The Portable Veblen

The Portable Veblen

Elizabeth McKenzie

Pub: January 8, 2016

Penguin Press


When free-spirited office temp Veblen (named after the great iconoclastic economist Thorstein Veblen) gets engaged to Paul, a brilliant and ambitious neurologist developing a device to reduce battlefield head trauma, it seems like a perfect match. But why do they feel on edge? One answer: Veblen’s parents (a domineering, hypochondriacal mom, a shell-shocked dad). Another answer: Paul’s parents, ex-hippies who dote on his developmentally disabled brother. With exuberance and wit, McKenzie explores dysfunctional families, the military-medical complex, and the inner lives of squirrels (or one particular squirrel), and asks: Where do our families end and we begin? How do we stay true to our ideals? In the words of Karen Joy Fowler, The Portable Veblen is “filled with an electric energy. A book like no other. I read it and I was never the same!”