Walter continues to shine
by greebs on April 1, 2010I first discovered Jess Walter through his novel Citizen Vince, a funny and poignant novel about some gangsters, set amidst the Carter-Reagan election. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Though I (and, I think, Walter) was just a kid at the time, the book resonated with me and felt like an accurate description of the time. I followed up with Over Tumbled Graves and Land Of The Blind, two suspense/thrillers that are at the top of that genre. But it was The Zero that really showed me that Walter was something special - and he was nominated for a National Book Award, accordingly. In an especially creative way, Walter evoked the disjointed horror of 9/11 and the state of shock everyone was in for so long afterwards.
In that same way, Walter nails our current timeframe in his latest, The Financial Lives Of The Poets.
The protagonist, Matt Prior, gets laid off (after his solo effort of a poetry and investment website called Poetfolio.com unsurprisingly fails) and is on the brink of economic collapse. Though his house (which he and his family couldn't really afford) is at the brink of foreclosure, instead of talking to his wife about it, he ... decides to start selling pot. Things ensue.
I won't say much more, because the plot is clever and well constructed, and because it also wouldn't even suggest half of why Walter is such a great writer. This book feels especially timely, even if Prior's situation isn't (thankfully) like anything I'm going through personally. In the same way some people talk about books like Revolutionary Road and The Ice Storm as perfectly capturing an era, I feel strongly that in years to come, The Financial Lives of the Poets will be considered a perfect portrait of the Great Recession.
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