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The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie
  

The Portable Veblen

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One of our Books of the Year 2016.

Shortlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016.

Whimsical yet sharp and perceptive, ‘The Portable Veblen’ is an absolute treat of a read. Veblen is eccentrically wonderful, she lives in California, is followed by a squirrel and has a fiancé (yes the order of the squirrel and fiancé is deliberate). Veblen is influenced by Thorstein Veblen, an American sociologist and economist, her fiancé Paul is apparently influenced by achievement and success, and is determined to rid Veblen’s attic of its noisy invader. Occasional photos, letters and little extras crop up through the book, making the journey from beginning to end feel even more intense and physically real. At times I felt as though I was floating directly above Veblen, connected yet apart, and able to pick up on the smallest but most significant details. Elizabeth McKenzie writes with a beautifully considered yet free hand, with my feelings ranging from amused to curious, frustrated to sympathetic, and I also fell in love with a squirrel. This is a book to keep near at hand, a book to love and to cherish, to savour and to treasure. ~ Liz Robinson

February 2016 Debut of the Month.

Synopsis

The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie

Meet Veblen: a passionate defender of the anti-consumerist views of her name-sake, the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen. She's an experienced cheerer-upper (mainly of her narcissistic, hypochondriac, controlling mother), an amateur translator of Norwegian, and a firm believer in the distinct possibility that the plucky grey squirrel following her around can understand more than it lets on. Meet her fiance, Paul: the son of good hippies who were bad parents, a no-nonsense, high-flying neuroscientist with no time for squirrels. His recent work on a device to minimize battlefield trauma has led him dangerously close to the seductive Cloris Hutmacher, heiress to a pharmaceuticals empire, who is promising him fame and fortune through a shady-sounding deal with the Department of Defence. What could possibly go wrong?

Reviews

'Man oh man, do I love this book! Audacious, imaginative, and totally wonderful: The whole books zips and zings'
Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

'The Portable Veblen is the squirreliest novel I ever read. I enjoyed it completely'
Ursula K. Le Guin, author of The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness

'A deeply observed universe where heroines are named for economists and the high stakes of capitalism are set to collide with the chatter of small wild animals. Both humorous and wrenching'
Samantha Hunt, author of The Invention of Everything Else and Mr. Splitfoot

About the Author

Elizabeth McKenzie

Elizabeth McKenzie's work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Author photo © Linda Ozaki

Below is a Q&A with this author.

What I’m reading: Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban
What I’m listening to: The Dead Sailor Girls, Neil Finn
What I’m watching: The Americans
Favourite word(s): homunculus + pseudo
Favourite song: And Your Bird Can Sing
Your hero – literary or otherwise: Roger Federer
The book you wish you’d written/The book that everyone should read: The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
Writing ritual: lots of coffee, straight backed wooden chair, back to the window, children at school
Best advice ever received: Look for what’s already here.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be? Fewer heartless jerks.
Think of something beautiful – could we ask you to describe what you see? Hanami, the cherry blossom viewing festivals in Japan.
What’s the most memorable sentence you’ve ever read? One is from the Steegmuller translation of Madame Bovary: “Whereas the truth is that fullness of soul can sometimes overflow in utter vapidity of language, for none of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.”
What would you be doing if you weren’t writing? There have been serious secret yearnings for careers in private investigation, airline pilotry, and donkey ranching.
Who would play your main character in a film adaptation of your book: Honeysuckle Weeks? Ellen Page?
Where best do you write? Your study, your kitchen counter, Starbucks? A small cluttered room at the top of the stairs.

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Book Info

Publication date

19th January 2016

Author

Elizabeth McKenzie

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Publisher

Fourth Estate Ltd an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Format

Paperback
448 pages

Categories

Literary Fiction
All Shortlists and Winners
Debuts of the Month
Family Drama
Relationship Stories
eBook Favourites

Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)

ISBN

9780008160630

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