A provocative satire of love, sex, money, and politics that unfolds over four wild days in so-called “paradise”—the long-awaited first novel from the acclaimed author of Sam the Cat
“I seriously, deeply love this book.”—Michael Cunningham
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK TIMES AND THE WASHINGTON POST
Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a class at a weeklong arts conference in a charming New England beachside town. It’s a place where, every year, students—nature poets and driftwood sculptors, widowed seniors, teenagers away from home for the first time—show up to study with an esteemed faculty made up of prizewinning playwrights, actors, and historians; drunkards and perverts; members of the cultural elite; unknown nobodies, midlist somebodies, and legitimate stars—a place where drum circles happen on the beach at midnight, clothing optional.
Once more, Rich finds himself, in this seaside paradise, worrying about his family’s nights without him and trying not to think about his book, now out of print, or his future as an illustrator at a glossy magazine about to go under, or his back taxes, or the shameless shenanigans of his colleagues at this summer make-out festival. He can’t decide whether his own very real desire for love and human contact is going to rescue or destroy him.
A warped and exhilarating tale of love and lust, Who Is Rich? goes far beyond to address deeper questions: of family, monogamy, the intoxicating beauty of children, and the challenging interdependence of two soulful, sensitive creatures in a confusing domestic alliance.
LONGLISTED FOR THE CENTER FOR FICTION FIRST NOVEL PRIZE
“Funny, maddening . . . defiantly original . . . [Matthew] Klam’s prose is so clean, so self-assured, that it feels a little like a miracle.”—The New York Times
“A dazzling meditation on monogamy [and] parenthood . . . full of sound and fury and signifying pretty much everything.”—The Boston Globe
“Comic, wondrous, and sad.”—The New Yorker
“Almost scarily astute.”—People
“An electric amalgam of frustration and tenderness, wonder and rebellion: a paean to the obliterating power of parental love.”—Jennifer Egan
“A contemporary masterpiece.”—Salon
In his first novel, Klam (Sam the Cat) explores excess and penury, conspicuous consumption and tortured artistic production, as well as monogamy and its discontents in an acidly funny portrait of a has-been cartoonist. Some years having passed since his acclaimed graphic novel appeared, Rich works as an illustrator for a magazine (a thinly veiled New Republic), a gig that pays the bills, just barely, but doesn't satisfy his artistic ambitions: "Illustration is to cartooning as prison sodomy is to pansexual orgy. Not the same thing at all." As the novel opens, he is preparing to lead an illustration workshop at a Cape Cod summer arts conference, an "open-air loony bin" whose collection of teachers and megalomaniac sponsor Klam satirizes marvelously. Away from his wife and children, Rich carries on an affair with Amy, a painter and "emotionally stunted zillionaire" who is married to a banker funneling money to right-wing political causes. Two dilemmas arise: whether Rich should mine his "debasing experiences for the purposes of artistic advancement," perhaps ruining his shaky marriage in the process, and whether he should sacrifice his self-respect and accept help from his "plutocrat" lover. Though there are stretches in which Rich's middle-aged male angst can be stifling, the vibrant prose (accompanied by John Cuneo's equally vibrant illustrations) enlivens the proceedings. Libidinous, impulsive, sarcastic, bitter, casually suicidal, and committed to his art "I'd given up everything for cartooning, and for that alone I deserved to die" Rich is a worthy addition to American literature's distinguished line of hapless antiheroes.