The Portable Veblen

The Portable Veblen

eBook - 2016
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Longlisted for the 2016 National Book Award for Fiction

Finalist for the Baileys Prize for Women's Fiction

An exuberant, one-of-a-kind novel about love and family, war and nature, new money and old values by a brilliant New Yorker contributor

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.

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York, NY : Penguin Press, c2016
ISBN: 9780698411142
Characteristics: 1 online resource (430 pages)


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Jun 21, 2017

The writing is so good I pushed through half the book before I realized I'm reading a book about a main character whose most redeeming quality is squirrel communication. If you know anything about TBI, Vets, PTSD, military medical procedures, anything in this field, you can't read this with a straight face. So many just plain wrong facts.

Feb 27, 2017

Quirky lovely read.

Dec 16, 2016

Read it once and was not too taken with it. Picked it up again about 6 months later and loved it this time.

Cynthia_N Dec 15, 2016

Enjoyable read with talking to squirrels included!

JCLMELODYK Oct 21, 2016

Quirky, romance with dysfunctional families and a bit of magical realism.

Apr 16, 2016

Couldn't get into the characters.....hopefully other readers will enjoy...


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Jan 26, 2016

gparra5221 thinks this title is suitable for All Ages


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