Excerpt from Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Who Is Rich?

by Matthew Klam

Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam X
Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2017, 336 pages
    Jul 3, 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Chapter One

Fog blew in Saturday morning. I sat under a big white tent and drank some coffee while my chair sank into the lawn. I talked to a kid with a heavy beard in a mangled straw hat who last year for some reason we started calling Swaggamuffin.

A girl wearing a name tag passed out rosters to faculty. A guy walking behind her handed me an info packet. I sat there eating toast, looking at my notes. Other people were out there too, chatting and smoking. I said hello to a dozen familiar faces from over the years and drank several more cups. The fog burned off. A lawnmower buzzed. The sky was a flawless aquamarine blue.

I'd written a three-part lecture, on drawing techniques, brain- storming, and plotting, and also found some handouts with exercises from last year or the year before that. We supplied them with pencils, erasers, pens, nibs, brushes, and paper—100-pound acid-free Bristol board for comic applications—and a little plastic thing called the Ames Lettering Guide, which I still had no idea how to use.

We were gathered on the campus of a college you've never heard of, at the end of a sandy, hook-shaped peninsula, bound by the Atlantic and scenic as hell. It was my fifth straight summer running a workshop at an annual summer arts conference, and once again my class was full. The conference had begun fifteen years before as a one-day poetry festival and had grown every year in size and popularity, although the college itself had not fared as well. Over time, pieces of it had been boarded up to save money until the entire school was abandoned, then reopened in a limited capacity as a satellite of the nearest state U. The college had kept its name, which was the name of the town, which had been named after the people who'd been here since the beginning of time, who'd made peace with the English settlers, teaching them to fish and hunt, helping them slaughter neighboring tribes, before they too were wiped out by disease or dragged off and sold into slavery.

Nada Klein, with her long French braid and dark wolfish eyes, walked through the tent with her shawl dragging on the ground. She beat cancer every year, and showed up late to her own slide talks, and was widely mocked and imitated. Larry Burris was back, too. He skipped his meds one year and wore a jester's cap to class and lit his own notes on fire, and had to spend the night in a hospital. He stood beside me now, beneath the tent flap, patiently signing a copy of his book, and handed it back to a woman who hugged him. On the faculty were many friends I'd come to know over the years as intellects, historians, wordsmiths, talented performers, storytellers with big fake teeth, addicts, drunkards, perverts, world-famous womanizers, sufferers of gout, maniacs, liars—embittered, delusional, accomplished, scared of spiders, unable to swim, loveless, and cruel. I noticed Barney Angerman, who'd won the Pulitzer for drama the year I was born, and Tabitha Portenlee, who'd written an acclaimed incest memoir; she was helping Barney through the breakfast line as he gripped her arm. This past winter the conference director had asked me to name another cartoonist I could vouch for to teach a second comics workshop, but I didn't answer him. I worried, because of the way my career had gone, that I'd be hiring my replacement.

A little before nine I went to the Fine Arts building. Hurrying down a long hall, past students and teachers, I looked for my studio. There were classes in the annex now, landscape photography, felt making, fresco on plaster, whatever that was.

When I got there they were pulling out their stuff, giving each other the once-over. I flipped through my notes. A woman who lived in town was complaining about beach traffic. A skinny kid stared at me, wearing a sundress, mascara, and a pearl choker. A young Asian woman stared at him, clutching her pencil case. A young man in a white polo, a craggy-looking old guy, and a girl with button eyes and tiny feet were talking with affection about their dogs.

Excerpted from Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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