Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fact and Fiction at the Tucson Festival of Books

Jess Walter is high on my list of authors to meet at the Tucson Festival of Books, because I love his novel on how not to cope with the current economic crisis in The Financial Lives of the Poets. Matt Prior is a likable Everyman who has lost his job as a business reporter and is within days of losing his upside down-mortgaged house. His wife has filled their garage with junk from the Home Shopping Network, and he's afraid that she's having an affair with the high school flame she found on Facebook. Caring for his senile father is another of Matt's challenges and he can't afford to keep his sons in their over-priced private school, even though he knows they won't survive the predatory jungle of public education. His attempt to launch a website where financial advice is given in poetry is a failure: people don't seem to want economic updates delivered in iambic pentameter or haiku.

What, then, do people want? The answer comes to him in a flash, when a chance encounter with some gang bangers at a convenience store results in him getting stoned for the first time in many years. Of course! Middle-aged folks are longing for marijuana! And selling pot is a recession-proof business. Not surprisingly, this doesn't turn to be the best idea for saving his bacon that Matt could have had, but it's by no means the last bad decision he'll make in this hilarious satire on The-way-we-live-now-but-really-wish-we-didn't. Multiple "What was he thinking?" moments will keep you turning pages.

Still on the subject of business reporters--nonfictional this time--I also plan to check in on Michael Hiltzik, Pulitzer Prize-winning business reporter for the LA Times, and author of Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century. Hiltzik digs deep into the social, economic and political factors that surrounded the construction of this eternal symbol of the Southwest, and places them in an environmental and historical context that is as eye-opening as it is informative.

Hundreds of authors will be at the Tucson Festival of Books, March 12 and 13 on the UA Mall. And, it's all free, even the parking. You absolutely can't afford to miss it!


Follow the book title links to the Library's catalog for these and other great titles by authors appearing at the Book Festival.

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