THE FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS

Jess Walter

What happens when small-time reporter Matthew Prior quits his job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse? Before long, he wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife’s online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. . . . Until, one night on a desperate two a.m. run to 7-Eleven, he falls in with some local stoners, and they end up hatching the biggest—and most misbegotten—plan yet.

more …

What happens when small-time reporter Matthew Prior quits his job to gamble everything on a quixotic notion: a Web site devoted to financial journalism in the form of blank verse? Before long, he wakes up to find himself jobless, hobbled with debt, spying on his wife’s online flirtation, and six days away from losing his home. . . . Until, one night on a desperate two a.m. run to 7-Eleven, he falls in with some local stoners, and they end up hatching the biggest—and most misbegotten—plan yet.

less …
  • Harper Perennial
  • Paperback
  • September 2010
  • 320 Pages
  • 9780061916052

Buy the Book

$14.99

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Jess Walter

Jess Walter is the author of five novels, including The Zero, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Award, and Citizen Vince, winner of the 2005 Edgar Allan Poe Award for best novel. He has been a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Prize and the PEN USA Literary Prize in both fiction and nonfiction. His books have been New York Times, Washington Post, and NPR best books of the year and have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in Spokane, Washington.

Praise

“A deliciously antic tale of an American dream gone very sour…part noir gumshoe, part average Joe, [Matt Prior] is a sharp, wide-eyed, soulful observer, with a keen eye for the layers of bureaucracy and doublespeak.”—Washington Post

“Would be so sad if it weren’t so funny, and so funny if it weren’t so sad. . . . Compassionate, witty and drawn from today’s heartless world, it’s a terrific book.”—Arizona Republic

“An extremely funny novel…a very smart meditation on what’s gone wrong with both the US economy and those of us who are expected to keep it running…cleverly designed and immensely entertaining.”—Christian Science Monitor

“Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets is gasp out loud funny. It’s also sufficiently true to life that you’re grateful it’s not your life. Middle-class mayhem is just the best, at least in Walter’s hands.”
New York Daily News

Discussion Questions

Given their different ages and social worlds, what explains Matt Prior’s willingness to befriend Jamie and Skeet at the local 7-Eleven?

How does Lisa Prior’s past experience with financial insecurity impact her feelings about Matt as they weather their current money crisis?

What does Matt hope to achieve by seeking out Lisa’s current flirtation, Chuck Stehne, and to what extent does he succeed?

What does Matt’s vision for online investment poetry, poetfolio.com, represent to him, and why does he connect its failure to his own personal shortcomings?

What does Matt’s decision to keep his nascent drug dealing a secret from Lisa reveal about the state of his marriage?

How would you characterize Matt’s feelings about his mostly senile father?

How does Matt relate his and Lisa’s obsession with their house to the wider cult of  home ownership during the housing bubble?

Why does Matt reveal the truth of his identity as a confidential informant to Bea?

To what extent do Dave’s and Monte’s reactions to Matt’s becoming a confidential informant for the police seem atypical of most druglords?

How did you interpret the final line of the novel: “And Lisa and me-we’re okay.”? To what extent do you read that line as ambiguous?