There is something odd about him. He’s a genius with numbers, and he’s fascinated by words, but he just doesn’t get people. With all their coded talk and body language they are a lifelong mystery, a black box without a key. That’s why he gravitated years ago to the backrooms of finance; he was comfortable there, calculating risk and designing derivatives. Credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities were far less complicated than other human beings.
Now it is 2008, and global markets are melting down, but he’s no longer thinking up derivatives. He’s written a book, an historical epic—the long-awaited Great Canadian Novel, if only he could get it published. He’s struck out at every turn, and the uncertainty is eating him up. He is beset by doubt, unsure about his talent and the choices he has made. What’s more, he’s got a horrendous case of writer’s block. He can’t seem to get going on his next great epic. “You’re a writer,” his friend counsels. “Write your way out of it.” And so he does, beginning with his own story, reflecting on his choices and where they have led, his obsessions, his writing quest; and Genny, the great love of his life. His is a rollercoaster journey that wends from the western prairie through the halls of Oxford, to London, the Kalahari, and Wall Street on 9/11; and finally to refuge in Toronto’s Little Poland, where he’s gone off-grid and possibly off the rails.
How does a man with no name become a person of letters? Is he naïve, crazy, or just over-medicated? A Person of Letters is a rollicking riff on creativity and idealism, a deliciously icy snowball aimed at writing and publishing in the digital age.