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Posts tagged ‘The Nihilesthete’

Interview with Richard Kalich in AM FM Magazine

March 3, 2016


“High Art can of course be found in all the disciplines, music, painting, all creative writing, film, etc.  For me…all that I define as High Art has but one categorical imperative.  It makes as its inherent demand and calling that we, as humans, stand before it and surrender ourselves wholly and completely to it.  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does:  That’s Art.”   –Richard Kalich

Full text here: On the Fecundity of the Unconsciousness as Inspiration

Colin O’Sullivan’s review of THE NIHILESTHETE by Richard Kalich

February 4, 2015


Colin O' Sullivan

Review of The Nihilesthete, by Richard Kalich (Betimes Books)

When social-worker Haberman finds a limbless wheelchair-bound man observing a street artist, it’s as if all his birthdays have come at once. He can now set about the task that he may always have been destined for, to take this unfortunate victim under his monstrous wing and systematically abuse him (mentally and spiritually) until he is somehow sated.


Why does he do this? What unfortunate events in his past have compelled him to carry out such atrocities? Wrong question. It’s like asking how Winnie got buried in sand in Beckett’s “Happy Days”: the fact is that she just happens to be buried in sand; the fact is that Haberman just happens to be this way, like Simenon’s Frank Friedermaier in Dirty Snow perhaps, bad to the bone. Those looking for easy armchair-psychology rationalizations have come to the wrong anti-hero.

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Richard Kalich’s interview on Books Go Social

January 15, 2015


“I’m not completely nihilistic. I believe that as long as we can still ask questions about the meaning of it all, there’s hope for an authentic life.”

Richard Kalich in conversation with Lucy Sweeny Byrne on Books Go Social

RK on his terrace with view-page-001

“CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY is not your average novel.”

January 1, 2015


“…wrought with dark humour and a multitude of literary, philosophical and psychological references. The trilogy is an essential read for anyone who enjoys a challenge: predictable neither in content nor in form, CENTRAL PARK WEST TRILOGY is not your average novel.”

Full review here:

Richard Kalich’s book is on promotion in the UK and Australia. Don’t miss it!

Richard Kalich: “I see the world metaphorically.”

December 23, 2014


Richard Kalich in conversation with Lucy Sweeney Byrne

It is clear, when talking to Richard Kalich today, that he is a novelist whom, once you hear of him, you wonder to yourself how you haven’t heard his name before. He is not a writer one would describe as prolific. He has endured writer’s block and the terror of creative writing for a sustaining portion of his life. As he says, he’s read too much and knows all too well the standards his work will be held up against. A daunting task, he says, when your first literary Gods were no less than Dostoyevsky and Thomas Mann. This understandably has held his output down. Having said that, the works he has produced over the years, have been of exceptional quality, as is reflected in the recognition he has received from the academic and literary elite. Kalich has won The American Book Award and has been nominated for both a National Book Award and The Pulitzer, and his writing, in its daring experimentalism, surreal absurdism, and especially because of the dark demonic depths he has mined of the human interior, has been favourably compared to writers such as Kafka and Beckett. Needless to say, this is no lightweight author we’re dealing with.

I talk to Richard (he prefers to be called Dick), and almost immediately I grasp that he’s exactly what you would expect when one thinks a New York literary writer, an avant-garde post-modern novelist—and then some. Kalich is opinionated, quick-witted, funny, and simply brimming over with all of the things he has to say about the spiritual impoverishment of our contemporary age. We discuss, among other meandering subjects, the death of the word, the loss of Transcendence, the diminishment of the Self, artistic inspiration, films and musicals, and, of course, the release of his current most recent publication, Central Park West Trilogy (2014), a collection of three of his critically-acclaimed novels; The Nihilesthete (1987), Charlie P (2005) and Penthouse F (2010).


LSB: The first question I pose to Kalich, is an attempt to create a tidy summary of his writing (silly me). I say that his novels (there are four in all – added to those collected in the Trilogy is The Zoo, published in 2001) have been described by critics as ‘postmodern fables’, suggesting, by definition, that they are designed to convey a particular moral. Does he consider this a fair conception of his work? And if so, what is the moral message he is attempting to convey?

RK: No, I don’t think it’s correct to define my writing as fables. There are themes, yes, but I’m not trying to offer some categorical cure-it-all to the problematic situation of Man. I’m neither theologian nor a politician. My concern in my first novel, The Zoo, was loss of inner life. After long years of writer’s block, the novel just exploded out of me. Thirty days. All too quickly to really do it justice. With my second novel, The Nihilesthete, I was taken by the spiritual diminishment and the all-pervasive powerlessness that I felt was taking over our culture which in turn prevented and inverted my lead character’s full expression. Such is the motive-force behind the almost banal, cerebralized cruelties he harbours upon his arch-enemy, the artist, Brodski. The artist, of course, representing spiritual fecundity. The novels themselves are metaphorical. I see the world metaphorically. The first thing that happens, is that I see an image in my mind. This image is the epicentre of what I build my narrative around. It provides the beginning, middle and end for my story. The image just comes to me. It’s a sort of poetic gift. I’m told some Poets see the world like this. For example, with The Nihilesthete I saw a limbless being strapped to a wheelchair, a prosthesis attached to his arm stub which served as a hand, struggling to paint on a canvas held just out of his reach by an ominous male figure. The image gestated in me for a long time, five years, before I finally found the courage to write the book.

LSB: Why is that?

RK: Fear. Dread. The Terror of Creation. More specifically, for me it’s always been the fear of judgement. Dostoevsky or nothing. I carried that burden with me the better part of my entire adult life.

LSB: But why so hard on yourself? You never outgrew it?

Read the full interview here: Kalich interview full text


Richard Kalich’s Central Park West Trilogy, including The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F and Charlie P, is available for purchase here: (currently on promotion on Amazon UK and Amazon Australia)

A new review of Central Park West Trilogy!

October 14, 2014


“Looking at the collection as a whole, Central Park West Trilogy is a stimulating glimpse into Kalich’s unusual approach to his art and his craft, as well as his unique approach to the absurdities of life. I think Albert Camus would have approved.” — Lee Harrison

Point Blank

Sometime in the ’90s I acquired a strange little book called The Nihilesthete by Richard Kalich:

Not only was the cover artwork strange, but the format of the book was peculiar, being of unusually small dimensions and filled with 143 pages of tiny print on cheap paper. This was an edition published by Compac Reader Group and could be found at check-out stands of various stores, alongside gum, Slim Jims and the Weekly World News. The publishing outfit had other titles too, each small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. I don’t know if they are still around or not, but it’s been years since I’ve seen that sort of format. I don’t think that was the edition in which The Nihilesthete was originally published, but that’s the one I have.

Anyway, I didn’t read The Nihilesthete for many years and it was only when I re-discovered it…

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Richard Kalich and Bernard Piga: a Writer and a Painter

September 27, 2014


When we were designing the cover for “Central Park West Trilogy” with JT Lindroos, we were looking for a work of art that wouldn’t simply ‘illustrate’ the title but mirror Richard Kalich’s writing and vision. And we have found more than just one work of art: we have found the Painter. Bernard Piga’s expressionist paintings could have been inspired by Richard Kalich’s metafictions. The two artists have never met, and such an encounter is now impossible in the physical realm (Piga left us in 2008), but we are happy to have contributed to a spiritual reunion of a great Writer and a great Painter. To discover and re-discover.

More of Bernard Piga’s works:

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“The Nihilesthete”. Excerpt from the first novel of “Central Park West Trilogy” by Richard Kalich

September 26, 2014


“My studio apartment has all the features of an artist’s garret now. Everything careless, lackadaisical and purposefully strewn about. The only thing missing is the proverbial skylight, but I do have bay windows and a park view. Still, Montparnasse it’s not. There are canvases everywhere: rolls of canvas, stretched canvas, some stretched and mounted on canvas boards. Also a dozen paintbrushes, round and flat and long, and even more tubes of paint in all colours; Payne’s gray, burnt sienna, burnt umber, viridian, sepia, zinc white, Naples yellow, cobalt blue, yellow ochre, thalo green, venetian red. And an artist’s smock and easel, and roto tray, and turntable, and palette. Everything and anything that goes into an artist’s studio is here, plus all of Brodski’s own special equipment.

The little fellow doesn’t know what to make of it. He peers open-mouthed as I strap him to his artist’s chair—the relaxation chair with nineteen different seating positions and seventy more for the upper body—and commence attaching his arm and hand prosthesis. The occupational therapist I employed has taught me well and I know how to use each piece of equipment as well as how to staple the stretched canvas tightly to the canvas board so it won’t ripple. When he is seated at his workplace (easel) with the canvas before him and rivulets of paint already squeezed out on his plate positioner (palette), I say: PAINT.

He looks at me, at the canvas, at his surrounding, dumbfounded. Not paralyzed, but stricken in another way. As if in limbo. As if groping to understand, to come to terms with what lies before him. I am tempted to help him. It would be such a simple matter for me to demonstrate how to “finger” the paintbrush with his table writer, or, for more exact control, his pencil holder; how to, with what for him would amount to a Promethean effort, touch the canvas with his brush. But I do not. It wouldn’t be fair. The rules of the game do not permit it. The first stroke must be done by him. The discovery has to be his. The miracle must come from him alone. To be godlike, one has to create his own world. It is enough for me (now) to show him the way.

We sit there five, ten, twenty minutes; an hour passes, two. I do not say anything. Do not coax him on. Not so much as a word or hint passes from my lips. Absolute silence pervades the room. Then: he begins to move. Slowly at first, with imperceptible little stirrings of his body, followed by epileptic twitchings and wrigglings of his arms and hands.

What’s this? He’s stretching-reaching-picking up the paintbrush lying on the plate positioner in a glass cup, just begging for his use. He’s dipping it in a glob of paint. He’s . . . He’s . . . HE’S PAINTING!!! His first stroke is slow, halting, tenuous, as if a spanked child were reaching out for the object that caused him harm. He looks enthralled—no, terrified.

After his first stroke he jerks back; his paint brush drops from his utensil holder against the glass cup and pan holding the other brushes and tubes of paint, and the entire collection as well as the roto tray spills to the floor. He doesn’t even notice. Awestruck, he just continues to stare at the canvas. At a gashed slightly less than linear violet smudge: HE MADE!

A tiny wet spot wells up in his eye. A soft voluptuous half sigh, half groan, and then more tears, a sound that emanates from deep inside him, an indistinct murmur, a shriek, an ecstatic outcry, a crescendo of uncontrollable and involuntary body-racking shakes and sobs. He is crying. Really crying! Not his usual “cri du chat”; but crying like us. Like we humans do.

A half hour passes before he is able to start up again. This time by trial and error, each dip and dab of his brush reminiscent of a naked hand in a fire struggling to save a beloved object. After each new impression, he stops haltingly to examine it. Not for aesthetic reasons. He has no concern for that now. But for the sheer effect of it. The impression he is making on the canvas. ON THE WORLD! It is the first time he has ever been able to affect the world. Make his mark. HE IS PUTTING HIS STAMP ON THE WORLD!!!

After maybe another minute or two he falls back exhausted. I push his chair away from the canvas and together we look upon his creation. Grazing my hand ever so slightly on his utensil holder, as if touching the finger of God, I begin to cry. We begin to laugh and cry together. We stay there in tableau like that, both crying and laughing, the rest of the night.”



Painter’s Studio © Bernard Piga