by Richard Kalich
Paperback : 241 pages
Published by Green Integer
In Charlie 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."
- Sven Birkerts, National Book Critics Circle, Citation for Excellence in Reviewing
"Charlie P 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 life.
"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 Dream."
- Brian 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."
- Brian Evenson, Book Forum, Feb/Mar 2006
"CHARLIE P 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
CHARLIE P: an accomplishment to be admired."
- Christopher 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."
- Scott 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."
- George 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."
- Eckhard 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."
- Stacey Levine, American Book Review, May 2006
"CHARLIE 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 pleasure."
- Warren 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 CHARLIE P, 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 CHARLIE P 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, April 2005
"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 Nihilesthete slightly resembles Fowles' The Collector. But his latest novel, CHARLIE P, is one of a kind. His hero anti-hero, CHARLIE 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 P offers us a brilliant absurdist deception about modern man's despair."
- Grogory Medvedev, 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, CHARLIE P, 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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