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A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism Paperback – Bargain Price, April 12, 2011
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On his first assignment for a rapacious hedge fund, Gabriel embarks to Bolivia at the end of 2005 to ferret out insider information about the plans of the controversial president-elect. If Gabriel succeeds, he will get a bonus that would make him secure for life. Standing in his way are his headstrong mother, herself a survivor of Pinochet's Chile, and Gabriel's new love interest, the president's passionate press liaison. Caught in a growing web of lies and questioning his own role in profiting from an impoverished people, Gabriel sets in motion a terrifying plan that could cost him the love of all those he holds dear. In the tradition of Martin Amis, Joshua Ferris, and Sam Lipsyte—set against the stunning mountainous backdrop of La Paz and interspersed with Bolivia's sad history of stubborn survival—Peter Mountford examines the critical choices a young man makes as his world closes in on him.
Amazon Exclusive: Garth Stein Reviews A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism
Peter Mountford’s striking debut novel, A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism, 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.
In 1983, when I was seven, my family moved from a quiet neighborhood in Washington, D.C., to Sri Lanka. Two weeks after we arrived in Colombo, the country was consumed by a bloody month of ethnic strife—what became known as Black July. That strife turned into a nearly thirty-year-long civil war. Then, in my early twenties, I spent two years in Ecuador writing about the country’s ailing economy. Ecuador was embroiled in a rapid succession of revolutions and spectacular economic catastrophes at the time, and I saw a similar irrepressible current of culture and beauty running beneath these disasters. Also, I saw how inextricably wed finance is to history, and to the lives of everyday people.
In sharp contrast to those experiences, I also spent part of my childhood in a wooded suburb Washington, D.C., where incidents in the personal and professional lives of my friends’ parents often ended up in the headlines of newspapers.
It was through experiencing these kinds of stark contrasts—between power and powerlessness, wealth and poverty—that I was inspired to write A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism. The book dramatizes my time living and working in South America. Economics is often thought of as a dry subject (the so-called "dismal science"), but it has always seemed utterly dramatic to me, and in this book I’ve tried to reveal how exciting and funny and engaging this material can be.--Peter Mountford
"The Bolivian setting is colorful and engaging, as are the financial maneuverings."
"[T]he novel holds the reader's interest to the end... [Mountford's] affectionate portrayal of Bolivia is probably the book's strongest point."
"This is a solid read that is both adventurous and thought-provoking on the themes of racial identity, South Americans, politics, and wealth."
“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
"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 Walters, author of The Financial Lives of the Poets
"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, 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
"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
Top customer reviews
I became frustrated with how seemingly easy it was for Gabriel to extract information from lovers, to both of whom he reveals his true purpose in Bolivia. Each of these women, whose detailed career descriptions I'll omit here, only mentioning that they're each in prominent positions relevant to his true cause throughout the novel, are eventually willing to help him. Though I've of course never attempted anything like Gabriel's fictional job in real life, realistic as the role he plays for his hedge fund employer I do believe to be, it seems to me that women of the stature of his two bedfellows would be loathe to provide him with any of the sort of information they do after "dating" him for a few weeks.
This next comment may be trite, but by the end of the book, its title came to annoy me. The fact is there's a lot more to capitalism than the events described therein, and the book is anything but a guide. I suppose it's meant to be satirical, but I just think he could've called it something cooler.
Still, without spoiling the ending for anyone reading this review, its the ending itself that allowed me to give it four stars. I was pleased overall with Gabriel's fate. That and the facts that I very much enjoyed reading it, found it hard to put down, and admired Mountford's writing style throughout the book amount to why I gave it a four star rating. I intend to read future novels by this author.
I started reading because I wanted to get my money's worth, but continued because the story was compelling, and mysterious. I was somewhat reminded of a Graham Greene storyline, albeit with slightly lower stakes (less murder).
Buy this book for the author's strange gesture of helping a Russian struggling to steal from him, and read it because you won't be able to put it down!