Saturday, October 3, 2009

Are You Seth? vol.1

"Are you Seth?" is, apparently, a common question in the book department whenever I am not around. (Personally, I am rarely asked this, for whatever reason.) I read a lot and I write a lot about what I read - my "Warwick's Recommends" cards are in many places around the store - and many customers ask to pick my brain a bit about certain titles, share their thoughts on books we've both enjoyed, or even to ask me whether I "actually read any of these books" or to half-heartedly accuse me of plagiarizing from the New York Times - these are all great dialogues!  So, in answer to your query, "Yes, I am Seth." And these are the books I recommend.

This is the first of a regular post of extended book recommendations by yours truly. Shorter than a real book review, longer than a "Warwick's Recommends" card, I'll just enamor you with my scholarly wisdom and hope to convince you that these books are worth reading. For more on my personal reading habits, reviews (like E.L. Doctorow's Homer & Langley), rants, and reflections on bookworld trends, (plus a tad bit more foul language) visit my website, The Book Catapult.

The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
Walter is the author of the 2007 Edgar Award winner Citizen Vince and the 2008 National Book Award Nominee, The Zero. I'm a big fan.

Halfway through this cautionary tale of financial woe, as my sides ached from laughing, I thought, “I had no idea Jess Walter was so funny”. The humor is very dark and the situation is bleak for sleepless, unemployed Matt, who is in danger of losing his house, his wife, all his money, and his sanity. Before the market crash of 2008, Matt quit his job as a financial news columnist to start an ill-fated website of poetry-laced financial tips and articles called
Buffeted by fuel costs soaring
and with labor costs surging
Delta and Northwest are exploring
the possibility of merging.
Two years later, after the website tanked miserably, he returned to the journalism job he left, only to be laid off when the market ultimately bottomed out. Now Matt can't find work, the bank is threatening foreclosure, his wife has managed to shop her way into an insurmountable credit card debt (and is more than likely having an affair), his children pick fights in their expensive private school, and his father, plagued by dementia, can offer no support, as he spends his days clutching his television remote and thinking in a perpetual loop. (His favorite refrain is, "Know what I miss?" - a question with only six possible answers, among them "chipped beef", "Angie Dickinson" and "The Rockford Files".) And his financial planner tells him that he has "fiscal ebola". One fateful evening, while purchasing $9 milk at a 7-Eleven, he decides to sell pot to his middle-aged contemporaries, as a way to make the money he needs to save it all – how do you think that ends?

At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, Walter has created a moving, timely, & very human story about how quickly our lives can change & how we each handle life’s persistent curveballs just a little bit differently.

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