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The Portable Veblen (2016)

por Elizabeth McKenzie

MembrosCríticasPopularidadeAvaliação médiaMenções
6163939,041 (3.51)80
"A young couple on the brink of marriage--the charming Veblen and her fiancé Paul, a brilliant neurologist--find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other's dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel. Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term "conspicuous consumption") is one of the most refreshing heroines in recent fiction. Not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and "freelance self"; in other words, she's adrift. Meanwhile, Paul--the product of good hippies who were bad parents--finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma--an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defense, a Bizarro World that McKenzie satirizes with granular specificity"--… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 39 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
Having read her new book I went looking for this older one and what a treat! McKenzie has an incredible imagination and this story just goes on and on and round and round in amazing circles with two families .... and....a squirrel!!! Her descriptions are so full of exactly what you are able to put into your head in pictures. ( )
  nyiper | Mar 21, 2024 |
This is a terrifically funny book that also has a lot of depth and substance. I kept on calling out to my mate, Holly, "You have to hear this!" McKenzie's writing is delightful, and she has created a powerful and very unusual character.
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
This book was a bit strange. Veblen is named for economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined “conspicuous consumption”. So, it is a commentary on the haves and the have nots, but the real story is the love story between Veblen and Paul, a neuroscientist, and a squirrel! It also examines their relationship as well as the medical industry. Paul is studying traumatic brain injury, and is targeted by a wealthy family involved in healthcare.
Both Veblen and Paul have odd families and their relationship is strange. Sadly, I wasn't invested in any of the characters. A bit bizarre for me. ( )
  rmarcin | Jul 13, 2023 |
The Publisher Says: The Portable Veblen is a dazzlingly original novel that’s as big-hearted as it is laugh-out-loud funny. Set in and around Palo Alto, amid the culture clash of new money and old (antiestablishment) values, and with the specter of our current wars looming across its pages, The Portable Veblen is an unforgettable look at the way we live now. A young couple on the brink of marriage—the charming Veblen and her fiancé Paul, a brilliant neurologist—find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other’s dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel.

Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term “conspicuous consumption”) is one of the most refreshing heroines in recent fiction. Not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and “freelance self”; in other words, she’s adrift. Meanwhile, Paul—the product of good hippies who were bad parents—finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma—an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defense, a Bizarro World that McKenzie satirizes with granular specificity.

As Paul is swept up by the promise of fame and fortune, Veblen heroically keeps the peace between all the damaged parties involved in their upcoming wedding, until she finds herself falling for someone—or something—else. Throughout, Elizabeth McKenzie asks: Where do our families end and we begin? How do we stay true to our ideals? And what is that squirrel really thinking? Replete with deadpan photos and sly appendices, The Portable Veblen is at once an honest inquiry into what we look for in love and an electrifying reading experience.

I RECEIVED AN ARC FROM THE PUBLISHER. THANK YOU.

My Review
: A debut novel that, for its subject, takes on greed, Othering, and intergenerational family toxicity. While Author McKenzie published stories before this book appeared in 2016, the appearance of the novel was warbled delightedly about by Jeff VanderMeer, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Karen Joy Fowler. Reviews from the New York, and Los Angeles, and Seattle Timeses, the Boston Globe, Library Journal and Kirkus and NPR...several programs!...was longlisted for a National Book Award...you get the idea, it was down as The Next Big Deal.

But I forgot it existed. I read it in the dark year, and I came up dry on things to say about it.

In having a clear-out, I found the ARC again. It's such a strange title that I remembered it straight away. How many people in 2022 recall who Thorstein Veblen was? Not a lot more, or fewer honestly, than did in 2016. It's an odd and slightly off-putting thing to first-name your main character. It does efficiently Other her from the get-go. I wasn't sure that I liked that. I remember thinking that it was a darn good thing that she was the sort of person who could, in all seriousness, ask “Do you think wishful thinking is a psychiatric condition?”

So why did I resurrect this long-ago gift from a publisher who clearly never thought to hear from me about it again? Because, in flipping through it, I was caught by some unusually persuasive turns of phrase:
She had once concluded everyone on earth was a servant to the previous generation—born from the body’s factory for entertainment and use. A life could be spent like an apology—to prove you had been worth it.
–and–
Veblen espoused the Veblenian opinion that wanting a big house full of cheaply produced versions of so-called luxury items was the greatest soul-sucking trap of modern civilization, and that these copycat mansions away from the heart and soul of a city had ensnared their overmortgaged owners—yes, trapped and relocated them like pests.
–and–
The sharing of simple meals and discussing the day's events, of waking up together with plans for the future, things that feel practically bacchanalian when you're used to being on your own.

This is a writer speaking her truth. I love finding these moments. I think I left the book by the wayside because I couldn't, in the dark year, process the anticapitalist message as anything but the confirmation bias of my brain. In the decades of being steadily more and more radicalized by capitalism's failures of me, my chosen people, and the world my descendants will live in, I've resharpened that mental blade many times. This time I felt Author McKenzie's edge slash closer to me than before.

Author McKenzie reserves her loudest klaxon, her angriest blast of Gabriel's horn, for we-the-consumers. The sneaky message under Veblen's dithering disconnectedness is there. It's not unique, nor even original, but it's heartfelt and it's eloquent...and she's correct:
“I pledge allegiance, to the marketplace,
of the United States of America. TM.
And to the conglomerates, for which we shill,
one nation under Exxon-Mobile/Halliburton/Boeing/Walmart,
nonrefundable,
with litter and junk mail for all!”

Awomen. ( )
  richardderus | Sep 7, 2022 |
Took me a while to get into it, but overall a good story. Just didn't feel a connection to the protagonist, but now that I've finished the book, I wonder if that was the point, as most of the characters are emotionally unavailable. So from that perspective, I can appreciate what the author did. I really enjoyed the overall writing style, as I felt I was reading literature and not just some trashy beach read. I'm all for trashy beach reads, of course, but a steady diet of them isn't good.

Last 150 pages flew by--story really picks up there. ( )
  ms_rowse | Jan 1, 2022 |
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"A young couple on the brink of marriage--the charming Veblen and her fiancé Paul, a brilliant neurologist--find their engagement in danger of collapse. Along the way they weather everything from each other's dysfunctional families, to the attentions of a seductive pharmaceutical heiress, to an intimate tête-à-tête with a very charismatic squirrel. Veblen (named after the iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen, who coined the term "conspicuous consumption") is one of the most refreshing heroines in recent fiction. Not quite liberated from the burdens of her hypochondriac, narcissistic mother and her institutionalized father, Veblen is an amateur translator and "freelance self"; in other words, she's adrift. Meanwhile, Paul--the product of good hippies who were bad parents--finds his ambition soaring. His medical research has led to the development of a device to help minimize battlefield brain trauma--an invention that gets him swept up in a high-stakes deal with the Department of Defense, a Bizarro World that McKenzie satirizes with granular specificity"--

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