The Financial Lives of The Poets…

…is a title that I wished I’d thought of.

It’s a novel by Jess Walter, which I picked up based solely on the title. Not always the best way to select a book, but it worked out this time.

Story is about Matt Prior, a business reporter who ditches his job to start a web site devoted to poetry about finances — money-lit, as he calls it. Of course, the idea bombs. Matt runs back to his old job only to get laid off soon after with very little in way of severance. In addition, he’s got a massive balloon payment due very soon on his house and he suspects that his wife is cheating on him with an old boyfriend.

So what does Matt do?  He tries to become a drug dealer — just until he can back on track —  using his last 9 grand to buy pot. Yeah, sounds like a fool-proof plan, doesn’t it.

This book is at turns funny and gut-wrenching. I always cringe when I’m reading about a character who is fucking up but can’t seem to stop himself. I want to stop reading, look away, but I just can’t.

I like how Walter captures a sense of financial panic as Matt digs himself deeper and deeper into a whole.The crazy things people will do when it comes to money, eh.

I’m not often immediately intrigued by books about people’s money problems. I mean, who the hell wants to read about that. But something about this book was different. I wanted to read it. Maybe I’m just getting older and my concerns are different. Or maybe Walter is the kind of writer that writes in such a way that I’d follow him just about anywhere.

I plan to follow him into his other books, like The Zero, a National Book Award finalist, which I hope to read some time soon.

Because the main character, Matt, is age 46, I thought of this as GenX Lit, but there’s a cop who refers to Matt as a Boomer. I suppose the point is arguable, and ultimately beside the point.

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