Fenichell, Stephen 1956-
FENICHELL, Stephen 1956-
PERSONAL: Born April 22, 1956, in New York, NY; son of Stephen S. (a writer and editor) and Lois (a historian; maiden name, Forde) Fenichell; married Carol Goodstein, March 4, 1995; children: Loisa Anna, Aaron Forde. Education: Harvard University, A.B., 1977; Trinity College, diploma in Anglo-Irish literature, 1978.
ADDRESSES: Home—523 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. Agent—Julian Bach, 747 Third Ave., New York, NY 10017.
CAREER: Writer, 1977—.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Harvard Club.
Daughters at Risk: A Personal DES History, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1981.
Other People's Money: The Rise and Fall of OPM Leasing Services, Anchor/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1985.
Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century, Harper-Business (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Mark Mobius) Passport to Profits: Why the Next Investment Windfalls Will Be Found Abroad, Warner Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Scott Bedbury) A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the Twenty-first Century, Viking (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to magazines and newspapers, including Channels, Penthouse, Diversion, Mademoiselle, New York, and Connoisseur.
SIDELIGHTS: Journalist Stephen Fenichell has written on a variety of subjects relating to contemporary business practices. His first book, Daughters at Risk: A Personal DES History, recounts the story of women exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen prescribed to millions of pregnant women from about 1938 to 1971. DES was thought to protect against miscarriage, but this proved not to be the case; it was later found that children exposed to DES in utero carried a high risk of many diseases, including vaginal cancer, infertility, and changes in the structure of reproductive organs. Huge numbers of individuals affected by DES have sued the companies that manufactured the drug, and have been awarded financial compensation.
In Other People's Money: The Rise and Fall of OPM Leasing Services, Fenichell reports the rise and fall of Other People's Money (OPM), a company that became one of the biggest leasers of mainframe equipment but never turned a profit; in fact, the company accumulated losses of approximately 190 million dollars. OPM was founded and run by Mordecai (Mordy) Weissman and Myron Goodman, whose business plan was to offer the lowest rates to potential customers; this brought them a huge volume of business, yet they continued to lose money. Despite these losses, as Nation reviewer Sol Yurick pointed out, Mordy and Myron "lived very well. Their enterprise expanded internationally, their offices were sumptuous, they held many celebrations attended by people from all over the country . . . they contributed heavily to charities, they were constantly on planes, first class . . . they bought mansions on Long Island, and also, they schmeared heavily in order to get contracts." They also, apparently, employed questionable accounting practices and tax dodges, the details of which Yurick felt Fenichell should have explained more fully. Noting that the author "writes in a breathless style: short, punchy paragraphs and sentence fragments," Yurick found the book "entertaining reading."
A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the Twenty-first Century, which Fenichell co-wrote with business coach Scott Bedbury, is another look at savvy business techniques. Reviewers found the book an informative guide to the subject. Investment strategies are shared in Passport to Profits: Why the Next Investment Windfalls Will Be Found Abroad, a book outlining coauthor Mark Mobius's insights on emerging markets.
Fenichell's Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century received significant critical attention. "Plastic," Fenichell told Los Angeles Times interviewer Connie Koenenn, "is an American phenomenon. It defines the way the twentieth century has evolved into an artificial landscape with Disney World and shopping malls and theme parks—things that are all about surface." The book covers the invention and development of plastics, but its focus is primarily social, as Fenichell draws parallels between the new medium and social change. For him, Tupperware represents the 1950s fear of outside contamination, and Formica offered "protection against internal and external attack, eternally vigilant in its struggle to wipe clean the past." Silly Putty, in his view, is a symbol of existentialism, and Velcro signifies the tenuousness of postmodern commitments. New Republic writer Jackson Lears considered such insights "glib and unsatisfying," and noted that this perspective ignores the economics that drove the development of plastics and shows only a "one-dimensional market model." Other reviewers, however, praised Plastic. Mark Bautz in People Weekly described it as "quirky and informative," and a contributor to Publishers Weekly wrote that "This compelling, often surprising saga . . . will rivet your attention, challenge your preconceptions and open up new vistas of science, history, and popular culture."
Fenichell once told CA: "My journalistic interests have been in architectural and social history—including the history of New York City, high technology and its effects on social development, and biomedical issues such as DES (diethylstilbestrol). I am hoping to work more on East-West issues. I am also interested in nonfiction as dramatic art.
"I have been a freelance writer for four out of the five years since I graduated from college. (One year was spent in graduate school in Ireland.) Therefore I have been unemployed consistently during that time. The first nonfiction book on DES developed after I was contacted by a representative from a products liability firm based in Detroit (L.S. Charfoos), whose work in advancing the many hundreds of plaintiffs' suits arising from the DES debacle was, he felt, a viable basis for a book on the subject. He had the material; I was the writer; he was the active participant; I became, in effect, the observer. I felt this evolved into a worthwhile collaboration, particularly as the book developed (largely under the influence of my editor at Doubleday) into a very personal work based on the life of one woman who had been unlucky enough to be deeply affected, physically and emotionally, from exposure to this toxic drug."
He also noted, "As far as my view of nonfiction as dramatic art is concerned, I've found that the current publishing climate seems to actively encourage an artistic trend of rather massive proportions, namely the treatment of 'real life' stories in modes formerly suited only to fiction. Many critics have decried this trend, but, as in many other such developments, writers have insisted on their right to merge these once discrete categories. And the possibilities of such a merger have to date only been touched by the groundbreakers: Mailer, Capote, etc. This so-called 'New Journalism' has in fact grown into a new area of imaginative fiction. The recent award of the Booker prize in fiction for a nonfiction work by Keneally, Schindler's List, is a case in point."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
ABA Journal, August, 1985, Joseph E. Kalet, review of Other People's Money: The Rise and Fall of OPM Leasing Services, p. 76.
Barron's, January 3, 2000, Jim Coxon, review of Passport to Profits: Why the Next Investment Windfalls Will Be Found Abroad, p. 52.
Booklist, July, 1996, Mary Whaley, review of Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century, p. 1786; July, 1999, David Rouse, review of Passport to Profits, p. 1911.
Business Week, March 25, 2002, review of A New Brand World: Eight Principles for Achieving Brand Leadership in the Twenty-first Century, p. 20.
Economist, October 19, 1996, review of Plastic, p. S13.
Entertainment Weekly, August 23, 1996, Alexandra Jacobs, review of Plastic, p. 116.
Library Journal, September 1, 1985, review of Other People's Money, p. 193; March 1, 1986, review of Other People's Money, p. 55; July, 1999, A. J. Sobczak, review of Passport to Profits, p. 108; May 15, 2000, Mark Guyer, review of Passport to Profits, p. 141.
Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1985, S. C. Gwynne, review of Other People's Money, p. B2; August 20, 1996, Connie Koenenn, review of Plastic, p. 5.
Military Law Review, summer, 1986, Jayson L. Spiegel, review of Other People's Money, pp. 265-266.
Nation, July 20, 1985, Sol Yurick, review of Other People's Money, p. 56.
New Republic, December 2, 1996, Jackson Lears, review of Plastic, p. 50.
New Yorker, October 7, 1996, review of Plastic, p. 96.
People Weekly, July 29, 1996, Mark Bautz, review of Plastic, p. 27.
Publishers Weekly, June 3, 1996, review of Plastic, p. 69; July 5, 1999, review of Passport to Profits, p. 50; February 11, 2002, review of A New Brand World, p. 177.
Scientific American, February, 1997, Jeffrey L. Meikle, review of Plastic, p. 102.
Wall Street Journal, March 7, 2002, David A. Price, review of A New Brand World, p. A22.
Washington Monthly, June, 1985, Eric Lewis, review of Other People's Money, p. 59.
Washington Post Book World, July 21, 1996, review of Plastic, p. 13.*