A Satirical Novel - The Financial Lives of Poets

For April my book clubs will be reading satirical novels, the first being The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter.

In preparing for the discussion I have gathered the following material to enhance our discussion.

Jess Walter was born in 1965 in Spokane, Washington where he still lives in his childhood home with his wife and three children. He has written six novels, The Financial Lives of Poets being his fifth (we have discussed is sixth, Beautiful Ruins in a prior discussion) The Financial Lives of Poets was adapted for the stage by Book-It repetory Theater in Seattle, Washington in 2013.

Discussion Questions

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

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

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

4. 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?

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

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

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

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

9. 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?

10. 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.

Discussion questions provided by the publisher

Other Resources

Interview with Jess Walter on Wordy Evidence of the Fact blog

New York Times review of The Financial Lives of Poets

The Oyster Book club's discussion of The Financial Lives of Poets

Not necessarily about The Financial Lives of Poets.

Author Jess Walter speaks to the 2011 Annual Conference of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

Other Works by Jess Walter