20 October 2010

Book Review: The Financial Lives of the Poets

Title: The Financial Lives of the Poets
Author: Jess Walter
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Release Date: 7 September 2010
Date Finished: 11 October 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading, Hogwarts Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions,

The Short and Sweet of It
Matt's life is swirling down the toilet - no job, no prospects, a senile father, a possibly-cheating wife, a house about to be reclaimed, and two kids in private school. When he randomly meets up with some stoners at a 7/11, Matt's life takes an unexpected turn, and he makes some unusual decisions. But really, could things get any worse?

A Bit of a Ramble
Everybody, their mother, and their dog seem to have nothing but gushy goodness to say about this book. Hailed as an artfully written novel full of laugh out loud moments and biting satire, The Financial Lives of the Poets is regarded by many - bloggers and "professional" critics alike - as one of the year's best novels. Eh...okay.  Now I did enjoy the book. I thought it was a unique read with some very relevant points about American culture and ideology, but I wasn't blown away by it as everyone else seems to be.

Reasons why this isn't a glowing review:
  • the financial crisis bores me to death even if it is discussed in creatively constructed prose.
  • seeing a marriage fail because of lack of communication just frustrates me. I have a pet peeve about conflicts that could be entirely solved by talking to each other.
  • I didn't like any of the characters: the protagonist might possibly be the world's largest idiot and his wife has a serious shopping addiction and is possibly sexting her old boyfriend.
  • Who, seriously who, would think a website with financial advice written in poetic form would be a good idea?
  • the insistent tone of the narration (the overuse of creatively constructed prose) grated on my nerves after awhile.
  • the consistent use of ellipses.
So now that most of you want to stone me for not falling in passionate, suicide-inducing love with this book, let me go back to why I do like it. Originality and humor. Pontificating on the financial crisis and the cultural climate which allowed the crisis to occur through this particular plot is both unique and hilarious. And while I had a great deal of trouble falling in with the extremely bad decisions being made, the characters did feel like real people, the details of them nicely coalescing into unified and believable wholes. Just not wholes I would like. At all.

My personal problems with the book do not detract me from recommending it to others. I have specific and serious pet peeves about cheating, bad decisions, and communication, so I was predisposed to be frustrated with portions of the plot line; however, those who do not share my particular annoyances will more than likely love this book. After all, if the reviews I've linked below are any indication, the rest of the planet adores it.

If you would like to grab my copy, leave your email address in the comments section.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

The Bluestocking Society; The Lost Entwife; The New Dork Review of Books; The Betty and Boo Chronicles; Raging Bibliomania; Take Me Away; Book Journey; Books and Movies; You've Gotta Read This;

I reviewed this as part of TLC Book Tours. A big thank you to those wonderful ladies for the books they send my way.


  1. Well I did believe (and I said in my review) that this book would be polarizing. If you don't like drugs, cheating and calling your kids shit heels, it could offend you. I'm not a big fan of cheating either, but in this case, it felt like it fit with Matt's overall life. In fact, the whole story really seemed like it was intentionally over-the-top. And while I feel like I could throw up if I have to hear about the economic downturn one more time (and my husband is in the business) this made it almost laughable.

  2. I hate it when two adult characters' romantic relationship goes sour because neither of them can put on their grown-up undies and talk to each other. It seriously irks me, too.

  3. I liked this book a lot, but can totally see why some wouldn't. It was over the top in a lot of ways, and I think if you are a reader who is predisposed to have problems with uncommunicative spouses and cheating, this book would definitely irk you. I did really like your review though, and thought you made a really solid case for why the book didn't work for you. Thanks for being totally honest and saying what you really felt.

  4. I'd love to read this book! I'm at melodyawilson@gmail.com if you want to send me a copy :)

  5. My love of ellipses just isn't enough to overcome my hatred of finances AND poetry.

  6. Ok ... so ... um ... am I using enough ellipses for you? Because ... you know ... I could totally continue this all day ... :)

    But seriously, I'm glad you pointed out the reasons that the book didn't work for you. I find that there are books that I love tremendously but for very personal reasons and then I can't really recommend them whole-heartedly to other people. This seem like exactly the opposite situation for you.

    Thanks for being on this tour - hopefully you're next read will be a better fit for you!

  7. It sounds like you still had a level of appreciation for the book! You're right about the poetic financial advice!! That was a reaaaallll stretch!

  8. do not rely on
    credit cards or you will end
    up bankrupt and sad

    My poetic financial advice. Don't you just feel inspired now? ;)

  9. I appreciate your honesty. When I started seeing reviews for this book, I immediately thought "Who, in their right mind, would do a financial web site in verse?" I could see that this would be a book that might inspire some feelings of "what a bunch of idiots." But I'm curious now...

  10. I wouldn't have said this was one of the best books of the year but I did enjoy it. Didn't really like the characters but I did laugh out loud, did enjoy the satire and was always kept wondering what might happen next and how in the world Matt would get out of it.

  11. Sandy - Maybe I just wasn't in the right mood when I read it. Sometimes it's hard to read a book like this after a string of fantasy and fables.

    Clare - That's always been a pet peeve of mine. Conflicts which could be solved by someone just opening his/her mouth bother me.

    Heather - I don't know if I was just in the wrong mood or if the book would have bothered me no matter what, but most people seem to really like it.

    Melody - Thanks for entering.

    Jill - Lol! See, I thought I loved ellipses too. I use them from time to time in writing, and I think that can be very...dramatic. But it was like three times a sentence. Drove me bonkers.

    Heather - Yeah, I don't think the book is bad; I just think it included a few of my pet peeves which made me predisposed to not liking it.

    Jenny - I can definitely see the appeal of the book; and I really did enjoy it. I just didn't love it.

    Cass - Ha! I absolutely do feel inspired. And I learned something!

    Jenners - It's strange. I didn't love the book, but I can definitely see how others could.

    Lisa - I did like the book; I just didn't love it.

  12. Oh my -- abuse of ellipses? It would take a lot to overcome such punctuational heresy! :-P

    Seriously, this book doesn't sound like my cup of tea, though obviously it's clever, unique, and well loved by many readers.

  13. I'm glad that we felt the same way about this!

    Though it wasn't the topics that bothered me, I just thought it was boring.

  14. Too bad. I have this one on my shelf!

  15. I didn't think about this, but the financial crisis bores me too. Maybe I should continue to put reading this one off.

  16. The financial crisis may bore me but his take on it was derisive which I appreciated. I thought he cut through most of the financial collapse buzz and revealed what "real people" think of it - against the backdrop of a ridiculous plot while the protagonist starts dealing drugs, etc . . . I don't know, something about it really worked for me!!

    Thanks for your honest review!


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