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Financial Failure Fiction (and Poetry)

posted by Melissa Jacoby

If I am not mistaken, it has been a while since Credit Slips has featured discussions of "bankruptcy literature." So I thought I would report that I just finished The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter, whom Janet Maslin called a "deft humorist and catastrophist" back in 2009. The book is a powerful reminder that literary writers and others in the art and culture worlds have amazing tools to capture the spiral downward and the third-party effects. And behold a writer who dares to use not only the term bankruptcy, but to distinguish between its constituent chapters. Disclosure: this book would not be rated PG (at least in my naive world) and it is deliberately outlandish. Taking it literally could produce extreme lack of sympathy for the indebted financial reporter-poet protagonist. You might like this book if you are a fan of, say, The Information by Martin Amis, The Ask by Sam Lipsyte, or Straight Man by Richard Russo. Readers out there, feel free to share your take on Walter's book (and name any other recent works of fiction that you think do it as well or better). Apparently, the book is being turned into a movie with Jack Black, directed by Michael Winterbottom

Regardless of the outcome in the book, let's not give up on the idea of online financial reporting and advice in the form of poetry (making a living on it is a different story). Perhaps one of the Credit Slips gang will be inspired to give it a try on this site? Stay tuned.  


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  • As a public service, the University of Illinois College of Law operates Bankr-L, an e-mail list on which bankruptcy professionals can exchange information. Bankr-L is administered by one of the Credit Slips bloggers, Professor Robert M. Lawless of the University of Illinois. Although Bankr-L is a free service, membership is limited only to persons with a professional connection to the bankruptcy field (e.g., lawyer, accountant, academic, judge). To request a subscription on Bankr-L, click here to visit the page for the list and then click on the link for "Subscribe." After completing the information there, please also send an e-mail to Professor Lawless ([email protected]) with a short description of your professional connection to bankruptcy. A link to a URL with a professional bio or other identifying information would be great.