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.


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3G1B is the collaboration of four friends and colleagues in the book business. Together, they review books and stories, interview authors, and maintain an ongoing conversation about publishing, bookselling, writing, pr, and nearly anything else.

JONATHAN EVISON is the author of All About Lulu and West of Here and TNB's Executive Editor. He likes rabbits. He also likes being the ambiguous fourth guy in the “Three Guys” triumvirate. He is the founder of the secret society, The Fiction Files (if he told, he’d have to kill you). He has a website, but it’s old. Just google him.

DENNIS HARITOU has bought books for Barnes and Noble for seven years, for warehouse clubs for five, and has led a book club. He is currently Director of Merchandise at Bookazine.

JASON CHAMBERS has been in the book business for over fifteen years, including tenures as General Manager/Buyer at Book Peddlers in Athens, GA, and seven years as a Buyer and Merchandise Manager at Bookazine. He now works as an bookstore consultant and occasional web designer.

JASON RICE has worked in the book business for ten years at Random House in sales and marketing and Barnes & Noble as a community relations manager. Currently he is an Assistant Sales Manager and Buyer at Bookazine. His fiction has appeared in several literary magazines online and in print. He was once the pseudonymous book reviewer Frank Bascombe for Ain’t It Cool News. He’s taught photography to American students in the South of France, worked as a bicycle messenger in New York City, and for a long time worked very hard in the film & television business in NYC. Production experience includes the television shows Pete & Pete, Can We Shop ( Joan Rivers' old shopping show), and the films The Pallbearer, Flirting With Disaster, and countless commercials---even a Christina Applegate movie that went straight to video.

4 responses to “The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter”

  1. JB says:

    I just finished reading Hely’s book. A detail irked me: Did your copy have “Uncorrected Proof” written on the cover? Mine did. So…I don’t know if that’s Hely further waxing satirical or if I actually read the unfinished product. My spider sense tells me it’s the former.


  2. jonathan evison says:

    . . . i actually did get an uncorrected proof months ago, so yes, mine was a galley . . . and i suspect yours was, too . . .did you buy it at a discount at your local indie? . . .’cause sometimes they do that, though they’re not supposed to . . .

  3. Greg Olear says:

    I loved FLOP. So damned funny. And I liked the poems and the poetry, especially the one about the thong.

    Also: one of the best titles of all time.


  4. f, the narrator in the jess walter book sounds way too much like me. i better get started on this book. i have to say i appreciate your review providing some caveats/hesitations about the book and still recommending it. many times it seems reviews are either too glowing or too snarky.

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