Richard Kalich was born in New York and grew up on the Upper West side. His mother always encouraged her sons to be writers, scholars, artists, poets. Kalich certainly fulfilled her wishes; he went on to write some of the most original American fiction in a generation.
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. Postmodern fables, dark, shocking, perversely funny, wickedly astute, and compulsively readable, they share Kalich’s ferocious energy and unique vision. Together, they subvert standard notions of plot and character, and form a body of work that is distinctive and brilliant.
The Nihilesthete (first published in 1987 and nominated for a Pen/Faulkner Award, The Hemingway Award, a National Book Award, and Pulitzer Prize) introduces us to Kalich’s dark world, where a spiritually desolate case-worker plays increasingly sadistic games with a limbless, speechless idiot with a painter’s eye. This enigmatic physically diminished aesthete will reveal not only his true essence, but the very center of what it means to be human.
Penthouse F (first published in 2010) is a cautionary tale that takes the form of an inquiry into the suicide—or murder?—of a young boy and girl in the Manhattan penthouse of a writer named Richard Kalich. The reader becomes the jury as the fictional Kalich’s own philosophical musings, personal documents, and notes on a novel in progress are presented alongside interview transcripts between “The Investigator,” Kalich, and his acquaintances. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, kindness and cruelty, love and obsession, guilt and responsibility, writer and character, Penthouse F is a critical examination of an increasingly voyeuristic society, a metafiction where Kalich the writer, Kalich the person and Kalich the character all merge together, as the reader must pick through the confusion to discover the truth.
Charlie P (first published in 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 is asocial and alienated, but, at the same time, at the heart of the American Dream.
Central Park West Trilogy encapsulates Kalich’s uncompromising examination of the state of modern life, as well as his experimentations with form and language.
Praise for Richard Kalich
“Richard Kalich is a successful novelist, one who has succeeded in consistently producing perplexing fictions that fail to categorize themselves and escape the warping influence of authorial intent.” —Christopher Leise, Electronic Book Review
“He’s after what it means to be profoundly out of step with one’s culture yet still unwilling to let go of the American dream.” —Brian Evenson
“Kalich incarnates the best in contemporary fiction. He has every chance to become—why not?—a living classical author.” —Hooligan Literary Magazine, Moscow
“A major American writer.” —Philadelphia Inquirer
Praise for The Nihilesthete
“One of the most powerfully written books of the decade.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A brilliant, hammer-hitting, lights-out novel.” —Los Angeles Times
“A tour de force… equals the best work of playwright Sam Shepard.” —Columbus Post-Dispatch
“A great black comedy… The names Swift and Kafka are not too lofty to mention here.” —Sunday Oklahoman
“As important and original a novel to have been written by an American author in a generation.” —Mid American Review
Praise for Penthouse F
“This is an important work that deserves to be read by everyone interested in serious fiction.” —Marc Lowe, Review of Contemporary Fiction
“[Penthouse F] is akin to the best work of Paul Auster in terms of its readability without sacrificing its intelligence of experiment. […] Kalich delivers afresh, relevant, and enticingly readable work of metafiction.” —American Book Review
“Ghosts haunt this book from first page to last: Dostoevsky, Mallarme, Kafka, Mann, Camus, Pessoa, Gombrowicz–and, oh yes, most perniciously of all, “Kalich.” For he is a man who tortures himself both with the novels he has written and with those he has not. Let us forgive him even if he will not forgive himself, recognizing as we do the one truth of this tale that seems to be beyond doubt: “It was all in his head like everything else about him.” —Warren Motte, World Literature Today
“If one of the great European intransigents of the last century – say, Franz Kafka or Georges Bataille or Witold Gombrowicz – were around to write a novel about our era of reality TV and the precession of simulacra, the era of Big Brother and The Real World, what would it look like? Well, it might look like Richard Kalich’s Penthouse F.” —Brian McHale, literary theorist
“This is a book, a body of work, an author, deserving a new unearthing eye.” —Blake Butler, HTML Giant
Praise 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 reads and smiles. Charlie P captures the note of our late modern times.” —Sven Birkerts
“With his continuous comic exaggeration, Kalich is able to describe, highly uniquely, the overwhelming, vertiginous, risky sensation of being alive.” —American Book Review
“[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.” —Bookforum
“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
“Speaks with a singular honesty, power and eloquence about our spiritually diminished modern world.” —Mid American Review