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 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
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
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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,
"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."
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.
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
Blagovesta Kasabova, "Duma"
Bulgaria, July 11, 2007, "Za Slovoto"
(Bulgarian Writers' Union), August, 2007
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