The Portable Veblen

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 fiancé, 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 of The Portable Veblen

  • ‘Man oh man, do I love this book! Audacious, imaginative and totally wonderful’ Karen Joy Fowler

    ‘Smart, funny, charming and profound. Elizabeth McKenzie is clearly some sort of genius’ Paul Murray

    ‘The squirreliest novel I ever read. I enjoyed it completely’ Ursula K. Le Guin

    ‘Raw and weird and hilarious . . . very entertaining’ Scarlett Thomas, Guardian

    ‘Ambitious, spirited, funny, daring’ Financial Times

    ‘A touching, wildly funny and peculiarly elegant look at the travails of love of all kinds’ Sunday Express

    ‘Utterly charming. A true joy of a book’ Irish Examiner

    ‘Full of life and humour and compassion’ Times Literary Supplement

    ‘Witty and sharp’ Irish Times

    ‘Darkly funny, irrepressibly quirky and very, very hard to put down’ Sam Baker, The Pool

    ‘Quirky and smart. If you loved Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, you’ll love this’ Glamour

    ‘Wildly brilliant. Razor-sharp, intimate, hilarious and profound. Every page is a delight’ Emma Jane Unsworth

    ‘Terrifically entertaining . . . hard to resist’ Daily Mail

    ‘Offbeat, thoughtful, mischievous . . . McKenzie [has] a pin-sharp eye for the tragic-comic, and for dialogue’ Herald (Scotland)

    ‘McKenzie has a wonderful eye – and a relishing appetite – for the craziness that is everywhere in ordinary life if you know how to look’ Tessa Hadley

    ‘A novel of festive originality’ The New York Times

    ‘Unforgettable. A wild ride that you will not want to miss’ San Francisco Chronicle

    ‘If The Portable Veblen has a flaw, it is that its caricatures are so on the nose as to make the reader hope to flee the human race’ Boston Globe

    ‘Oddball characters and plot turns abound, including talking squirrels and bureaucratic ironies worthy of “Catch-22.” But a sober question occupies its core: Do our parents’ best intentions do us harm?’ Minneapolis Star Tribune

    ‘Accurately and funnily capture[s] the complexities of modern families . . . The Corrections meets The Wallcreeper’ Huffington Post