A middle-aged vice-president at the World Bank Vincenzo D'Orsi publicly quits his job over a seemingly minor argument with a colleague. A scandal inevitably ensues, and he systematically burns every bridge to his former life. After abandoning his career, Vincenzo, a recent widower, is at a complete loss for what to do with himself. The Dismal Science follows his efforts to rebuild his identity without a career or the company of his wife.
An exploration of the fragile nature of identity, The Dismal Science reveals the terrifying speed with which a person’s sense of self can be annihilated. It is at once a study of a man attempting to apply his reason to the muddle of life and a book about how that same ostensible rationality, and the mathematics of finance in particular, operates—with similarly dubious results—in our world.
REVIEWS FOR THE DISMAL SCIENCE
STAR TRIBUNE: "...a great deal of fun. [Mountford's] prose is lively and literate. In addition to offering us a behind-the-scenes look at the forces that fund projects in needy countries, he gives us a confused but admirable central figure in Vincenzo D’Orsi."
THE STRANGER: "[Vincenzo is] an unforgettable character, and The Dismal Science is a phenomenal book."
SHELF AWARENESS: "The author of A Young Man's Guide to Late Capitalism returns with a powerful novel of ideas grounded in a meticulously crafted, character-driven narrative."
THE L MAGAZINE: "a lesser writer might have made this a hero’s journey of a corporate bad guy turned good, Mountford fashions something truer. Vincenzo is more realistic and relatable than the mythic political hero others wish he were—or the more stock character we might have expected."
CLEAVER MAGAZINE: "Mountford’s portrayal of Vincenzo is utterly vivid, overcoming, as good writers do, trope with particularity. Vincenzo breathes so completely, most fully when he’s grappling with his beloved Leonora (the father-daughter dynamic here is exquisite), that the reader is liable to imagine the testy, forlorn man is sitting on his lap. Pat him on his bald head, he needs comforting."
SEATTLE TIMES: "A dark brew of angst and economics"
PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY (STARRED): "[The Dismal Science] intelligently explores Vincenzo's roiled inner life. In the end, Mountford has written a distinctively entertaining novel that illuminates the spiritual odyssey of a contemporary Dodsworth."
KIRKUS REVIEWS: "A savvy, fast-paced second novel...a bracingly intelligent work."
BOOKLIST: "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."
THE COLLAGIST: "Mountford reminds us that one of the novelist's first duties involves keeping his antennae up, telling us something about the motions and machinations of our age. Mountford does all this with pace, wit, and a keen sense of dramatic tension—always ratcheting up the pressure on poor Vincenzo."
FICTION ADVOCATE: "Forget the brainy financial prognostications of Don DeLillo; in Mountford’s stories, capitalism hits you in the gut. Bankers and novelists unite!"
DECKLED EDGE BOOKS: "Mountford's writing is crisp and effortlessly moves you through the story letting the reader connect with Vincenzo and his struggle. Vincenzo is a character that will stay with me."
ADVANCED PRAISE FOR THE DISMAL SCIENCE
"In his fiercely intelligent second novel, 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 and—perhaps—regretted 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
"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, author of The Tiger's Wife
"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, author of The Ask and The Fun Parts
“Peter Mountford’s elegantly written The Dismal Science—an advance on his superb first novel—is 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, author 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, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain