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Peter Mountford’s enthralling new novel, The Dismal Science, looks at what happens when a recently widowed World Bank administrator gets embroiled in Latin American politics. In this companion to Mountford’s debut, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, middle-aged and recently widowed World Bank administrator Vincenzo D’Orsi comes undone, jettisoning nearly every one of his personal and professional relationships.

Peter and I met at Elliott Bay Books in Seattle for a talk about identity, middle-age, and the 1 percent.

frankenstein behind the scenes

Last Halloween, I’d asked a few Nervous Breakdown contributors to share their favorite terrifying movie scenes, and D. R. Haney was among them with his contribution from Rouben Mamoulian’s 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I, on the other hand, had picked the tunnel scene from Willy Wonka, which I explain so you understand why I like collaborating with Duke. My brain grows three sizes bigger by association. He’s like a cinematic moral compass for which true north is James Dean. And this year for Halloween, Duke and I decided to discuss the classic tale that produced another old-school Hollywood icon.

To say that life is absurd is a common thing and a seemingly-radical declaration. Instead, absurdism proves a surrender. There is nothing absurd about this world. Everything has been designed with the utmost precision. That design, reasonable yet criminal, may very well be experienced as absurd, and that absurdity can be located in the blueprints, scripts and testaments. But to accept this projected absurdity as reality is to literally lay down our arms, destroy our weapons, and self-amputate our limbs, until we cannot even write in our defense.