The Financial Lives of the Poets
  • The Financial Lives of the Poets
  • The Financial Lives of the Poets

The Financial Lives of the Poets

3.9 69
by Jess Walter
     
 

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Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply

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Overview

Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply human characters coping with the anxieties of their times. Now, in his warmest, funniest, and best novel yet, Walter offers a story as real as our own lives: a tale of overstretched accounts, misbegotten schemes, and domestic dreams deferred.

A few years ago, small-time finance journalist Matthew Prior quit his day job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse. When his big idea—and his wife's eBay resale business— ends with a whimper (and a garage full of unwanted figurines), they borrow and borrow, whistling past the graveyard of their uncertain dreams. One morning Matt wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife's online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. Is this really how things were supposed to end up for me, he wonders: staying up all night worried, driving to 7-Eleven in the middle of the night to get milk for his boys, and falling in with two local degenerates after they offer him a hit of high-grade marijuana?

Or, he thinks, could this be the solution to all my problems?

Following Matt in his weeklong quest to save his marriage, his sanity, and his dreams, The Financial Lives of the Poets is a hysterical, heartfelt novel abouthow we can reach the edge of ruin—and how we can begin to make our way back.

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Editorial Reviews

Janet Maslin
The Financial Lives of the Poets is less memorable for its title than for the success with which it captures fiscal panic and frustration. Matt ambles though this book delivering blistering wisecracks about the factors that contributed to his family's fall. From an eBay shopping addiction (Lisa thought she was buying valuable collectibles) to a scathing thumbnail summary of the changes destroying the newspaper business, this book is all too dangerously astute. Mixing financial advice with poetry is a terrible idea. But combining the elements of tragedy with a sitcom sensibility is a good one. And it's what Jess Walter continues to do best.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
National Book Award–finalist Walter does for the nation’s bleak financial landscape what he did for 9/11 in The Zero: whip-smart satire with heart. Matt Prior quits his job as a business reporter to start Poetfolio.com, a Web site featuring poetry about finance, or “money-lit.” Unsurprisingly, it tanks, and Matt returns to the newspaper, only to be laid off with a meager severance package. Now not only are the Priors in danger of losing their house, but Matt is convinced that his wife, Lisa, is having an affair with an old boyfriend she rediscovered during her lengthy nightly Facebook sessions. With two sons in overpriced Catholic school and his increasingly senile father to support, Matt’s bank accounts dwindle amid his financial planner’s dire predictions (diagnosis: “fiscal Ebola”). When an appealing but illegal moneymaking opportunity presents itself, Matt jumps at the chance. The decision to include snippets of Matt’s poetry in the novel was a risky one, but Walter pulls it off, never resorting to pretension or overused metaphors for life’s meltdowns. (Oct.)
Library Journal
A new novel by the Edgar Award-winning author of Citizen Vince is cause for celebration; though tedious passages of indulgent free verse threaten to derail an otherwise promising premise, Walter manages to pull it off with zippy dialog and a likable, if extremely flawed, main character. Matt Prior is a former journalist who bailed from his newspaper job to start a misconceived web site—poetfolio.com—featuring literary writing about the financial world. Now his web site is floundering, and he has no job prospects in sight. Convinced that his wife's furtive text messages signal an affair with a high school flame and desperate for cash to prevent his mortgage lender from foreclosing on their house, Matt stumbles into an unlikely money-making venture: drug dealer to the middle-aged. Fans of the TV series Weeds will not be disappointed. Manic, sleep-deprived, cringe-inducing hilarity ensues as Prior sinks lower and lower toward rock bottom before he finds a glimmer of redemption. VERDICT Prior is a zany, foul-mouthed Willy Loman in search of a stimulus package, and readers looking for some humor with their layoff notices will certainly relate.—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
Kirkus Reviews
Unemployed suburban dad teetering on the brink comes up with a high-risk, recession-proof way to get out of debt. The American Dream, for former newspaper journalist and failed Web entrepreneur Matt Prior, is not living up to its hype. Broke after sinking his savings into poetfolio.com, a website catering to his twin passions for financial advice and free-verse poetry, he owes more on his house than it's worth and has to contend with the knowledge that his sexy wife Lisa is carrying on a virtual affair with her high-school boyfriend Chuck, with whom she reconnected on Facebook. Private-school tuition for his two young sons and the care for his elderly dementia-addled father add to his woes. But as dire as it looks-and sardonic Matt is fully aware of the role he has played in his personal ruin-opportunity emerges in the unlikeliest of places. He meets a couple of local youths at his neighborhood 7-Eleven and, after a surreal evening spent smoking really good marijuana with them, realizes that some businesses are most definitely not hurting in this troubled economy. So he decides to become a 46-year-old pot dealer, selling to other middle-aged, middle-class types. Through his new friends he gets hooked up with a local grow operation called "Weedland" and finds there is definitely a clientele for his high-quality product, which he vows he will only sell until he gets solvent again. Nothing, of course, goes according to plan, and Matt gets to see any remaining black-and-white notions he ever had get obliterated-for his own good. Walter's bitterly funny follow-up to The Zero (2006) could not be more topical in its depiction of a leveraged to-the-hilt culture run amuck, and wiseass Matt makesfor a distinctly flawed Everyman running out of chances. Midlife crisis farce laced with some larger truths about how we live now.
The Must List
“Cynical yet warm, this novel about a financial reporter (with a failing website written entirely in blank verse) is a delight.”
New York Daily News
“Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets is gasp out loud funny. It’s also sufficiently true to life that you’re grateful it’s not your life. Middle-class mayhem is just the best, at least in Walter’s hands.”
Washington Post
“A deliciously antic tale of an American dream gone very sour...part noir gumshoe, part average Joe, [Matt Prior] is a sharp, wide-eyed, soulful observer, with a keen eye for the layers of bureaucracy and doublespeak.”
Los Angeles Times
“Darkly funny, surprisingly tender . . . witheringly dead-on.”
Arizona Republic
“Would be so sad if it weren’t so funny, and so funny if it weren’t so sad. . . . Compassionate, witty and drawn from today’s heartless world, it’s a terrific book.”
Christian Science Monitor
“An extremely funny novel…a very smart meditation on what’s gone wrong with both the US economy and those of us who are expected to keep it running…cleverly designed and immensely entertaining.”
Spokane Spokesman-Review
“America’s first Great Recession novel.”
The Oregonian (Portland)
“A refreshing reminder that fiction remains a relevant, vital way to understand ourselves.”
Kansas City Star
“In this cautionary tale of fiscal follies and collapse Walter delivers a comic and gut-wrenching fable for these impecunious times.”
New West
“Hilarious and timely…Walter grounds the story with moments of genuine feeling…bitter, funny and accurate…Jess Walter’s buoyant voice is a fresh pleasure.”
Time magazine
“The funniest way-we-live-now book of the year.”
The New Yorker
“The novel has warmth, and its protagonist emerges as a bourgeois Everyman of the downturn.”
Dallas Morning News
“Jess Walter is a brilliant writer, one of the freshest new voices in American literature.”
Seattle Times
“Matt Prior . . . is an Everyman for our parlous times.”
Nick Hornby
“Walter is one of my favorite young American writers. . . . [Financial Lives] made me laugh more than any other book published this year.”
Sara Nelson
“A real find….the ultimate something-for-everyone-don’t-skip-must-read.”
Maureen Corrigan
“[A] superb farce.”
Jeffrey Burke
“A comic masterpiece… packed [with] life and wry truth.”
Richard Russo
“When it comes to explaining to me my own too often baffling nation, there’s no one writing today whom I trust as completely as Jess Walter. His intelligence and sympathy and great wit inform every page—indeed every sentence—of his terrific new novel, The Financial Lives of the Poets. ”
Sam Lipsyte
“Jess Walter’s smart and big-hearted take on our bleak national moment is a welcome relief. The Financial Lives of the Poets is a rollicking fiction and an affecting family portrait, as well as a mordantly funny cautionary tale.”
Whitney Terrell
“Confirms Jess Walter as a writer of the first rank.…his eye keen for the true values of the human heart. This is a hopped-up, raucous stunner of a novel with a hero who’s funny enough to make you weep for what we’ve lost.”
Sarah Vowell
“Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets is a comic, graceful parable of marriage and money troubles in which a well-meaning family man makes decisions that are seriously stupid—and entertaining and American.”
Ben Fountain
“One of the best American writers working today.…It’s a testament to this author’s genius that I could not stop laughing even as he drives home some necessary truths. Walter has written a profound, and profoundly funny, book; this may well be the classic novel of our post-boom era.”
Time Magazine
"The funniest way-we-live-now book of the year."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061916045
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
09/22/2009
Pages:
291
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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What People are saying about this

Nick Hornby
“Walter is one of my favorite young American writers. . . . [Financial Lives] made me laugh more than any other book published this year.”
Ben Fountain
“One of the best American writers working today.…It’s a testament to this author’s genius that I could not stop laughing even as he drives home some necessary truths. Walter has written a profound, and profoundly funny, book; this may well be the classic novel of our post-boom era.”
Sam Lipsyte
“Jess Walter’s smart and big-hearted take on our bleak national moment is a welcome relief. The Financial Lives of the Poets is a rollicking fiction and an affecting family portrait, as well as a mordantly funny cautionary tale.”
Whitney Terrell
“Confirms Jess Walter as a writer of the first rank.…his eye keen for the true values of the human heart. This is a hopped-up, raucous stunner of a novel with a hero who’s funny enough to make you weep for what we’ve lost.”
Jeffrey Burke
“A comic masterpiece… packed [with] life and wry truth.”
Sarah Vowell
“Jess Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets is a comic, graceful parable of marriage and money troubles in which a well-meaning family man makes decisions that are seriously stupid—and entertaining and American.”
Sara Nelson
“A real find….the ultimate something-for-everyone-don’t-skip-must-read.”
Richard Russo
“When it comes to explaining to me my own too often baffling nation, there’s no one writing today whom I trust as completely as Jess Walter. His intelligence and sympathy and great wit inform every page—indeed every sentence—of his terrific new novel, The Financial Lives of the Poets. ”
Maureen Corrigan
“[A] superb farce.”

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