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The Financial Lives of the Poets

3.68 of 5 stars 3.68  ·  rating details  ·  6,448 ratings  ·  1,091 reviews
Meet Matt Prior. He's about to lose his job, his wife, his house, maybe his mind. Unless . . .

In the winning and utterly original novels Citizen Vince and The Zero, Jess Walter ("a ridiculously talented writer"—New York Times) painted an America all his own: a land of real, flawed, and deeply human characters coping with the anxieties of their times. Now, in his warmest,
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Harper (first published 2009)
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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsThe Help by Kathryn StockettCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareAn Echo in the Bone by Diana GabaldonBlood Promise by Richelle Mead
Best Books of 2009
352nd out of 1,395 books — 6,768 voters
Hush, Hush by Becca FitzpatrickFallen by Lauren KateShiver by Maggie StiefvaterPride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-SmithCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare
Best Book Cover 2009
186th out of 315 books — 3,034 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Warning: The first part of this review consists of my idle musings on a topic that occurred to me while reading this book. If you don’t give a damn about that and just want to get on with the review, skip down.

Ever notice how it seems like the same idea start showing up in a variety of tv shows, films, or books at roughly the same time? I’m not talking about the straight-up rip-offs that appear when something like The DaVinci Code hits it big or when trends like vampires or zombies become hot an
I just fell in love with Jess Walter's "Beautiful Ruins", and I was really happy to see that he's been able to do his magic with this book too. The striking element in Walter's writing (in these 2 books at least) is his sense of humor, and that's where I see some readers not liking it because they just have a different sense of humor (or they just don't have one). I understand humor is a very personal thing.
However, while many "funny" books are just shallow, stupid, unfunny, or absurd, or very
Yeahhhh, not a fan. I dunno, it's decently written and decently paced and decently plotted, but it's kind of too much of those things, a little too slick and too pat and too gimmicky. It started out strong, but deflated pretty fast.

It's about a middle-class family in the throes of the mortgage crisis, who are about to lose their house. In a desperate last-ditch effort to get financially solvent, Dad (view spoiler). The way this comes about is pret
Greg Zimmerman
This is going to take some linguistic acrobatics. I'm going to spend the next 500 or so words trying to convince you that a story about bad choices, despair, near-financial ruin, and a failing marriage is one of the funniest, most charming, and downright best books you'll read in a long, long time.

Jess Walter's The Financial Lives of the Poets is fantastic — an authentic and timely story, featuring cameos from the mortgage crisis, the slow death of newspapers, and the increasingly intense cultu
Sam Quixote
A former financial journalist decides to branch out into a new, innovative field - financial news presented in poetic form! Unfortunately doesn't take off and leaves him with a mountain of debt. Couple that with his wife's eBay addiction, his weeks of unemployment, and the financial crash of 2008 and he soon finds himself 1 week away from eviction from his dream house. At a loose end one night, he encounters some stoners and begins to think about dealing weed to get out of his imme ...more
Heard good things about this book and since it was "if you like that one, you'll like this one" book recommendation from what was my favorite read of last year, Jonathan Tropper's "This Is Where I Leave You," I thought I'd give it a shot. I can see why the books were grouped together as Tropper's Judd Foxman is in a similar mid-life-ish crisis/downward spiral mode as Matt Prior, whose life is in disarray after his dream of a financial poetry website (!) spectacularly crashes and bur ...more
Richard Russo, one of my favorite writers, was asked a while back to name some recent books he’d enjoyed. He rattled off a few titles then ended his list with “anything by Jess Walter.” I can see why. Walter is funny, writes as though it’s an easy thing to do, reveals what we recognize as true human nature, and creates characters who aren’t perfect, but you find yourself pulling for anyway. In other words, he’s a lot like Russo. This particular one may not reach the same heights as Citizen Vince ...more
Caroline Bock
Do you ever read one book, usually a break-out book, from an author and wonder where did he/she come from? What else have they written? That was the case with me with Jess Walter. I read his recent Beautiful Ruins and loved it. So, I picked up The Financial Lives of the Poets (what a risky, terrifically provoking title) and loved it! It hits close to home -- a newspaper writer is laid off, on the brink of financial collapse, and on a late night excursion for over-priced milk for his two young so ...more
Dᴀɴ 2.☢
I really had high hopes for this one, after the sterling review and Breaking Bad/Weeds comparisons Kemper made, in his review. The opening act does nothing to dissuade my enthusiasm.

“Here they are again – the bent boys, baked and buzzed boys, wasted, red-eyed, dry-mouth high boys, coursing narrow bright aisles hunting food as fried as they are, twitchy hands, wadding bills they spill on the counter, so pleased and so proud, as if they’re the very inventors of stoned.” And here he is “Matt” your
Matt Prior is in trouble. He quit his job as a journalist to set himself up as a poet/financial advisor, with a website called “”. This idea is not as successful as he'd hoped it would be and when we meet Matt, he is a week away from losing his house. Not only that, he hasn’t told his wife about this potential disaster because they’re not communicating very well right now and he thinks she’s carrying on an online flirtation with an old flame. He’s searching for a way to keep his hom ...more
Mark Womack
I liked it. I didn't care for it. I identified with the character. I didn't. Jess Walter's style is unique, and different from one book to another. It's consistent from one to another. See a pattern here? He makes you really care, and then you go "WAIT a minute!" I Literally AM about to be in a similar financial situation as the main character here, but I doubt I'd go 'on a 3 am adventure' like him with the same results. The story starts to soar, then,....(I know, REALITY,.. Well, yeah, but not ...more
Seems to me that one's tolerance for this book is going to be directly proportional to how "winning" one finds the main character. At the 100-page mark, there's very little about him that I find appealing. To the extent that he is credible as a character at all, and not just an authorial gimmick that should have been strangled at birth, he is remarkably irritating.

Or maybe it's Jess Walter that is the real irritant. So far the author he most reminds me of is Neal Pollock, which - I hope I don't
Mike Lindgren
Jess Walter's two previous novels—The Zero and Citizen Vince—showed him to be one of the finest novelists at work today. It's a bit of a letdown, then, to say that The Financial Lives of the Poets (awful title, by the way; the folks at Harper, as usual, clearly asleep at the switch) is a step sideways at best. The novel, which relates the misadventures of a downward-spiraling burgher named Matt, is a likable enough affair, with a soupçon of topical angst, but has little of its predecessors' zip ...more
For everyone who put their faith in the American dream, the bubble that would never burst, this book is for them. Matt Prior – the desperate narrator of The Financial Lives of the Poets – is truly everyman…a basically good person who is now scrambling to stay marginally solvent in the wake of the huge financial crash.

Matt hasn’t had it so good recently: he left a dying career in journalism (in one of the most scathing and accurate indictments I’ve read about modern-day newspapers) to develop a w
Justin Evans
I honestly have no idea why people like this book. Why? Will someone tell me why? The whole thing can best be summed up by the fact that, while our protagonist is looking at a pile of lumber in his front yard his son says it looks like Jenga. This not only leads said character to cry because of how Jenga was once his son's favorite game, but also to *compare life to Jenga.* That's roughly the level of depth you're dealing with here. Since I can't understand what's meant to be good, I should at l ...more
May 14, 2013 Paul rated it 1 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Good god what a piece of garbage. This very-poorly-/misleadingly-titled book is about a guy who starts a website called, which features "financial lit," i.e. financial advice in the form of free verse. The narrator (first person, shockingly) does some work to defend the idea, while admitting that it "might" sound stupid, but it's unclear whether the author thinks the idea is ridiculous, which means the narrator is an absolute idiot, or if the author thinks there actually is somethi ...more
The first reason to read this book is because it's funny and you'll enjoy it. The author captures the dysfunctional actions and cadences of speech and thought across generations and genders.

But of course behind the humor (as is the case more often than not) looms the sad reality of life here and now, America in the 2000's, where citizens have bought into and been indoctrinated by consumer culture. Our lives are based on things, things we've gotten and lost, things we desire, things by which we j
Yes, that's right. Five stars. Five.
I loved this. I read it in one happy sitting, laughing out loud - literally, out loud - or just marveling at the wonderfulness.
The premise is something close to my heart - the financial disaster, or to be more precise, the greed of the American Dream that caused a living nightmare - and combining, intriguingly enough, poetry. Love it!
The book's narrator is your classic victim of banking on mortgages and credit only to fall splat when everything goes under, and
I was once the last guest still in town after a wedding. The happy couple had left for their honeymoon, the friends and family went home, but I had business in town and stayed a few extra days at the hotel. Because of this, I got all of the leftover cake--all of it. The cakes (there were three) had been made by the bride's extraordinary aunts, whose cake-making talents were reason enough for all of us to want to marry into this family. They made a rum cake, a bourbon cake and a kahlua cake. What ...more

Walter is a great writer and I'm a devoted fan. That being said, this novel is not one of my favorites.
Matt Prior, the underwater, unemployed financial writer is the hapless star "fish" of this soapy novel. The 90's were a time of overbuying and overestimating. Matt and his siren wife, Lisa, got caught in that strangling net. How to stay afloat?
Matt takes the reader down the aisles of the seamy side of the drive in convenience store. He shares a joint, a dream and a nightmare with the feeder fis
o carte pe care o citești cu mare plăcere. râzi mult. scrisul e firesc, nu vrea să te impresioneze. autoironia e peste tot. iar personajul e cald.
eu încă mai râd de un cuvânt: ejachelit.
„Așa că ne apucăm să jucăm un scrabble nebunesc, căci tatăl meu pare să știe doar cuvinte porcoase sau cuvinte inventate care sună porcos.
- Ejachelit? Ce e asta? Un fel de poluție nocturnă de bătrânețe?
- E un pește.
Și își pipăie buzunarul, căutând o țigară, ca un amputat care își caută membrul lipsă.
Mă întind ale
M. D.  Hudson
I don’t read many novels, so I am not sure how to categorize this book– not genre exactly (it is not a knitting mystery, or a romance) – this is, I suppose one of those quasi-literary novels come out of American Lit’s vast buffalo plains of novelists who might teach creative writing on the side (like all the poets do) but still hold out hope for literary fame and fortune (aka “a movie deal”). Slick, yet it has vague literary pretensions (the main character is named Matt Prior, after a forgotten ...more
Here’s a book I never would have chosen for myself in a million years, but which actually turned out to be better than I thought it would. The Financial Lives of Poets follows one week in the life of a middle-aged guy named Matt Prior. Matt lives somewhere in America with his wife, two young sons and senile father. Matt used to be a newspaper business writer, but he took a buy-out so he could start a website which would deliver financial advice through poetry. It’s no surprise that it flopped. A ...more
Robert E.  Kennedy Library
This is an earlier novel by Walter, who wrote Beautiful Ruins. Ruins jumped from Italy to Edinburgh to Hollywood, from the 60s to the present. This one is solidly American in setting and themes, but no less entertaining The main character, Matt Prior, has given up his day job as a reporter to pursue a venture that sounds like a joke: a financial journalism website composed entirely in blank verse. Unfortunately for Matt, his wife, their two sons, and their mortgage (with its upcoming balloon pay ...more
Reuben Alcatraz
A middle aged couple named gave(leant?) me this book at a new years party at my house (I guess they had it in their car?). They seemed like nice people, Beverly and Dennis, in fact, I just finished drinking the brandy they brought over for egg nog, so it pains me to see that they were demographically targeted and reeled in by Jess Walker, the ruthless and jaded carny charlatan who wrote this novel.

The story is some glued-together clockwork bauble about a middle aged journalist who blah blah blah
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Since finishing Infinite Jest almost 3 years ago, I have been searching for an author, a novel, a blurb, an ingredients list, anything, that would give me that same can't-wait-to-sit-down-and-read feeling that DFW's writing elicits. Ain't found a single piece of writing to do so... nothing. Some have come close (Irvine Welsh, Augusten Burroughs, maybe even Dave Eggers) but when a writer is able to make you laugh with every sentence, and then also somehow make you feel smarter, like you've grown ...more
Oct 16, 2009 Sara rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no one
The good thing about this book is that I won it on Goodreads. The bad thing is that the book wasn't very good.

Matt is a husband and father who's unemployed, about to lose his house, and thinks his wife's having an affair. He'd quit his previous job to start up a financial website, doling out advice in the form of poetry (which was not particularly funny, despite the attempt to be), and when this idea fell through and bankrupted him, he was unable to get - and hold on to - another job. One night
I have to admit, a novel titled The Financial Lives of Poets is not something I would normally rush to read. Why would I care about finance and poets? But since people I respect raved about this book, I gave it a try.

I'm so glad I did! Jess Walter has written a dazzling story of a young suburban family in the throws of the national economic crisis that threatens not only their financial stability but their very existence as a family unit.

Matt left his job as a business writer at a newspaper to f
April Hedges
It took me a few false starts to get through this one, mostly because I found the narrator SO annoying. When I finally finished it, I wished I had just given up. Matt Prior (the narrator) remained unforgivably grating for the entire novel. His whining, his stupid decisions brought on by his whining, his oh-poor-me diatribes followed by ironic awareness of his oh-poor-me diatribes - I hated him. I also hated the portrayal of women in this book. Matt's wife Lisa plays out every "bad wife" stereoty ...more
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Jess Walter is the author of five novels and one nonfiction book. His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and his essays, short fiction, criticism and journalism have been widely published, in Details, Playboy, Newsweek, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe among many others.

Walter also writes screenplays and was the co-author of Christopher Darden’s 1996 b
More about Jess Walter...
Beautiful Ruins We Live in Water Citizen Vince The Zero Land of the Blind (Caroline Mabry, #2)

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“(…) met the owner of this cozy book-and-candle Apt. G, a tall, leggy, striking girl named Bea or maybe just the letter B or maybe the insect Bee, not sure, her long blond hair pulled in a ponytail, her no-doubt banging body effortlessly buried beneath a pile of tights and sweaters and scarves – she is a walking coat rack – and as we shook hands, Bea fixed me with the most alarming blue-eyed stare of my life, the kind of stare in which you think some potent subliminal message is being passed along (Run away with me or maybe just Run away), (…)” 4 likes
“I don't know what I expected – no
maybe I do, Al Pacino from Scarface-
but this drug dealer is more like Al Pacino
at the beginning of The Godfather
reasonably bemused, untouched by his
criminal world, sitting with Diane Keaton
whispering about Luca Brazzi, not yet asleep
with the fishes, or like Al Pacino
from Glengarry Glen Ross, although actually,
now that I think about it, he's not
like Al Pacino at all but more like
Kevin Spacey from that film, and who's
ever been afraid of Kevin Spacey?”
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