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The Financial Lives of the Poets [Paperback]

Jess Walter
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

5 Aug 2010

From the author of the bestselling Beautiful Ruins comes The Financial Lives of Poets - a brilliantly funny novel about a man who, in an attempt to save himself, may destroy everything he loves.

Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his house, his wife, and maybe his sanity too.

Financial journalist Matt quit his job to set up a website which couldn't fail. Only now he's woken up to the biggest crisis since the Great Crash, and it has. He's got six days to save his house. It's hard to focus when your wife's having an online affair with her childhood sweetheart, but there are children to think about . . . So when he gets hold of some high-grade dope and finds he can sell a piece on at a profit, he begins to think this might be his salvation.

A fabulously funny, heartfelt novel about how we can skate close to the edge of ruin - and pull back.

'A beautifully laid-back exultation of the human connections that make life worth living' Metro

'Ecstatically funny and unusually big-hearted' Financial Times

'It made me laugh more than any other book I've read this year' Nick Hornby

Jess Walter is the author of six novels, His latest novel, Beautiful Ruins, was a New York Times bestseller. Jess Walter lives in Spokane, Washington with his family.

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The Financial Lives of the Poets + Beautiful Ruins + Where'd You Go, Bernadette
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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (5 Aug 2010)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0141049138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141049137
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 54,449 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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 of his terrific new novel (Richard Russo)

Darkly funny, surprisingly tender ... Walter ... has an abiding faith in the ability of human beings to be decent (Los Angeles Times)

A deliciously antic tale of an American dream gone very sour ... sharp, wide-eyed, soulful (Washington Post)

A ridiculously talented writer (The New York Times)

It made me laugh more than any other book I've read this year (Nick Hornby)

About the Author

Jess Walter has written six novels. His most recent, Beautiful Ruins, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in Spokane, Washington with his family.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetry emotion 30 Nov 2010
By Sam Quixote TOP 50 REVIEWER
A former financial journalist decides to branch out into a new, innovative field - financial news presented in poetic form! Unfortunately doesn't take off and leaves him with a mountain of debt. Couple that with his wife's eBay addiction, his weeks of unemployment, and the financial crash of 2008 and he soon finds himself 1 week away from eviction from his dream house. At a loose end one night, he encounters some stoners and begins to think about dealing weed to get out of his immediate cash troubles. Add to this his wife pursuing an old high school crush via Facebook, his dementia-ridden father who was bilked out of his savings and house by a stripper and her boyfriend, and the perils of the drug dealing world, and you have "The Financial Lives of the Poets".

I loved Jess Walter's book "Citizen Vince" and followed it immediately with "The Zero", a more experimental difficult read that I failed to finish and which put me off Walter for a bit. I'm glad I came back to check out his latest though as it was a fantastic novel with some excellent characters and a brilliant storyline. I particularly enjoyed/cringed at Matt (the main character) and his wife Lisa's strained marriage as the tension between them builds and the distance between them grows. It felt very real and was the first time I'd seen some of the less positive effects of Facebook reflected in a novel. Matt's encounters with the drug dealers was also interesting with a paranoid lawyer thrown into the mix making for lively conversations.

I would ignore the Nick Hornby blurb which claims that it's an hilarious book as it really isn't. Some of the scenes are light hearted and a bit silly but overall it's a serious novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent, amusing and very highly recommended 29 Jun 2011
This is a brilliantly written insight into the life and mind of an ordinary, likeable, middle class guy who's been the victim of both his own wishful thinking and the financial crash. The other reviews give you an excellent idea of the plot and the many merits of this book. I would simply add that I recommend it very highly to men or women who want an intelligent, funny holiday read that will also make you sit back and examine yourself a bit. Matt, the anti-hero, will be especially recognisable to many 40-something men, as he tries to be a good dad, a caring son, a worthy husband, and yet makes some comically ridiculous decisions along the way.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written holiday read 27 Aug 2010
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
This is a really good book by Jess Walter - no wonder Nick Hornby recommended him to Penguin (see above review)... You have to love a book where within two pages the about-to-go-bankrupt hero is not returning home with the milk for tomorrow's breakfast, but rather leaving his local 7-11 in the company of some stoned strangers whose acquaintance he has made on the basis of them, er, liking his slippers.

The writing is fantastically stylish: arch and clever with tons of little jokes woven in. It's satisfying even if you have the most refined taste in literature, and entertaining enough to whizz by as you are reading. The book is narrated by the main character, and he too is terribly appealing. You find yourself rooting for Matt Prior's marijuana-soaked plans for financial solvency to work. (And a subplot about Prior's wife, who is spending far too much time on Facebook, makes this the first really good novel to deal with the grey area of Friends Reunited semi-infidelity.)

This is the perfect intelligent holiday novel and I found myself trying very hard not to read it too fast, and desperately looking forward to having twenty minutes at night to dip into it a little more.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and a tale for our times 23 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I liked the style and found the characters likeable and I wanted things to work out ok for them. Not schmaltzy but satisfying
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3.0 out of 5 stars Breaking Even 24 Feb 2014
By Woolco
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's a page-turning, passable read. Mildly entertaining, if not gripping, or 'laugh out loud' (to coin the vernacular). It's not as witty or coruscating as it thinks it is.

The story, in my opinion, is also rather undermined by its implausibility - a 40-something middle class family man invited into the grungy, slacker domain of post-adolescent male self-destruction? (A dystopian, stenching world of discarded pizza crusts, hash pipes and pills, video gaming, and bad hygiene) After popping out to the local 7/11 for a carton of milk in his slippers? Okay - they requisition a lift through a veiled threat of violence (maybe...)... then, suddenly, our protagonist, Matt Prior, is 'Slippers', toking on their spliffs, hanging out, one of the gang. (Yeah, right.) And that's only the start of it...

So it's a comedy, make allowances. A black comedy, if you like. Though in this, for me it fails. It's just not sharp enough. The 7/11 - 9/11 Twin Towers reference, for instance, began to jar after its third or forth appearance, I have to say. (Matt's mother 'comically' called it 7/11 in her unravelling final months). In any case, for a book published in 2009, I think the 'cloud of terrorist threat' angle is somewhat overplayed. Much of the humour and insight contained in long passages of exposition is, in fact, just too saggy, in need of careful editing. It often reads like a series of self-indulgent diary entries - bloated brain dumps.

I think of 'American Beauty' and 'Breaking Bad' when I think of portrayals of middle-class American male, mid-life breakdowns. Both wonderfully conceived, brilliantly executed - and not without humour. This one just has too much its trying to say and justify - self-evident things we all understand about capitalism and life's inequalities.
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