I’ll come clean straight away: I do not get The Portable Veblen. I have no clue whatever McKenzie intends to achieve with her novel. Is it a comedy? Is it an assault against ruthless money-minded multinationals? Or is it just a love story placed in the context of dysfunctional families? Or should I not have asked that many questions and just have enjoyed the novel? Which I found hard because I just did not get it. If the novel was intended to be funny, it may be clear that I did not get the fun of it. I was reminded of Girls, which I stopped watching because I got severely annoyed with the main characters, or of one those movies in which elderly actors are allowed to go over the top and enjoy themselves, in which case the rather irritating Ben Stiller would be the fiancée. Get the picture? The Portable Veblen might also be an attack against money hungry multinationals ruthlessly making profits marketing an instrument that will endanger injured soldiers on the battlefield. In which case I presume the CEO of such a company is contrasted with the slightly weird though basically decent parents of Veblen and fiancée Paul. Which makes me wonder about the fun factor once again?
Does The Portable Veblen not have a single redeeming quality? Yes, Veblen herself. She is endearingly naive and her typicalities, being brought up the child of a severely hypochondriac and a psychiatric patient, are acceptable and logical. I was probably not the only reader relieved that in the end her fiancée did not succumb to the temptation of money but followed in Veblens idealistic footsteps. I really liked Veblen, I just have no idea what the poor woman is doing in The Portable Veblen. Nobody will be surprise I have no clue why this novel has made it to the Bailey’s shortlist. The judges and I clearly do not see eye to eye on this one.