New book published by Updike’s literary progeny

John Updike was famously one of the American writers who put sex in fiction because it’s part of “the continuum of life,” Updike had said. His depiction of sexual escapades in Couples landed him a Time magazine cover, and he paved the way for writers wishing to explore sexual situations and language in literature. But he may have been one-upped—at least according to Ron Charles, who reviewed the new book by Matthew Klam.

Klam was one of the New Yorker’s Best Fiction Writers Under 40 back in 2000, Charles writes, but then fell off the map until his recent publication of Who Is Rich?, “about a writer who once enjoyed ‘precocious success’ and then sank into obscurity. ‘I’d had an appointment with destiny,’ the narrator says. ‘I’d barely started, then I blinked and it was over.’

“We could speculate about how much this falls under the category of Write What You Know, but here’s what I do know,” Charles writes. “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.”

The novel is set at a summer artists conference “where hopeful adults of middling talent are taught by writers and painters of fading repute,” Charles writes. “Klam’s narrator is a 42-year-old graphic novelist named Rich Fischer, who first signed on with this summer program years ago when he was the hot new thing. Now he’s just a poor illustrator for a failing political magazine—a crisply satirized version of the New Republic.”

Full review

Amazon link

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