DEAR MONEY by Martha McPhee

Book Quote:

“I had played the game because I had wanted to see if it was possible to change the course of my life. In a way, I had wanted to conform, be erased, be reborn to live the American dream, to live a life untainted by constant worry and doubt…In a fairy tale, a hard-pressed writer — who cares only for the good, the true and the beautiful — has grown destitute because of the world’s general indifference to art…”

Book Review:

Review by Jill Shtulman (JUN 6, 2010)

Martha McPhee is the real deal. Her novel is engrossing, intelligent, playful, and timely. And it would be a shame if it did not get the high readership it deserves.

In this Pygmalion tale of novelist turned bond trader, India Palmer is — well, very much like the author herself. She’s a critically acclaimed writer of four books and has just completed her fifth. She and her husband — a gifted but not-so-rich sculptor — are close friends with a wealthy couple who live luxuriously in NYC’s tony Tribeca area. In India’s attempt to “keep up with the Joneses,” she discovers that “one goes broke in a thousand small ways: birthday presents, house presents; ballet classes; lessons in general; theater subscriptions…dinners out…”

When a friend of her affluent friends — a rakish financier — propositions her with the promise that in eighteen months, he’ll make her a world-class bond trader, she jumps. She realizes that she cannot “make her way in a banker’s world on a writer’s budget” and so she turns her back on the world of serious art and embraces the adrenalin-pumping world of the trade.

The fictional novelist India says, “I had wanted to see if it was possible to change the course of my life. In a way, I had wanted to confirm, be erased, be reborn to live the American dream…” The transformation is fascinating and if the book focused on just THAT, it would have needed little more.

But the author goes further. Dear Money provides fascinating inside glimpses on how the publishing “instant celebrity” culture ensures that an “It Writer” — a total newbee — can rise to the top faster than an author with a solid track record. It reveals a fascinating analogy between traders and publishers: “Take a bunch of aspiring writers earning nothing (subprime mortgages), pool them, put them in a nifty package with bells and whistles, offer it up for trade and make money…loads and loads of it.”

Can writers or traders afford to compromise? What would compromise “feel” like? Ms. McPhee writes, “To leave now, to scale back, to compromise would be to live within a shadow of regret, of second-guessing, of exile.” This timely American story of our culture on the brink kept me reading way into the night and in a strange way, cheering for India Palmer.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 11 readers
PUBLISHER: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 3, 2010)
REVIEWER: Jill Shtulman
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More “money” fiction:How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet

Union Atlantic by Adam Haslett

The Financial Lives of Poets by Jess Walter

And keeping it in the family:

A Man of No Moon by Jenny McPhee


June 6, 2010 В· Judi Clark В· No Comments
Tags: , ,  В· Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, New York City, Reading Guide

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