2014 Book #28: The Financial Lives of the Poets

financiallivesI’m glad it has been long enough since I’ve read Jess Walter’s most recent book, Beautiful Ruins, that I’d forgotten what I said in my review because I probably wouldn’t have read The Financial Lives of the Poets solely based on The Type of Author Jess Walter Appears to Be. Though don’t get me wrong: The Financial Lives of the Poets really isn’t any better than Beautiful Ruins: they’re both just okay novels. Certainly nothing to be excited about. And I have exactly the same thing to say about this one that I did about Beautiful Ruins: It’s not my kind of book.

The Financial Lives of the Poets is about Matthew Prior, who is getting close to 40 and finds himself in financial and marriage trouble. He was a business writer for a (slowly failing) newspaper who came up with the brilliant idea to start a website serving business news in poetic form. Yeah. Smart. Of course, it failed miserably. Meanwhile, his wife is obsessed with money and keeping money and goes on an ebay binge, spending tons of it and stacking up her purchases in the garage to sell later as collectibles. Between Matt’s stupid business plan and his wife’s, they’re about to lose their house, and their kids are about to have to move from their private school to a public school he calls Alcatraz. And the wife is beginning an affair with an old high school crush. Things are going pretty badly for Matt when he goes to 7/11 to pick up milk and meets a couple of young pot dealers, smokes it for the first time in several years, and decides he wants to buy a huge quantity (2 pounds!) to sell to his friends. There seems to be a silver lining when everything goes all to hell again, and Things Continue to Happen.

I didn’t realize this was a pot book (akin to pot movies like Darjeeling Limited) until I was well into it. I would have stopped if it wasn’t, at least, pretty funny. Pot movies and TV shows have been overdone, and I’m pretty sure they were already overdone in 2009 when this book was published. So I didn’t like the premise, but the right kind of funny can make up for a lot. The Financial Lives of the Poets is, after all, pretty well-written, except in an MFA sort of formulaic way, which is generally Not My Thing. The end is also tied up too neatly like that of Beautiful Ruins, and I was turned off by that. It’s a sort of things-suck-now-but-they’ll-eventually-get-better feel-good type of book. I don’t like those.

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like The Financial Lives of the Poets. I rather enjoyed it, though I’ll probably forget all about it within the next few weeks – but this time, I’m hoping that I remember why I don’t like Jess Walter’s style and will avoid her books in the future. Or maybe I won’t. We’ll see.

And now, for the most interesting part: Puppy Update! If you’ve been following along on Facebook, there might even be one or two photos you haven’t seen!

Zelda is growing! We’ve only had her for two weeks, and look at this huge difference:

It’s amazing! Except she’s gone from sweet little sleeping infant puppy to insane Bitey McBiterson. Her cuteness totally makes up for it, though.

Look at that mushroom on her butt!

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