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Who is Rich? by Matthew Klam

Who is Rich?

by Matthew Klam

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This was not an enjoyable read for me.

The protagonist, the eponymous Rich, is a middle-aged has-been in the world of comics and graphic novels. He had a meteoric rise to fame 6 years previously, but his career has stalled. In addition, his marriage is deeply flawed and his relationship with his wife on the rocks. There is mutual resentment of each other's work and general frustration at the burden of caring for their two young children. they communicate in barbs and put-downs, mostly.

Rich finds himself back at a summer arts retreat where he's been teaching, along with other semi-luminaries in the artistic fields, where he meets up again with a woman with whom he started an affair the previous summer. The plot of the novel focuses on their relationship during this summer.

Rich is not a nice, likable, relatable fellow. He's morose, depressed, scared, cynical, unkind and unhappy. He colors everything in this gorgeous location with a gray paintbrush, and therefore the prose suffers because of his point of view. He's unhappy in his marriage, unsuccessful at his profession, jealous of his students, lackluster about the arts classes he's teaching, cynical about his prospects, and overall gloomy.

He should be a sympathetic character -- after all, we have all experienced professional and personal ups and downs. But he comes off as whiny and morose, and not very relatable. There's nothing redeemable about his life, to him. He calls home to be berated by his wife for not being there and to receive updates about his demented mother-in-law, whose husband is not able to care for her.

The adulterous relationship is equally messed up. There's no sense of fun or even romance -- at one point Rich thinks he "likes" Amy. He hates her money; she hates his wife. They're mean to each other as well. I also have little sympathy for an adulterer, especially one like Rich who barely countenances a guilty thought about what he's doing. The plot is nonexistent, focusing on character and the illicit relationship.

One note about the title: there's no sense that Rich is knowledgeable about the Jewish religion, and there's no discussion of it in the book, but the title of this novel may be a reference to a famous rabbinic saying from the Talmud: "Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot."

So this just didn't cut it for me. Thank you to the author, publisher, and LibraryThing for a review copy. ( )
  ChayaLovesToRead | Jun 23, 2017 |
I can’t recommend this one and only finished about half of it. Netgalley recommended this book in an email to me and I clicked on the link to see what it was about; however, that automatically placed it on my shelf to be read and reviewed. I appreciate all the books I’ve received from Netgalley but I will definitely be more careful with their automatic email requests as I would not have chosen this one.

The main character is Rich Fischer, a married cartoonist who is teaching a class at an arts conference. The year before he had a brief fling with one of the students, Amy, who is married to a very rich guy but is unhappy. Rich and Amy have been sending provocative emails to each other. Now they’re together again at this conference. The book basically takes a look at Rich’s struggles as an artist, as a husband and as a father.

I really did try to give this book a chance but it just wasn’t for me. It was very drawn out and I couldn’t find anything to grab hold of that would spark the slightest bit of interest. The book is touted as being hilarious but I never laughed, not once. I did think the author has a lot of insight into marriage and parenthood but it wasn’t enough to keep me wanting to read more. Rich is too self-indulgent and whiny and I just couldn’t get through the whole book. Who is Rich? I just didn’t care enough to learn more.

This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review. ( )
  hubblegal | Jun 20, 2017 |
Who Is Rich? has a deeply authentic misery at its core. Matthew Klam’s first novel tells the story of Rich Fischer, a graphic novelist whose best days are in his past, his books out of print, and the only remnant of past glories is an annual invitation to teach autobiographical cartooning at the Matticook College Summer Arts Conference. His marriage is unsatisfying, passion buried under parenting. The glimmering bits of excitement come from a more off-again-than-on affair with Amy, a woman he met at the conference a year ago, an affair of texts, e-mails, and guilt.

The entire story happens during this short five-day conference. The affair stutters off and on and off again while the on is filled with sublime sex and the off with guilt and dislike. Amy is the wife of a billionaire. She gives away millions of dollars to charities to deflect from the guilt of their parasitic source of wealth and the hatred and alienation she feels in her marriage. Rich loves, desires, and hates her in equal measure.

His wife Robin is a television producer whose gone from traveling to dangerous places around the world to exploitive and soporific true crime series. Rich has gone from graphic novelist success to writer’s block and magazine illustration. Their saving grace is their children whom they love and struggle to parent.

This is not a novel full of action. It’s one man’s running commentary on life, politics, the economy, love, marriage, parenthood, and the stultifying boredom of being an adult. Rich is not particularly nice, he is cheating on his wife after all. But he is funny, wry, and a wicked observer of life’s absurdities. He is not a bad man, he wants to be kind and supportive and his children melt his heart into a puddle.

Frankly, the story itself is not that interesting. Sad and disillusioned middle-aged man dithering about feeling sorry for themselves are a dime a dozen. What makes Who Is Rich? special is the prose, the brilliant arrangements of words, the way modern American absurdity is captured so vividly and succinctly. I found myself frequently marking whole paragraphs to recall later. The illustrations by John Cuneo also were a fabulous addition.

To give a brief example, Rich wanders about the house waiting for his son who woke in the night to start crying again after being soothed and fed, waiting and wandering until he “split the worry into so many pieces it started to glitter.” He wonders whether he still has stories to tell, though also thinks that he will be relevant as long as people “want to cram their spouses into a dumpster.”

The title asks us Who Is Rich? but it’s asking two questions, really. Who is Rich Fischer? and who is rich in the things that matter. Amy has billions, but she is miserable. It’s a title, so the words are capitalized, but maybe the question is not “Who is Rich?” but “Who is rich?” It’s hard to tell, particular when Rich is telling the story…is he honest about his life? Who can tell, after all, as he tells us there is no such thing as a reliable narrator.

Who Is Rich? will be released July 4th. i received an advanced e-galley from the publisher through NetGalley.

https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/9780812997989/ ( )
  Tonstant.Weader | Jun 17, 2017 |
Rich Fischer a cartoonist and married with two children leaves for a summer teaching assignment with an odd but elite collection of faculty and students. Concupiscence overtakes him and pushes him into an adulterous affair that ever seems to be over. This piece of fiction is amoral, at times witty and humorous and filled with vapid characters searching for their true selves.

I received an electronic copy in return for an honest review. ( )
  mcdenis | May 24, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812997980, Hardcover)

A provocative and hilarious satire of love, sex, money, and politics in our new gilded age—the long-awaited first novel from the the acclaimed author of Sam the Cat

Every summer, a once-sort-of-famous forty-two-year-old cartoonist named Rich Fischer leaves his wife and two kids behind to teach a cartooning class at a week long summer 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 Nobel Prize–winning 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. One of the attendees is a forty-one-year-old painting student named Amy O’Donnell. Amy is a mother of three, unhappily married to a brutish Wall Street titan who runs a multibillion-dollar investment fund and commutes to work via helicopter. Rich and Amy met at the conference a year ago, shared a moment of passion, then spent the winter exchanging inappropriate texts and emails and counting the days until they could see each other again. Now they’re back.

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 mercenary existence 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, or his own very real desire for love and human contact. He can’t decide whether Amy is going to rescue or destroy him.

Who Is Rich? is a warped and exhilarating tale of love and adultery, a study in midlife alienation, erotic pleasure, envy, and bitterness in the new gilded age that goes far beyond the humor and satire 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.

Advance praise for Who Is Rich?

“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.”—Curtis Sittenfeld

“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. Klam writes like a surgeon, with the sharpest of scalpels, and cuts to the bone.”—Jonathan Tropper

“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. Not to be missed.”—Meg Wolitzer

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 24 Jan 2017 17:27:00 -0500)

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