On The Loss Of Tanta : Planet Money Alex mourns the loss of a talented writer and clear thinker who made his work possible.

On The Loss Of Tanta

I woke up this morning to a bit of 21st century bad news. I learned that one of my favorite bloggers, Tanta, at the indispensable finance and economics blog Calculated Risk, had passed away.

I was quite shaken to learn of her death, over coffee this morning. I've never met Tanta, I didn't know her real name, or what she looked like, or where she worked, or how old she was. What I did know was that she knew a lot about mortgage finance, and yet, unlike most of the other people I talked to who knew a lot about mortgage finance, she wrote about it clearly, with attitude and a sense of humor and a point of view.

Tanta was a former humanities major turned finance nerd, and her posts often displayed a rare fluency in both numbers and poetry. Her posts could be 10,000-word treatises on the arcana of mortgage origination channels, for example, or passionate and strangely poetic essays about the dangers of consolidation in the mortgage industry.

That's not to say this second category was really any more suitable for beginners. I always wanted to forward my friends links to her posts, but unless they'd been steeping themselves in details of mortgage securitization as I'd been doing for the last year and a half, they wouldn't understand the brilliance of her words. It was like discovering a great author, but who writes in a language that only you understand.

Occasionally, in a lengthy post about automated underwriting systems or yield curve convexity that was far more entertaining than it had any business being, she'd drop in a bit of history about herself or her condition. I pieced together that she was a long-time veteran of the mortgage industry, and that she was sick -- sick enough to have left her job.

Today, I learned that she'd suffered from ovarian cancer, and that the disease finally claimed her. I owe a huge debt to Tanta in my own career. Without all that I learned from her, I simply wouldn't have been able to tackle many of the financial stories I've tackled. I will miss her. And judging by the comments on Calculated Risk, and the comments from around the blogosphere, I'm not alone.