The Financial Lives of the Poets
By Jess Walter
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780061916045, 304pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2009
List Price: $25.99*
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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 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 about how we can reach the edge of ruin—and how we can begin to make our way back.
Jess Walter is the author of The Zero (a finalist for the National Book Award), Citizen Vince (a winner of the Edgar Allan Poe Award for Best Novel), Land of the Blind , Ruby Ridge, and Over Tumbled Graves (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year). He lives in Spokane, Washington, with his family.
Many of the picks from Fresh Air's book critic look back at tough times from earlier eras, or lives upended by disaster. The best books of the year include a work of nonfiction that reveals the hidden fantasy land of a founder of American industry, and a novel that doesn't apologize for the bad behavior of its characters. Plus, a bonus mystery pick. More at NPR.org
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Matt Prior is the protagonist of The Financial Lives of the Poets and a complete figment of Walter's imagination. Walter has taken pains to ensure Matt Prior's life is as shitty as a well-educated white American male's can be.