by Richard Kalich
Paperback : 241 pages
Published by Green Integer
P author Richard Kalich offers
us a singularly unique, comic and outlandish Everyman. A Post-Modern
loony-tune figure of the American Manchild. The kind of eternal
adolescent one sees on any American street corner -- who,
in his episodic adventures through life, is dismembered, suffocated,
starved and eviscerated, yet continues to come back for more.
Not a plot manufacturer, Kalich is a brilliant stylist who
charts that landscape between self and world, mind and body,
dream and reality. He captures not by narrative and action,
but by a kinetic verbal circuitry that propels us forward.
By the end, though lacking the conventions of dramaturgy,
the stolidity of time and place, customary character build,
we know just where we are and who Charlie P is. He is us.
And his dwelling place is that netherworld of the mind, the
different manifold layers of the mind as generated by the
sheer excesses of language. Akin to other great American icons
such as Sinclair Lewis's Babbitt and Ring Lardner's Al, Charlie
P "plumbs the relations between fantasy and reality to
depict a character both asocial and alienated and, at the
same time, at the heart of the American Dream."
Reviews for Charlie P.
"Charlie P is
energetic, delightfully sardonic, dark without being oppressive,
playful and very readable. Richard Kalich has hit a voice
that commands attention and allows the reader to endlessly
and wittily process cultural hyperbole and inflated newspeak.
Charlie P is the urban everyman, the self-regarding and coreless
creature of our times. Kalich has captured him through endless
reflections down the tunnel of the facing mirrors. One reads
and smiles. Charlie P captures
the note of our late modern time."
Book Critics Circle, Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
seems to me unlike anything in American literature. There's
a remarkable lightness to it, a beauty in its willingness
to blur the line between reality and fantasy as well as something
quite sad about Charlie's inability to ever really live. I
like the way it offers different possible lives that sometimes
contradict or overlap uncomfortably, the way the richness
of imagined lives is set off by an impoverishment of actual
"The writing in Charlie
P has the same lightness and
effortlessness to be found in Charlie P's own imagined life.
Deceptively simple, this novel plumbs the relation between
fantasy and reality to offer up a character both asocial and
alienated and, at the same time, at the heart of the American
Evenson, Chair - Creative
Writing Program, Brown University, author of Altman's Tongue
and Father of Lies
"Kalich is after what it means to be profoundly out of
step with one's culture yet still unwilling to let go of the
American dream. And this tension between dream and reality
makes CHARLIE P a
deliciously painful book."
Evenson, Book Forum,
is a carefully wrought novel with a deft sense of humor and
a strong awareness of its place in literary discourse. With
each answer it prompts new questions; with each added detail
it destabilizes certainty.
Though it is widely agreed that Emerson was right when claiming
that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little
minds,” the thoughtful and creative manipulation of
a sustained consistency can be a challenge to the vastest
and deepest of intellects. Richard Kalich is able to effect
this type of consistency throughout the whole of
an accomplishment to be admired."
Leise, Of the Cliché
and the Everyday, Electronic Book Review
"Richard Kalich's high-octane comic novel..."
"Kalich's fine prose is the perfect mirror for Charlie
P's varying mindsets..."
"Charlie's utterances of brilliance and astute insight
are not the product of accident, but rather of acute self-awareness,
as when he realizes that his only regret is that he "had
to live his entire life not by himself, but with himself."
At times like these, when the hyperactivity hits a trough,
we realize that Charlie's cartoonish adventures have all been
a prelude to his moments of shattering clarity. That many
of us attain these same insights without having to undergo
epic trials makes them all the more naked and cutting.
Like most good comic novelists, Kalich is adept at teetering
on the precipice wherein he might decide to dilute the fun
with the grim, creating that suspense where things might get
really bad at any moment. In CHARLIE
P he has crafted an extraordinary
novel and a memorable hero--a leader and kin to those afflicted
with loneliness and the inability to get anything done."
Bryan Wilson, Rain
Taxi, Spring 2006
"There is nothing else like Richard Kalich's CHARLIE
P in recent American fiction.
Its method has something of magical realism in it, something
of surrealism, and something of Aesop (without the moral),
something of bildungs-roman (without the bildung). The prose
is clear, rapid and ingenious in its use of common phrases
and received ideas. The novel as a whole is scary, funny,
and moving; an unusual combination. Charlie himself is impossible,
but by the end of the novel there is no doubt that he is us,
his difficulty a type of our own.
"This novel will get to you."
Stade, author of Confessions
of a Ladykiller, has served
as head of Columbia University's Comparative Literature Department
and reviews for the New York Times Book Review
"Richard Kalich succeeds in making the story of Everyloser.
And when CHARLIE P
smiles at the end, buried in his coffin face down, we smile
with him because we're fellow losers."
Gerdes, Review of
Contemporary Fiction, March 2006
"In addition to being funny,
nutty, and playful,the book is a complex narrative about human
self-esteem and the human sense of self in general. Kalich
successfully reproduces the sensation of existential indecision
and doubt in all its intensity. He also creates a sweeping,
near-mythic description of the self-dislike that many people,
unfortunately, absorb during childhood. Most of all, he employs
CHARLIE P to
illustrate the exhausting and often cruel experience of consciousness
that lie behind the facade of exterior, everyday life."
Levine, American Book
Review, May 2006
P is an idiot, in the
noblest sense of that term, a schlemiel, a beautiful loser,
a benighted hero, a virtuoso of the otiose. I wager there's
a bit of him in all of us. I read the novel with the greatest
Motte, author of The
Poetics of Experiment: A Study of the Works of Georges Perec,
chairs the French Department at the University of Colorado,
Boulder,where he specializes in contemporary writing that
challenges conventional notions of literary form.
"It is a difficult job being a literary critic
nowadays. One is exposed to so much mediocrity
that frustration, anger, depression are occupational
hazards. But just when it seems like the end is
near, that one has hit rock bottom... along comes
the American novelist Richard Kalich.
"I'll start my review with his novel
for to my
mind Kalich represents the best in contemporary
fiction. And what is the primary strength of this
not-so-well-known writer as compared to the more
marketable and famous? Those 'bah' novelists that
write clean and light novels that are palatable,
familiar and predictable...
Though best known for his psychologically profound
semi-traditional novel THE
NIHILESTHETE, his newest novel
is something else! This novel is absurdist to
the extreme, desperate and amusing in spite of
capturing the deepest horror - when you understand
what you are laughing at - and that is a sinister
truth hiding under a wrapping of nonsense and
deliberate simplicity. Add to that a surgically
precise language, a luminous individuality and
an amazing 'noir' imagination - Richard Kalich
has every chance to become - why not? - a living
classical author. Any thinking person that can
distinguish between our own Dostoevsky and a Habensky,
will love Richard Kalich's novels."
Hooligan Literary Magazine, Moscow,
"The novels of the American novelist Richard
Kalich are something like experiments on readers.
He places his characters in strange, sick, almost
unbearable situations, and, at the same time,
the author remains in such control that his utterly
individualistic fictions are less subjective and
more lucidly impersonal so that he ultimately
produces the purest works of the imagination.
His first novel The
slightly resembles Fowles' The Collector. But
his latest novel, CHARLIE
P, is one of a kind. His hero
P, decides to live his life by
not living it. By not doing anything. His life
passes somewhere between dream and wakefulness.
But the world he concocts between the real and
unreal is so rich, so exotic, so detailed and
intricately interconnected, that altogether CHARLIE
us a brilliant absurdist deception about modern
The Book Review,
Moscow, April 2005
I have read that Richard
Kalich is a well-known American author but I had
no idea about his works. That is why I took up
with interest his novel CHARLIE
P, which came out recently. It
is a long time since I have read such a work of
value by an American writer.
Richard Kalich has been able to penetrate in-depth
the human psyche and human subconscious. His character,
as much as he might seem atypical, abstract or
rare to us at first glance, is actually not that,
especially when we consider how today fear, life,
reality - how people are full of doubt as to how
others might see and define them.
The novel particularly impressed me with its philosophical
insight both in our existential being and the
complex psychological parameters of personality.
Blagovesta Kasabova, "Duma"
Bulgaria, July 11, 2007, "Za Slovoto"
(Bulgarian Writers' Union), August, 2007
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