LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS - 8 JUNE 2013
IN THE EARLY 2000s, an otherwise unremarkable student named Ken Ilgunas was half-heartedly working as a Home Depot clerk and attending class in upstate New York. He floated through life, playing video games, racking up debt. Then, one day, his mom said they needed to talk. About money:
I was soon going to enter the real world with an unmarketable degree (a B.A. in history and English) and because I had absolutely no idea how I was going to pay it off, the debt, to me, was more than a mere dollar amount. It was a life sentence. And soon enough, I'd be behind the bars of the great American debtor's prison, alongside the other 36 million Americans.
Awakened to what would grow to be a $32,000 yoke — and his rank among those other strapped millions — Ilgunas begins to have dark thoughts, including the stirring image of his lifeless body, tied by his neck to the Christmas train, circling the lumberyard, where he earned a minimum wage.