The Financial Lives of the Poets

  • by Jess Walter
  • Narrated by Jess Walter
  • 7 hrs and 55 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

I Want What They're Having.

The more I read and follow other people's reviews, the more I realize a funny thing; people can have almost exactly the same taste in books you do, but have a completely difference response to them. That's what makes life interesting - in fact, that's what makes reading reviews interesting.

Several people I follow have read and reviewed this book now, and they have commented on how funny it was. There absolutely was a lot of humor in the book, and it did make me chuckle on a regular basis; but to me, this book was a really depressing story with funny parts - not a funny story with depressing parts. That ends up being a significant difference.

Jess Walter is an extremely talented writer, and also did a fantastic job on his own narration. This fact however only exacerbated for me how incredibly effective he was in making me deeply depressed.

As the book summary explains, the main character in this novel has lost his job, is in the process of loosing his wife and his house, and is trying to reverse everything that is going so wrong in his life. Most of the characters he meets along the way are also deeply unhappy, and because the writing is so effective, and the general situation he's in (laid off, under water on his mortgage, strains on the marriage) is so familiar in the real world right now, it was a really bleak picture.

The final third of the book gets more and more depressing, until the author abandons his attempt at levity, and just hunkers down to bring us to a sober conclusion. The storytelling was so good during this third that I kept feeling like more heavy bricks were being placed on my shoulders, to the point where I was dying to get to the end because I couldn't take much more.

I would have loved to read the book that some of the other reviewers did; the book that was just funny. That being said, it's very possible that YOU will read the book they read - so take this review with a grain of salt. That's the beauty of all these reviews; seeing how we all experience each story differently.
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- Amanda "I rate as follows: 5 Stars = Loved it. 4 Stars = Really liked it. 3 Stars = Liked it. 2 Stars = Didn't like it. 1 Star = Hated it."

Riotously Relevant

Plug it in and you're off at about 100 mph, caught up in a blast of creative energy--and laughter. A few minutes in, the protagonist (Matt) makes an hilarious attempt to convince his mother that the debris ball of pot, lint, and a few pennies, that she just pulled out of a pair of his jeans, is not his; another 5 minutes, he catches a glimpse of a soccer-mom's thong and he's off on a childhood memory about having to fold the clothes each week--including his mother's huge, full-coverage panties. And so it went...Financial Lives of the Poets is almost like listening to a good comedian doing very smart stand-up (just remember: most comedians draw on personal tragedy for inspiration).

Walter has a contemporary and offbeat style, as well as keen journalistic senses and originality; he is easily a major literary voice of the post-boom era (at least in my mind). With Financial Lives he manages to explain this "McMansion" culture with insight, cynical humor, and heart, orchestrating just enough of an emotional balance to keep you from being distracted by your own laughter. I saw mention of a comparison to Bazell's Beat the Reaper; very much the same energy and rapid-fire wit, but less caustic and more relevant and realistic (and Walter is the better writer). The *star* rating might be proportionate to age, or coolness...(which should make me want to give this 5 stars), it's a matter of relevancy. Very fun, well written, and an above average performance by Walter himself. Recommend.
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- Mel

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-17-2009
  • Publisher: HarperAudio