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The Dismal Science: A Novel Paperback – January 28, 2014
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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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
"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 marriagethe evolution from love to the doldrums of work and parenthood, replete with affairs, then back to love before his wife’s untimely deathall 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 relationshipsthe ones we have with each other and the ones we maintain with ourselves."
"Mountford pulls off impressive feats of empathy: he creates compelling characters out of self-interested economists, and makes the nuances of financial policythe "dismal science" of the book's titleaccessible to lay readers."
"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."
"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."
"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."
"The Dismal Science is a phenomenal book."
"Forget the brainy financial prognostications of Don DeLillo; in Mountford’s stories, capitalism hits you in the gut. Bankers and novelists unite!"
"Mountford’s stories liveand thrivein 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."
"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 andperhapsregretted 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 Sciencean advance on his superb first novelis 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 novelsmart, 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 conveyswith impressive precision and nuancehow 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 novelin 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 amphitheatera 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."
"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
Top customer reviews
Sadly, TDS had none of the deep soul searching issues Mountford provided in YMGLC. Worse TDS did nothing to disabuse the notion that economics and, more specifically, economists are dull and boring. A mid-life crisis of a 54y/o World Bank economist sounds dull and it was. The relationships between the economist (Vincenzo) and his twenty-something daughter, his best friend (a Washington Post fin journo), the World Bank and everyone else he encounters in TDS seem incomplete and built on on dimensional cliches.
Because of YMGLC I'd give Mountford another chance, but I'd recommend skipping this one.
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.