There was a time in my life when I read purely for pleasure.  Before then, I read pretty much for pain, or more accurately, I read and it caused me pain.  Like reading Thoreau’s Walden and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage for English class – now there was torture.  But thankfully, there was Stephen King and Stephen R. Donaldson and Stephen Coonts and even some authors not named Stephen, and I was in bliss.  These were my lazy high school years.  I remember reading Misery in a single day, from nine in the morning until nine at night, and I had no other desire than to feel every word on the page.  It was pure hedonism.


Jess Walter (The Zero, Citizen Vince) is an expansive writer. He has more voice in his little finger than most novelists will ever possess. He can digress, delineate, rant, rave, ponder, speculate, ruminate, fulminate, and bring the story to a screeching halt if it suits his whimsy, and readers will still follow along breathlessly.

TFLotP is the story of everyman Matt Prior, father, husband, unemployed newspaper man, upside down homeowner, and poster boy for the current financial crisis. His start-up Poetfolio.com was a miserable failure, his wife may be having an affair, and he’s got less than a week before lenders foreclose on his house. When Matt hatches some questionable strategies to combat his dire situation, the real unraveling begins. What follows is funny, compelling, compulsively readable stuff.

Here’s how much I like Walter’s voice: Though The Financial Lives of the Poets has a slow fuse, much of the coming-of-middle-age turf is well-worn, a few of the plot points feel like warmed over television fare, the poetry is irritating at times, and the resolution feels a little forced, Walter’s voice is flat out unstoppable—the guy could write about pneumatic tools and I’d be on the edge of my seat.

This may be the second funniest book I’ve read this year, after Steve Hely’s, How I Became a Famous Novelist.

JE