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Considering how freely many Americans talk about everything from sex to addiction, "why does such secrecy still surround the issue of money?" ask Offill and Schappell (coeditors of The Friend Who Got Away). It's a conundrum they say arises from a host of core ideas about what it means to live in America: an ostensibly meritocratic society, where "only the self-made man or woman represents the vaunted ideal." This collection of personal essays by 22 writers strives to open the pecuniary dialogue, illustrating the complexity of the issue through alternately touching, humorous and instructive examples. One writer worries over his newfound yuppiedom as he purchases an elderly neighbor's apartment. In another essay, the wife of a firefighter killed on 9/11 feels "overwhelmed by managing the money [she's] been given." In a third, a frugal young woman is forced to auction her family heirlooms to discharge her mother's financial debts. Artists cover their well-heeled tracks for fear of appearing inauthentic, up-and-comers spend too much to bed sophisticated women and, along the way, the reader learns that talking about money is actually just talking about life. Which isn't such a big deal, is it? (Jan.)Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.