Call it a moment of weakness. But in the middle of a self-imposed ban on all review copies, here comes sweet-talking Trish with TLC Book Tours , waving this beauty at me. There was really no thinking involved, just a knee-jerk reaction, after hearing all the wonderful things about "The Financial Lives of the Poets". This was the perfect set-up...I knew it was recommended, but had no idea what it was about. It was good thing too, because it had maximum impact.
Synopsis: Frankly, on the surface, it sounds like a buzz-kill. Matt the financial reporter abandons his steady but boring job to start a website that provides financial advice in prose form. Ohhhh kaaaaay. Not a shocker when that fails, and he comes crawling back to the newspaper, only to be canned soon after, as newspapers are wont to do these days. He is faced with a dire situation - the bank is about to foreclose on his house, he can't find another job, he has a family to support, and his wife has been dallying with an old boyfriend on Facebook. Am I the only one who has heard stories like this over the last couple of years and is weary from the suffering?
But stay with me. So dude goes to the local 7/11 to get milk at 3 in the morning, and gets mixed up with some gang-bangers who reacquaint him with escapism via new-age amped-up hooch. And in his drug-induced haze, Matt gets a great idea. He can sell pot to middle-agers like himself who need a reminiscent pick-me-up, and get himself out of debt!!! The clouds part! His problems are solved!
If you think this sounds like a block or two off your normal literary highway, you have no idea. Middle-age pot-selling is just scratching the surface of this wild ride.
My thoughts: You could call it fun with an undercurrent of realism. You could call it black comedy. But I'm not sure there is an appropriate box to check off in categorizing this book. Granted, the plot (as left mainly undescribed above to protect the innocent) is just plain crazy. Boil off some of that crazy and you get a commentary on the current state of the union where a hard-working, college-educated guy can't support his family. And rather than roll around in the economic downturn crud we've been slimed with for a few years, Walter chooses to laugh at it, tongue-in-cheek.
But the key element - the selling point that will make you remember the book - is really the witty, sharp-edged, bitter, deliciously rude narration by the protagonist. It comes at you so fast and from so many directions, there is nowhere to run. It was hard to find an example of this, because the whole book is drenched in it, but here is a taste:
"I try to put myself in her position - one day you come home from work a vital twenty-nine-year-old babe, whom the fellas at the office actively lust after and next day you go out looking for work a nearly forty-year-old Mom who colors the gray and doesn't even know PowerPoint, a short-tempered lady who didn't get any sleep last night because one of the kids pooped his bed (how do you poop a bed anyway?). Six months of resumes, referrals and rejections took their toll and Lisa accepted the first job she was offered - receptionist for a dull optometrist who calls the women in his office gals, and whose idea of a Christmas bonus is twenty-five bucks at a craft store."
In the 50 or 100 books you will read this year, I wager you will not read anything that even comes close to this one. There will be some people who may be turned off by the idea of a guy liquidating his retirement fund to buy drugs, who spies on his wife's nocturnal Facebook dalliances, or sometimes thinks of his kids as ungrateful shit-heels. But if you are in the mood for different, you can stop looking now.
Thanks Trish and TLC for the chance to review this one!
4.5 out of 5 stars