Friday, July 17, 2015
The financial lives of the poets, Jess Walter
Jess Walter is one of the best contemporary American writers. His voice is unique. His lighthearted depth is an unmatched delight. If you still haven't read any of his books, drop everything and make your life better by giving him a chance. I just fell in love with his bestseller "Beautiful Ruins", and I was ecstatic to see that he's been able to do his magic with this book, too. Yes, this book does mix finance and poetry. I dare you to find any other book that does that.
The striking element in Walter's writing - I have read most of his books - is his sense of humor, and that's where I see some readers might not like 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 supposedly funny books are just shallow, stupid, unfunny, or absurd, or very often unbalanced structural abominations (especially the ones with idiotic comments on the cover like "I barfed with laughter all the way through!", or "You will be laughing so hard your hemorrhoids will explode!"), "The Financial Lives" strikes a wonderful balance between comedy and drama, between very lighthearted moments and intimate, touching scenes. And all of it fitting in a harmonious structure. It is a joy to read. It is elegant, alla Italiana.
Do you know how hard it is to do that? To strike this kind of balance? It takes a very unique kind of alchemist, one who knows in his guts just how many drops of this and that substance is too little or too many.
I also loved the inventiveness of the poetry. Yes, of course is a joke, a game. But it's poetry, as well. And it bears meaning, too. Like this one, for example:
"And I wonder if we don't live like water
seeking a level
a low bed
until one day we just go dry.
I wonder if a creek ever realizes
it has made its own grave."
The very best books are the ones where you can feel on your fingers the writer's own enthusiasm and joy of writing, and I can say I felt that playfulness and joy throughout this book, despite the very serious topics being touched, like the economic crisis and unemployment.
Hats off, Mr Walter. This is the kind of story-telling that I wish I was able to pull off in my fantasy life as a writer. My pen name would be "Jeff Swelter", and you would know that it is me writing in honor of your work.