5. The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
Walter, author of the gritty Edgar winner, Citizen Vince and the National Book Award Nominee and 2006 Catapult Notable Book, The Zero, has returned with a heartbreaking, hilarious & very timely story about how quickly our lives can change & how we each handle life’s persistent curveballs just a little bit differently.
The humor in this cautionary tale of financial woe is very dark, very dry, and the situation is profoundly bleak for sleepless, unemployed Matt, who is in danger of losing his house, his wife, all his money, and every ounce of his sanity. Before the stock 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 poetfolio.com.
Buffetted by fuel cost soaring
and with labor costs surging
Delta and Northwest are exploring
the possibility of merging
Two years later, after the website predictably tanked in miserable fashion, Matt returned to the journalism job he left, only to be laid off when the market ultimately bottomed out. Now he can’t find work, the bank is threatening foreclosure (he’s told that he has “fiscal Ebola” by his financial planner), 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”.) One fateful evening, while purchasing $9 milk at a 7-Eleven, Matt decides that selling pot to his middle-aged contemporaries is the way to make the money he needs to save it all. How do you think that ends? Emotionally resonant and more culturally relevant than anything I can remember reading, Walter has kicked his game up into a new level that I never thought he was capable of.