Summary and book reviews of Who Is Rich? by Matthew Klam

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
    Paperback:
    Jul 2018, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Who is Rich? For one thing, he’s a self-absorbed, middle-aged, mediocre white twit. Worse, he’s an unreliable narrator. But then again, as he reminds us, there’s no such thing as a reliable narrator anyway. The odds are certainly stacked against Rich as we dive into this captivating novel. Quite frankly, at first, I was convinced I was going to finish this book hating the spineless cretin. But here’s the reason why you should read this novel: I didn’t hate him — and you won’t either.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

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Media Reviews

The New York Times
Maybe it’s a love story; maybe it’s just a lust story, but either way, it’s a fine accomplishment. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait another seventeen years for the return of this singularly gifted writer.

The New Yorker
Who Is Rich? is a gem within the canon of infidelity literature. ... Fischer ...is a wonderful narrator, lacerating and gentle... Comic, wondrous, and sad.

Kirkus Reviews
A tale of middle-aged ennui that gets sharper as it gets funnier.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Rich is a worthy addition to American literature's distinguished line of hapless antiheroes.

Author Blurb Michael Cunningham
I seriously, deeply love this book.

Author Blurb Curtis Sittenfeld
It's amazing to wait so long for a book, and for it to be everything you wanted. The most singular quality of Matthew Klam's writing is how alive it is. I loved every page of this book. It got into my bloodstream - and kind of destroyed me.

Author Blurb Jennifer Egan
What a thrill to experience the fusion of Matthew Klam's fierce, kinetic prose with the mysteries of fatherhood and domesticity. Who Is Rich? is an electric amalgam of frustration and tenderness, wonder and rebellion: a paean to the obliterating power of parental love.

Author Blurb Meg Wolitzer
I've been eagerly awaiting another book by Matthew Klam - and here it is, and it's a stunner. This, his first novel, is funny, dark, big, and bold. I read it straight through, with great pleasure and awe at all he knows about art, money, family, sex, kids, mortality, and shame. Who Is Rich? is not to be missed.

Author Blurb Jonathan Tropper
By turns fierce, disturbing, and outright hilarious, Who Is Rich is much more than a novel of midlife crisis; it's a frank exploration of what it feels like to struggle as an artist and a man.

Author Blurb Richard Ford
Who Is Rich? is a tantalizing novel - acute and smart and stark, but mostly it's unrelentingly funny about a large number of very inappropriate things.

Reader Reviews

Lola425

Who is Rich? Who knows.
Read this if you like male protagonists who have literally nothing to complain about but complain anyway. Rich is miserable because he makes bad choices, generally originating from between his legs instead of his ears. In trying to prove himself he ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Provincetown

ProvincetownIn Who is Rich?, Matthew Klam deliberately avoids setting the story in any specific place, but we do know it's in New England. "Everybody knows a spot like this, a fishing village turned tourist trap, with pornographic sunsets and the Sea Breeze Motel," Rich says.

Nevertheless Klam does drop clues, including this crisp sentence: "This place had been known at one time or another for whale hunting, Portuguese immigrants, sand dunes, herring shoals, shipwrecks off the point, but also for a certain kind of seeker or desperate kook, Puritans, dropouts, communists, frazzled intellectuals, painters from New York, experimental-theater types, alcoholic fishermen, sailors stationed here between the wars, stubborn or demented individuals ...

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