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The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess…
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The Financial Lives of the Poets (edition 2009)

by Jess Walter

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5534818,067 (3.69)33
Member:kate.librarian
Title:The Financial Lives of the Poets
Authors:Jess Walter
Info:Harper (2009), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:2012

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The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter

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Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
A fun easy read. Chapter 13, "On the Spiritual Crises of Financial Experts" is probably the best poem about finance I've ever read. Character: Matthew Prior, a journalist who quits his job to start a website devoted to financial journalism served up in blank verse. His career and marriage are flatlining; he gets involved with drug dealers, and gets involved with the police. A funny, engaging story on the theme of life falling apart and discovering what's essential and what's not. ( )
  charliesierra | Jul 5, 2014 |
I just fell in love with Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins", and I was really happy to see that he's been able to do his magic with this book too. The striking element in Walter's writing (in these 2 books at least) is his sense of humor, and that's where I see some readers not liking it because they just have a different sense of humor (or they just don't have one). I understand humor is a very personal thing.
However, while many "funny" books are just shallow, stupid, unfunny, or absurd, or very often unbalanced structural abominations (especially the ones with idiotic comments on the cover like "I barfed with laughter all the way through", or "you will be laughing so hard your hemorrhoids will explode" or something), "The Financial Lives" strikes a wonderful balance between comedy and drama, between very light-hearted moments and intimate, touching scenes. And all of it fitting in a harmonious structure. It is a joy to read. It is elegant, alla Italiana.
Do you have an idea of how hard it is to do that? To strike this kind of balance? It takes a very unique kind of alchemist, one who knows just how many drops of this and that substance is too little or too many.
I also loved the inventiveness of the poetry. Yes, of course is a joke, a game. But it's poetry, as well. And it bears meaning, too.
The best books are the ones where you can feel the writer's own enthusiasm and joy of writing, and I can say I felt that playfulness and joy all through the book, despite the very serious subjects.
Hats off, Mr Walter. This is the kind of story-telling that I wish I was able to pull off in my fantasy life as a writer. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
I just fell in love with Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins", and I was really happy to see that he's been able to do his magic with this book too. The striking element in Walter's writing (in these 2 books at least) is his sense of humor, and that's where I see some readers not liking it because they just have a different sense of humor (or they just don't have one). I understand humor is a very personal thing.
However, while many "funny" books are just shallow, stupid, unfunny, or absurd, or very often unbalanced structural abominations (especially the ones with idiotic comments on the cover like "I barfed with laughter all the way through", or "you will be laughing so hard your hemorrhoids will explode" or something), "The Financial Lives" strikes a wonderful balance between comedy and drama, between very light-hearted moments and intimate, touching scenes. And all of it fitting in a harmonious structure. It is a joy to read. It is elegant, alla Italiana.
Do you have an idea of how hard it is to do that? To strike this kind of balance? It takes a very unique kind of alchemist, one who knows just how many drops of this and that substance is too little or too many.
I also loved the inventiveness of the poetry. Yes, of course is a joke, a game. But it's poetry, as well. And it bears meaning, too.
The best books are the ones where you can feel the writer's own enthusiasm and joy of writing, and I can say I felt that playfulness and joy all through the book, despite the very serious subjects.
Hats off, Mr Walter. This is the kind of story-telling that I wish I was able to pull off in my fantasy life as a writer. ( )
  tabascofromgudreads | Apr 19, 2014 |
This was an enjoyable read & once I picked it up, I zipped through it much more quickly than I expected. Matt Prior is the narrator & I have to admit that at first I felt he was self-indulgent (I didn't care that that was the point), I didn't much like his wife either (I loved the children & Matt's father) but somehow I was pulled in & felt that I wanted everything to work out for he & his family eventhough he was making decisions high on the epicly stupid list. The main of the story takes place over a series of days as the foreclosure of the Prior's house looms & when Matt's plan finally goes completely off the rails, I was just relieved. I was rooting for the family to lose everything except each other because I couldn't take the crazy anymore.

Though satire, I must say that this pulled at my heart a bit. It felt a little crazy but I cared what happened to the characters. The ending was happier than I expected & I enjoyed that as well. Jess Walter certainly didn't disappoint. ( )
  anissaannalise | Jan 1, 2014 |
I honestly have no idea why people like this book. Why? Will someone tell me why? The whole thing can best be summed up by the fact that, while our protagonist is looking at a pile of lumber in his front yard his son says it looks like Jenga. This not only leads said character to cry because of how Jenga was once his son's favorite game, but also to *compare life to Jenga.* That's roughly the level of depth you're dealing with here. Since I can't understand what's meant to be good, I should at least say what's not, huh?

1) The prose is 21st century tricky - sentences without verbs, lots of ellipses, witty dialogue and lists - but with no apparent purpose.
2) The first person narrative doesn't allow for any ironic distance between you and the main character. So if you find him an insufferable jerk, as I did, the book's a hard slog. It needn't be, I like lots of books filled with insufferable jerks, but not this one.
3) Of the two conceits in this novel, neither of which could actually do any literary work on its own, one is unbearably stupid, the other is hackneyed (there are *2 television series* featuring middle-aged drug dealers). There's nothing worse than cliched quirk.
4) The whole thing is roughly as mawkish as a 19th century novel in which the 'orphan' finally finds his mother, who is an heiress forced to give up said orphan by pirates acting on the order of her father, an evil businessman, who is thrown into gaol and has his possessions confiscated by the magistrate, who then gives them on to the mother and orphan. That's mawkish
5) It's about as funny as 300 pages of dad jokes can be I guess, i.e., you can't miss all the time, but you can miss most of it.
6) None of the characters are at all interesting: all the women are hot (that is also their only characteristic), and all the men - bar the one who is all blue-collar and traditional manly man - are dysfunctional, or assholes; the children are all innocent and charming. For real, there are hot, pleasant men, and there are dysfunctional, interesting, ugly women.
7) More personally, his attempt to transfer an Australian accent to print is awful; for a start, we don't drop the 'h' from the start of words.

Perhaps I could go on. I feel bad, because the book is about important issues, and I'm sure it's hard as hell to write about lives being shaped by modern technology while also writing a satisfying narrative about financial crisis. I guess his other books are really good, and I'll probably give him another chance, since he's ambitious and can write well when he's not using the aforementioned trickery. But honestly, unless you think that being topical is the prime duty of a novel, avoid this one. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 48 (next | show all)
“The Financial Lives of the Poets” is less memorable for its title than for the success with which it captures fiscal panic and frustration... Mixing financial advice with poetry is a terrible idea. But combining the elements of tragedy with a sitcom sensibility is a good one. And it’s what Jess Walter continues to do best.
 
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Epigraph
Poets have to dream, and dreaming in America is no cinch. Saul Bellow
Dedication
For Anne, always
First words
--Here they are again--the bent boys, baked and buzzed boys, wasted, red-eyed, dry-mouth high boys, coursing narrow bright aisles hunting food as fried as they are, twitchy hands wadding bills they spill on the counter, so pleased and so proud, as if they're the very inventors of stoned--
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--Turns Out There Are Only Four Eskimo Words for Snow, However--
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Matt Prior is losing his job, his wife, and his house, and he's about to lose his mind--until he discovers a way that he might possibly be able to save it all.

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