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

    • ‘The squirreliest novel I ever read. I enjoyed it completely’ Ursula K. Le Guin
    • ‘Smart, funny, charming and profound. Elizabeth McKenzie is clearly some sort of genius’ Paul Murray
    • ‘Raw and weird and hilarious . . . very entertaining’ Scarlett Thomas, Guardian
    • ‘Ambitious, spirited, funny, daring’ Financial Times
    • ‘Man oh man, do I love this book! Audacious, imaginative and totally wonderful’ Karen Joy Fowler
    • ‘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