tell you she called him an avocado without a pit?”



Pins and Needles

Elena Aguilera clearly enjoyed the effect she produced. As the conversation proceeded, Thatcher decided that one element of her considerable charm was the unspoken invitation to share her own delight in her performance. Now she had lifted her fan and was peeping over it in open parody of the coquetry of a bygone age. But beneath the parody there was a playful confidence: Anything my grandmother could do, I can do better.



Blind Stitching
They would strike while the iron was hot. There would be conferences and memoranda and research reports. There would be preternaturally intelligent displays of hindsight. There would be reproaches made more in sorrow than in anger.

Volumes have been written explaining how to attain success in business as well as in life. They all append simple infallible rules. Build a better mousetrap, give the public what it wants, tighten the chain of command, watch the overhead, prune the deadwood, THINK—the list of precepts is endless. Both life and business have become too complex for anything so primitive as the Ten Commandments.

John Thatcher was skeptical of most rules of thumb. The supporting evidence was always so scanty. Doctors told him that eating wheat germ improved executive decision-making; business schools told him that charting break-evens guaranteed profits. Everything, of course, is possible but Thatcher had doubts about wheat germ, let alone those charts.

Nevertheless, the years had given him considerable experience with success, and he had some thoughts of his own on the subject. Success in life and business, as in football, came more often than not to those who kept their eye on the ball. A specific goal, distinctly defined and unwaveringly pursued, went far toward solving all intervening problems.

“You can’t believe everything you read, Humble,” he advised kindly. “Even about New Jersey.”

Their armories did not include propaganda, let alone bombs and bullets. They were going to risk dollars and cents. But they were on the front line.

For these men knew that change is inevitable. It cannot be staved off by wishful thinking. Accepting this, they were ready to venture into the arena of economic competition. Others, including the Governor, might settle the questions of form. Substance rested with Puerto Rico’s merchants, bankers and businessmen.

“Everybody churns out statistics. They’re all growth-minded. So you have to take everything with a grain of salt.”

This was a fundamental of the banker’s creed. Glowing balance sheets emanate from companies whose every asset has been looted; impressively large sums are inscribed on checks for which there have never been sufficient funds. Paper camouflages embezzlement, fraud and even worse crimes.

text checked (see note) Oct 2022

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