Jess Walter: The Financial Lives of the Poets

After the first couple of chapters I thought I knew what I was in for (and was onboard) — a well-executed, but fairly standard, dark-humored, mildly-delusional-early-21st-century-guy’s-life-in-freefall story along the lines of David Gates or Donald Antrim, but less incisive and less boundary-pushing. You know, the sort of book where complaining about a hard-to-swallow plot element is beside the point, because a linear/credible narrative thread is less important to the novel than the external reality reinforcing thematic concerns and the AWOL viewpoint character’s internal landscape.

So The Financial Lives of Poets took me by surprise, because while it certainly postulates its protagonist as an archetypical victim of the financial crisis, it’s equally concerned with what happens to Matt Prior the character, and the consequences of his choices unfold in a way that’s more naturalistic/less overtly symbolic than the opening might lead you to expect. It offered a few surprises, and I ultimately found it very satisfying.

I thought it had a few rough patches — there’s a spittle-flecked rant about the state of journalism that (regardless of its validity) has “embittered author speaking now” stamped all over it — but then again, it’s also got a T.S. Eliot parody that might even trump “The Lovesong of R. Chase Bennington III.”

needs more demons? no. I will read more from Walter, too.

Published by therealsummervillain

likes: equality, making things easier to use, biking, jangle, distortion, monogamy dislikes: bigotry, policies that jeopardize people, lack of transparency

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