Central Park West Trilogy includes three novels, The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F and Charlie P, originally published separately and collected for the first time in a single volume. Post-modern fables, dark, shocking, perversely funny, wickedly astute, and compulsively readable, they share Kalich’s ferocious energy and unique vision. Together, they break down standard notions of plot, character and form a body of work that is distinctive and brilliant. Central Park West Trilogy encapsulates Kalich’s uncompromising examination of the state of modern life, as well as his experimentations with form and language.
Charlie P (first published 2005) dispenses with a conventional narrative altogether, as we follow the comic misadventures of a singularly unique, comic and outlandish Everyman. At age three, when his father dies, he decides to overcome mortality by becoming immortal: by not living his life, he will live forever. Akin to other great American icons such as Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit and Forrest Gump, Charlie P, while asocial and alienated, is, at the same time, at the heart of the American dream.
“I would rather that the familiar be embraced and the novel resonate beyond itself and intone the spheres of Plato and Beckett. Charlie P resonates.” —Review of Contemporary Fiction
Once and for all, at age three, when Charlie P’s father died after having given him the most special birthday present of his young life, Lionel Electric Trains, Charlie P decided to live forever rather than suffer the indignity of mortality. Under no circumstances would he allow death to interfere with his daily regimen from this time on.
Though still a babe in his mother’s arms, certainly not to be misconstrued a late bloomer, Charlie P had already given the matter much thought; in fact, thought of nothing else. His father’s premature death presaged even more ominous events to come. Living forever, immortality, was indeed the only sure defense against this constant gnawing fear of the worst.
Given the nature of child consciousness, the global, diffuse, undifferentiated way it cognizes the world, its lack of specificity and discernment, it didn’t take Charlie P long to transfer the dread of his father’s loss on to his most prized possession, the electric trains, and especially the little train-master responsible for routing the train’s safe passage.
Charlie P focused all his life’s blood and energy on that little man. More than anything, he wanted the trainmaster to continue doing his job uninterrupted forever. Easier said than done: Immortality. There are less difficult things to accomplish in this world. Charlie P’s main challenge was to keep the trainmaster out of harm’s way. More specifically, to keep the little man sitting safely and securely at his table in the stationmaster’s house, ever on the ready to be called to duty. What would happen if the little man took ill? Succumbed to his father’s fate? What would happen if the battery that energized the light bulb on top of the house’s door whenever the trains approached, signaling the trainmaster to stand and leave his shelter and go about performing his duties, failed to light? Charlie P lived with the chronic fear that just this eventuality would happen. That one day the battery would die.
But how to prevent such a catastrophe? That was the question: Should he obtain an additional set of electric trains? Seek out an as yet unbeknownst elixir of life? Place the little man on a health food diet with vitamin supplements? Discover the secrets of the aging process? Or should he himself control the trains’ speeds, alter their paths, negotiate new routes, take other means of transportation—no, boats, planes, automobiles were subject to the same laws of chance and risk, gravity and motion, as trains; those unfortunates taking them could sink, crash and burn. And even though mourned for a short while after their demise, ultimately, like his father, they would soon be forgotten as the years passed by. No. Charlie P’s answer was not to play the game. By not using up the battery, the trainmaster could go on sitting safely in his house—be at Charlie P’s beck and call forever. By denying himself pleasure now, by abrogating what he most looked forward to while playing with his trains, by not having the little man do his duty, perform his chores, even though it was his favorite moment in all the world, the precursor, causal link and catalyst to his trains riding through peaks and valleys, across bridges and over hills, high on steppes and low beneath mountains, during which, needless to say, everything around them was fraught with danger, subject to the aleatory whims of chance, when the battery sooner or later would run out, when, like his father, the trainmaster sooner or later would succumb to his fate—No. Pleasure and joy, fun and games, intoxication and bliss, were a small price to pay for immortality.
And so Charlie P played the game by not playing it. Bestowed eternal everlasting life on the trainmaster.
Once and for all, at age three, Charlie P decided that by not playing the game, by not living his life, unlike his father, like the trainmaster, he could, he would, live forever.”
The Central Park West Trilogy is part of Amazon.co.uk‘s August promotions and will be available to buy for £0.99 until the start of September.
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