Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Financial Lives Of The Poets by Jess Walter (R)

The economy hasn't been kind to Matt Prior.  A business newspaper journalist, he decided to make the big jump to start his own business.  His business idea?  A website where investors could go to get investment advice written in poetry.  Hmmm, how's that working out for you Matt?  Not well.  Having used his savings to start the site and quickly realizing that there was no market, Matt jumps back to his newspaper job, just in time for the layoffs that are plaguing that market. 

So, Matt is unemployed, savings gone.  His wife, Lisa, went on her own get-rich quick scheme; buying scores of collectibles from Ebay that she planned to store for a few years and sell at a huge profit.  To finance this, she has maxed out their credit cards.

Matt has social problems as well.  He is the caretaker for his father.  His father's dementia increases every day.  Matt's two boys are moving further and further away from him as they grow up.  He discovers that Lisa has struck up a relationship with her high school sweetheart online, and it seems ready to move into a more physical realm.

There they sit, Matt unemployed, Lisa employed in a marginal job, no savings, deep in credit card debt.  Matt hasn't even told Lisa that he's been avoiding a foreclosure notice on their house.  He visits their financial planner and cashes out everything left.  What to do, what to do?  Stressed, he leaves his house one night to go get milk for the morning cereal.  At the local 7-11, he falls in somehow with a group of stoners, who take him to their apartment, where he gets stoned for the first time in twenty years.

Suddenly, his great revelation occurs!  He can sell pot to finance his way out of financial crisis.  There is a whole market of older, professional men and women who used to smoke and would probably jump at the chance to buy some pot from someone they trusted.  Matt uses his entire retirement savings to finance this new career choice.

This all sounds bleak, but in reality, this is one of the most upbeat books I've read lately.  I laughed out loud repeatedly, following Matt on his adventures.  Jess Walter has a perfect ability to write characters that breathe and stretch on the page, individuals you know in your own life.  This ability to make believable characters allows him to stretch reality, as the reader can always see what led the character to make what would normally be a horrible choice.  It's fairly uncommon that I read one book by an author and rush out to find more by him, but I'm rushing out for more Jess Walter books.  This book is highly recommended for fans of literature and current events.


Anonymous said...

I am really glad that you liked the book so much, and I agree, it was a laugh out loud read for me as well. I really liked your review! I am also going to be grabbing a few other books by Walter. I think I am going to start with Citizen Vince.

trish said...

I really wanted to read this book before your review, but now I'm DYING to read it! Great review! Thanks for being on the tour! :)

Jenny said...

I agree! Great book, and I will also be looking for his other books!