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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Malcolm Gladwell would be so proud. Senior World Bank economist Vincenzo D’Orsi reaches a tipping point of epic proportions when a seemingly innocuous conversation with his executive director escalates into the kind of argument in which idle threats are issued and then must be acted upon. Choosing not to step back from the brink, D’Orsi follows through on his ultimatum and leaves his position after a lengthy, if not overly illustrious, career. The domino effect of his actions is swift and all-encompassing. He alienates his daughter, turns on his best friend, sells his house, and walks off into an abyss that began forming in the aftermath of his wife’s sudden death. Without a family, home, or career, D’Orsi is free to discover who he is and how he got there, though the answers are not always pleasing. Mountford’s wry look at middle-aged identity and transition is a sardonic yet sobering portrait of what happens when a man living a life too narrowly becomes confounded when confronted with too many choices. --Carol Haggas

Review

"The Dismal Science by Peter Mountford. This guy is managing to make economics and the World Bank something I don't just try and force myself to read about in The New York Times so that I can remain knowledgeable about the state of the world. GOD FORBID."
BUST Magazine

"Mountford has written a distinctively entertaining novel that illuminates the spiritual odyssey of a contemporary Dodsworth."
—Starred Publishers Weekly

"Peter Mountford’s fierce imagination and intelligence drive The Dismal Science. D’Orsi is a mesmerizing character. His wrecking-ball choices and the truth that there are no easy answers make him utterly human. The portrait of his interior life, his struggles to figure out a way forward, above all his memories of his 25-year marriage—the evolution from love to the doldrums of work and parenthood, replete with affairs, then back to love before his wife’s untimely death—all of this is poignantly real and the loss acutely felt."
New York Times Book Review

"[T]his fiercely intelligent second novel from Peter Mountford. . .is far less interested in capitalism and wealth, than it is in the economy of human relationships—the ones we have with each other and the ones we maintain with ourselves."
—Kirkus

"Mountford pulls off impressive feats of empathy: he creates compelling characters out of self-interested economists, and makes the nuances of financial policy—the "dismal science" of the book's title—accessible to lay readers."
The Collagist

"A novel about identity, rationality and starting over, Mountford's book follows a former VP at the World Bank as he tries to rebuild his life following a series of scandals and losses."
Time Out Chicago

"Mountford’s wry look at middle-aged identity and transition is a sardonic yet sobering portrait of what happens when a man living a life too narrowly becomes confounded when confronted with too many choices."
—Booklist

"As in Ian McEwan's Atonement, Mountford shows how the repercussions of a single, small decision can slowly, deeply and truly change people. The Dismal Science is a classic novel of ideas for our time and our world of economics, wealth and greed."
—Shelf Awareness

"A simmering new novel about the underside of global finance . . . . [The Dismal Science's] exploration of a man who can't seem to find his way out of darkness partly of his own making has a beauty that is as delicate as the fleeting hope in Vincenzo's story."
Seattle Times

"The Dismal Science is a phenomenal book."
The Stranger

"Forget the brainy financial prognostications of Don DeLillo; in Mountford’s stories, capitalism hits you in the gut. Bankers and novelists unite!"
—Fiction Advocate

"Mountford’s stories live—and thrive—in ethical gray areas. His characters constantly compromise some part of their lives to leave room for another: love for work, integrity for success, pragmatism for principled conviction. The Dismal Science forms new iterations of these conflicts; against the backdrop of the World Bank and its role in Latin America, the characters’ struggles are a metaphor for the larger moral minefield unfolding around them."
L Magazine

"Mountford's elegant wit makes this novel something of a romp. . .The prose of The Dismal Science is sharp and clever, it has the sound of a cynical insider confiding secrets."
Minneapolis Star Tribune

The Dismal Science is exuberant art, a deep, moving comedy about grief, guilt, and the heart's geopolitics. Mountford writes with soul and style and makes the plight of his protagonist count.”
—Sam Lipsyte, New York Times bestselling author of The Ask

"Quietly wrenching, sharply drawn and completely un-put-downable. With The Dismal Science, Peter Mountford asserts himself as our generation’s most significant business-world ombudsman. A deft and unflinching exponent of the human side of a polarizing world few of us actually understand."
—Tea Obreht, New York Times bestselling author of The Tiger's Wife

“In his fiercely intelligent second novel (after A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism), Mountford examines, with wry humor and sympathy leavened with a realistic accounting of Vincenzo d’Orsi’s flaws and failings, the repercussions of a decision made in haste and—perhaps—regretted at leisure. Or not regretted. Who could have ever predicted that an economist at the World Bank could be such a terrific main character? I absolutely loved The Dismal Science."
—Nancy Pearl, NPR commentator and author of the Book Lust series

"Peter Mountford's elegantly written The Dismal Science—an advance on his superb first novel—is an extremely impressive imagining by a relatively young writer into a relatively old man's life. It also is a brilliant extrapolation of the economist's 'dismal science' into a metaphor for the difficult fate of any living, breathing, dying human being."
—David Shields, New York Times bestselling of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

The Dismal Science is a beautiful novel: stark, powerful, and life-affirming. Vincenzo’s haunting journey will stay with me for a very, very long time.”
—Garth Stein, New York Times bestselling author of The Art of Racing in the Rain



REVIEWS AND PRAISE FOR A YOUNG MAN’S GUIDE TO LATE CAPITALISM

"Peter Mountford’s striking debut novel is a smart and entertaining book. Set near the peak of the financial bubble in 2005, the book charts the story of a young financial journalist, Gabriel de Boya, recently hired as an analyst for a notoriously unscrupulous hedge fund. Gabriel’s first mission is a test of his abilities: go to Bolivia and find a way to profit from the Bolivian presidential election. In Gabriel, Mountford creates a complex, charismatic, and engaging character, a chameleon who works himself into increasingly precarious positions as his mission is both facilitated and complicated by his love affair with the Bolivian president-elect’s press liaison.

In Mountford's novel, the stakes of international finance and the personal lives of those involved intersect in a beautifully drawn Bolivia. A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism accomplishes that rare trick of being a book of ideas and politics while remaining, at its core, a profoundly intimate, character-driven story and a tremendously good read.
I highly recommend this captivating debut novel by a remarkably promising young writer."
—Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain in a guest author review for Amazon.com


"A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism is a terrific debut novel—smart, moving, beautifully written. Peter Mountford's parable of the voracious global economy reminded me of Graham Greene's The Quiet American in its clear-eyed depiction of the realpolitik of our age."
—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins


"A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism is, quite simply, one of the most compelling and thought-provoking novels I’ve read in years. It’s extraordinarily vivid, populated by characters whose fates I cared about desperately, beautifully written, timely beyond measure, but above all it conveys—with impressive precision and nuance—how we are vectors on the grid of global capital; how difficult it is to even attempt to be an authentic, let alone admirable, human being when we are, first and last, cash flow."
—David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto and The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead


"Peter Mountford, in his amazing debut as a novelist, has updated the gilded myth of Wall Street swashbucklers in expensive suits and spun it out into the world in a hellbent tale, dramatizing the contorted rationalizations practiced by the financial elite to justify their self-delusion. Forget fame, respect, making the world a better place. Transcend the craving for money by acquiring a truckload of it. Buddha as a hedge fund operator, reallocating soullessness throughout the system."
—Bob Shacochis, author of Swimming in the Volcano and The Next New World


"A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is a brilliant debut novel, one that is generous in giving readers an original cast of vividly-drawn and unforgettable characters, learned in its knowledge of the interwoven worlds of finance and politics, sexy, and thoroughly cosmopolitan. Peter Mountford is easily one of the most gifted and skillful young writers, already accomplished, I have had the pleasure of reading in many years."
—Charles Johnson, author of Middle Passage and Dreamer


"In his debut novel, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, Peter Mountford has something important to say about the ambiguous moral ground where the personal meets the political. He has experience and sophistication beyond his years and is well-positioned to mine this vein. This novel is worth your time and attention."
—David Guterson, author of Snow Falling on Cedars


"Peter Mountford’s A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism is a sharp, funny and terrifying novel—in a world so much like our own (part of the terror: it may, in fact, be our world), Gabriel’s actions and the reactions of those around him caused me to wonder, again and again: how do I wish to live in this world, and what latitude might I find?"
—Peter Rock, author of My Abandonment


“This expat novel set in Bolivia covers high finance, politics, and morality. It takes on the issues of our times better than any book we’ve read in years.”
—Citation for a “Nobbie” award for a best book of 2011, from The Nervous Breakdown


"This is Mountford’s triumph: he has created a commentary on contemporary economics that is as moving and genuine as it is biting and satirical . . . A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism will be remembered as a touchstone work of the Era of Twenty-First Century Economic Crises."
—Raphaela Weissman for Bookslut


"Compulsively readable . . . Daringly allegorical and written with apt understatement, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism appears as a Trojan horse within the realm of contemporary literary fiction. Mountford has the courage to depict a world in which personal lives aren't really that personal."
—Chris Kraus in the Los Angeles Review of Books


"Debut novels don't come much savvier, punchier, or more entertaining than [A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism]."
—Michael Upchurch in the Seattle Times


"Several things set Peter Mountford's impressive debut, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, apart from the few finance-driven novels that have emerged in the wake of the economic meltdown."
—Jessica Loudis for NPR.ORG


"What a miraculous thing Mountford has done. Gabriel is right on both counts. And wrong. That polarity crackles in the heart of this novel, which is neither afraid to feel deep sympathy for its tragic protagonist nor hesitant to judge him harshly."
—Alexander Yates in the Kenyon Review


"Mountford's powerful novel avoids easy judgements as it explores how money can take over one's life."
—Mark Athitakis in Minneapolis Star-Tribune


"In this dazzling debut novel, Mountford displays a gift for characterization and a sure-footed grasp of financial matters that enable him to guide a reader nimbly through the arcane vernacular of Wall Street."
New Jersey Star Ledger


"In his powerfully-written, quick-paced, and timely debut, Mountford shines a hard light on today’s frantic financial amphitheater—a place where morality is secondary to making a dollar and large companies can sabotage entire countries."
—Greg Brown in The Rumpus


"This is quite simply one of the smartest and most readable debuts I’ve come across in years. Mountford is a writer who rolls up his sleeves and digs into the zeitgeist all the way up to his elbows. He’s fearless in his depiction of world leaders, global events, and the oft-ignored gray areas between morality and success."
—Tyler McMahon for Fiction Writers Review


"Peter Mountford’s debut novel speeds off, down the crowded streets of La Paz. If Graham Greene and Gordon Gekko collaborated on a South American travelogue, it would go something like this . . . It turns out 'international markets and their political underpinnings' can be fun to read about, after all."
—Fiction Advocate


"The novel is a latter-day Graham Greene adventure, where a young protagonist in a foreign land becomes deeply embroiled in financial (instead of Greene's political) espionage, and must make decisions that will affect the course of his own life as well as his host nation's. This novel won great reviews, but may have slipped under your radar on its release in May of 2011."
—St. Louis Country Library
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Tin House Books (January 28, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935639722
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935639725
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #207,477 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Peter Mountford grew up in Washington, DC, apart from three formative years in Sri Lanka during the early stages of the Sri Lankan civil war. After earning a degree in International Relations from Pitzer College in 1999, he spent two years as a token liberal at a think tank called the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution. During much of that time, he lived in Ecuador. When he returned to the US, he quit the think tank and began writing fiction.

Peter's first novel, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) won the 2012 Washington State Book Award and was a finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Prize.

His second novel, The Dismal Science, was published in February 2014 by Tin House Books. His work on The Dismal Science was supported by grants from the City of Seattle, 4Culture, and the Elizabeth George Foundation. He was also awarded the Wallace Fellowship for a Distinguished Writer from Yaddo in order to work on the book.

Peter's short fiction and essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, New York Times Magazine, Best New American Voices 2008, Granta, Conjunctions, Salon, Slate, ZYZZYVA and Boston Review, where he won second place in the 2007 contest, judged by George Saunders. He's currently the event curator and writer-in-residence at Hugo House, Seattle's writing center.

PRAISE:

The Dismal Science is exuberant art, a deep, moving comedy about grief, guilt, and the heart's geopolitics. Mountford writes with soul and style and makes the plight of his protagonist count.

-Sam Lipsyte

In his fiercely intelligent second novel, Mountford examines, with wry humor and sympathy leavened with a realistic accounting of Vincenzo D'Orsi's flaws and failings, the repercussions of a decision made in haste and -- perhaps -- regretted at leisure. Or not regretted. Who could have ever predicted that an economist at the World Bank could be such a terrific main character? I absolutely loved The Dismal Science.

-Nancy Pearl

The Dismal Science is a beautiful novel: stark, powerful, and life-affirming. Vincenzo's haunting journey will stay with me for a very, very long time.

-Garth Stein

Quietly wrenching, sharply drawn and completely un-put-downable. With The Dismal Science, Peter Mountford asserts himself as our generation's most significant business-world ombudsman, a deft and unflinching exponent of the human side of a polarizing world few of us actually understand.

--Tea Obreht

A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is a terrific debut--smart, moving, beautifully written. Peter Mountford's parable of the voracious global economy reminded me of Graham Greene's The Quiet American in its clear-eyed depiction of the realpolitik of our age.

-Jess Walter


A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is, quite simply, one of the most compelling and thought-provoking novels I've read in years. It's extraordinarily vivid, populated by characters whose fates I cared about desperately, beautifully written, timely beyond measure, but above all it conveys--with impressive precision and nuance--how we are vectors on the grid of global capital; how difficult it is to even attempt to be an authentic, let alone admirable, human being when we are, first and last, cash flow.

-David Shields


Peter Mountford's A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is a sharp, funny and terrifying novel--in a world so much like our own (part of the terror: it may, in fact, be our world), Gabriel's actions and the reactions of those around him caused me to wonder, again and again: how do I wish to live in this world, and what latitude might I find?

-Peter Rock


Peter Mountford, in his amazing debut as a novelist, has updated the gilded myth of Wall Street swashbucklers in expensive suits and spun it out into the world in a hellbent tale, dramatizing the contorted rationalizations practiced by the financial elite to justify their self-delusion. Forget fame, respect, making the world a better place. Transcend the craving for money by acquiring a truckload of it. Buddha as a hedge fund operator, reallocating soullessness throughout the system.

-Bob Shacochis


A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism is a brilliant debut novel, one that is generous in giving readers an original cast of vividly-drawn and unforgettable characters, learned in its knowledge of the interwoven worlds of finance and politics, sexy, and thoroughly cosmopolitan. Peter Mountford is easily one of the most gifted and skillful young writers, already accomplished, I have had the pleasure of reading in many years.

-Charles Johnson


In his debut novel, A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism, Peter Mountford has something important to say about the ambiguous moral ground where the personal meets the political. He has experience and sophistication beyond his years and is well-positioned to mine this vein. This novel is worth your time and attention.

-David Guterson

Customer Reviews

For me, this book was the perfect mix of satire, drama, and great characterization.
Bhyl Hughes
How Mountford tackles a subject like economics and the world bank and turns it intro something so human, so moving and gripping, is remarkable.
JJW
I know that is what life is like but I prefer a book to at least pull it all together in the end.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Carol Pierson Holding on March 9, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I’ve heard many complaints about authors failing to include the details of working life, and it’s a hard thing to do when work is desk-bound. How then does Mountford make the middle-age of an economist so riveting? Of course, he adds beautiful women and exotic locations, interactions with the well-known personage of Paul Wolfowitz and insider stories about the controversial World Bank. But it’s the human conflicts in Vincenzo’s life that make this a compelling read. I felt such sympathy for Vincenzo, the senior functionary whose frustrations about his dead wife, his daughter and her boyfriend, and most painfully, about his job work to undermine his sense of place in the world. A man who fundamentally believes in the World Bank’s mission and its leader, he allows a young activist to encourage him on a course of disillusionment and self-destruction. Mountford’s style is perfect for his hero, erudite without being off-putting, able to acknowledge emotional fragility while maintaining his dignity. The scenes with Vincenzo and his daughter are heart-breaking; the description of Vincenzo’s decline are often shattering. I couldn’t put it down.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Bhyl Hughes on January 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
For me, this book was the perfect mix of satire, drama, and great characterization. The main character, Vincenzo, is fantastic. The author does a great job of conveying his conflicting feelings on a range of deep, complex issues. Just to name a few: His wife was killed, but their marriage had grown loveless well before that, just to have brief glimmers of having feelings rekindled days before her death. He has a job that he is proud of, but at the same time recognizes the absurdity and futility of it and the larger system that it is a part of.

The story itself is a page turner. I don't want to give too much away, but Vincenzo ends up making what he thinks is a noble gesture of career suicide, but of course the aftermath is much more complex than he imagined. The plot really keeps the story moving along at a fast pace, but it is the deft depiction of the various inner turmoils of the characters that really make me give this 5 stars.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sanjay Mathur on April 19, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I seldom write a review but something about this novel compels me. Thanks to an intriguing beginning and florid writing, the reader is totally drawn in. Five stars for the first 1/3 of the novel. Then it begins to fall flat and the ending is sudden and mouth-agape disappointing. Perhaps that is the author's point. What is failure, is asked at one point in the book. In the end you have a visual image of your answer: insignificance. Were this book a piece of pottery, you would think the object either not fully formed or deliberately deformed but, thanks to the great writing, still glazed and fired and sold. With such a promising beginning, why could there not be a better story??? Here you have a man who quit the World Bank on an impulse, taking advantage of a moment to make a public scene yet having no deep convictions; he reads The Purgatory and Machiavelli; he has friends in high places such as the Washington Post and Lehman Brothers; he knows the capitals of the world and is respected by his peers at the Bank including the Bank President, Paul Wolfowitz, who does not come off looking badly at all; he is invited to Bolivia and makes the acquaintance of Evo Morales. And the book ends the way it does - with utter failure, lack of direction, and a disturbing picture of insignificance. There is something unformed about this book, potential that is lost, a different way the story could have gone. For example, tying back to Dante's purgatory, which oddly enough shows up on the cover of the book; or further developing the work life of Vincenzo and his thoughts on development aid; or even developing the CIA agent's role and tactics. Even the exploration of failure and waywardness and impulse could have more intellectual thrust. Great beginning but such is the best that is said of many things, including this book. That said, I do admire the author's writing greatly and I look forward to his next book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ray Garraty on April 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
Vincenzo D’Orsi is a Vice-President at the World Bank and a widower. Once a year, the board of the Bank is going to Washington to discuss the Bank’s working directions, but for the most part these meetings are of a formal nature. Managers and bankers are going to share rumors, talk about their lives, just having a drink with old friends. The Bank operates almost by itself. a The meeting of the Bank falls on Thanksgiving, and Vincenzo spends holiday in the company of his daughter Leonora, who came specially from New York, where she lives after graduating from the prestigious college and working as a waitress in a cafe, and his closest - and only - friend Walter, a journalist of The Washington Post. Walter and Vincenzo know each other more than for 20 years, their friendship began with a short interview that Walter took from Vincenzo. Now both friends already are in their fifties, and they have worked at the same place all their lives.

Everything changes for Vincenzo after his meeting with Hamilton, an expert on South American direction. In Bolivia a new president was elected, and he is the opposition to the candidate backed by the Americans. Now Hamilton asks Vincenzo cut help to Bolivia, fearing that Bolivia would seek to escape from U.S. pressure. But Vincenzo refuses to fulfill the request of colleagues. Hamilton begins to threaten Vincenzo that he would lose his job, while Vincenzo in turn threatens to go with this story to the press. Communication with the press is secretly prohibited in the Bank, and both Hamilton and Vincenzo understand that it will lead to Vincenzo’s retirement.

By evening Vincenzo decides to summon his friend Walter and talks about the pressure on him.
Read more ›
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