This is an irresistible comic novel that pumps blood back into the anemic tales of middle-aged white guys. Klam may be working in a well-established tradition, but he’s sexier than Richard Russo and more fun than John Updike, whose Protestant angst was always trying to transubstantiate some man’s horniness into a spiritual crisis ... In paragraphs that flow like conversation with a witty, troubled friend, Klam captures Rich’s squirrelly consciousness, swinging from lust to despair, turning his comic eye on others and then on himself ... But for all its wise gender comedy, Who Is Rich is also a brilliant rumination on the trap of cannibalizing one’s life for art.
...one of those novels with the rare power to mesmerize. It’s a dazzling meditation on monogamy, parenthood, mortality, shame, erotic liberation, and artistic struggle, a tale told by an adulterous middle-aged schlub, full of sound and fury, and signifying, well, pretty much everything ... The plot is rudimentary and almost beside the point: Rich and Amy flirt, surrender to lust, retreat, reconnect, and bid farewell. The novel’s genius resides in the manic, self-lacerating voice of the narrator, one that will be familiar to fans of Klam’s celebrated debut collection, Sam the Cat, which mined the masculine angst of modern courtship ... Klam is writing in the tradition of Updike, Bellow, and Roth, unspooling an unabashedly masculine account of midlife crisis. But his female characters are never reduced to caricature. He sees in them a distinct but nuanced struggle for selfhood ... Klam has brought to life an indelible character, a man painfully alive on the page, cowardly in actions but utterly fearless in confronting hard truths we spend most of our lives evading.
...a gem within the canon of infidelity literature ... One of the nicest and saddest things about Who Is Rich? is the way that Klam goes all in on the pathos of feeling completely unwanted—a state that has become native to Fischer both professionally and in bed ... In the world of Who Is Rich? everything is embarrassing and beautiful. A chain of unexpected events at the conference leads to Fischer and Amy consummating their queasy first anniversary while on an excess of OxyContin...It’s such a turgid, sunlit, immensely particular encounter that it quietly proves the project shared by Klam and his protagonist—this affair is unique, it is special, it is one for the books. It’s also one of the only moments when Fischer is able to really accept and take pleasure in his diminished ambitions.
His admirers have had to wait since the Clinton administration for his next book, but happily, it’s worth it. Who Is Rich? is funny, maddening and, despite the well-worn subject matter, defiantly original ... As a person, Rich is hard to like; as a narrator, he’s about as reliable as a 1987 Yugo GV with its original transmission. That’s a tough row to hoe for any writer, but Klam manages to make him compelling — he has moments of self-awareness, although he seldom takes them to their logical ends ... It’s a challenging novel, but Klam’s prose is so clean, so self-assured, that it feels a little like a miracle.
Who Is Rich? feels so vital, even when we know we’ve been here before ... [The sex writing] is hallucinatory stuff, but Klam is at his best when he’s describing other sensations, the kind that emerge out of domestic life’s quotidian rhythms. Some chapters descend into Rich’s past, and when they do, Klam’s prose is like the feverish swoon of a dying man revisiting his childhood, each drop of sweat a memory in miniature.
...[a] superb debut novel ... Like all great humorists, Klam is a sharp observer and he skewers his targets here with specificity and brio. Who Is Rich? is also cynically smart about the class politics crackling in the air at these kinds of gatherings ... There's a scene midway through this novel where Rich — guilty about an affair and itching to break free of his paycheck-to-paycheck existence — impulsively blows his entire honorarium on an expensive bracelet for his wife at home. I swear to you the economic terror Klam conjures up in that scene is every bit as vivid as the physical terror of the opening scene of that quintessential New England beach movie, Jaws.
Rich is an unsympathetic character marinating in self-pity, but Klam carries the story by framing his predicament as (mostly) comic, poking fun not just at Rich’s narcissistic fumblings, but the media landscape, the wealthy’s obliviousness to everyday reality, overearnest students, and the forced-fun get-togethers at the workshop. There are a few too many scenes of Rich’s maudlin musings and philanderer’s rationalizations, but when Klam sustains a satirical mode (bolstered by John Cuneo’s caricatures), the novel sings, making Rich a fascinating figure despite his flaws.
...an acidly funny portrait of a has-been cartoonist ... Though there are stretches in which Rich’s middle-aged male angst can be stifling, the vibrant prose (accompanied by John Cuneo’s equally vibrant illustrations) enlivens the proceedings. Libidinous, impulsive, sarcastic, bitter, casually suicidal, and committed to his art, Rich is a worthy addition to American literature’s distinguished line of hapless antiheroes.