– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?
– Yes. We are. We are indeed.
– Because most of the book is done in that style.
– I see. Was the book impressive?
– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.
– And he appears in the book too?
– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…
– That all sounds a bit confusing.
– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.
– Oh, really?
– “He’s an idiot. So disconnected . . . conflicted . . . torn apart.”
– Just joking. That’s actually a quote from the book. He often sidesteps you like that. Reminds you of people like Gombrowicz.
– Oh…never mind. Actually he quotes Gombrowicz in the text. More and more meta eh?
– “I do not believe that death is man’s real problem, or that art entirely permeated by it is completely authentic. The real issue is growing old, that aspect of death which we experience daily. Yet not even growing old, and that property of it, the fact that it is so completely, so terribly cut off from beauty. Our gradual dying does not disturb us, it is rather the beauty of life becomes inaccessible to us.”
– I’ve no idea what you are talking about.
– You should read more. Educate yourself.
– Back to Mr. Kalich.
– Great writer.
– So you would recommend this novel?
– Of course. It’s the second in the Central Park West Trilogy, lovingly brought back to life by Betimes Books.
– I see.
– And you’ll need to find out what he does with the Boy and the Girl.
– The Boy and the Girl. And the whole suicide thing…or was it?
– So it’s a mystery?
– Life is a mystery.
– “He decided to watch everything very carefully and to record it constantly, all with the aim of not missing the smallest detail, because he realized with a shock that to ignore the apparently insignificant was to admit that one was condemned to sit defenseless on the parapet connecting the rising and falling members of the bridge between chaos and comprehensible order.”
– Is that from Mr. Kalich’s book?
– No, that’s a quote from Satantango, by László Krasznahorkai.
– Why are you quoting that? Is it relevant?
– What do you think?
– You lawyers. You really should read more.
You can find my debut novel, Killarney Blues here:
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.
Sure, Haberman has his gripes with Mrs. Knox, his uptight colleague, but it’s hardly the reason to go this far into sadism, and yet somehow he remains thoroughly engaging; no matter how brutal he is willing to go, we stay with his wanton leanings, keen as we are to know just how far he is going to push his “project”.
Haberman does show brief moments of light, he does for example allow Brodski the quadriplegic to paint (and the poor man does so masterfully) by the use of prosthetic limbs, but he is then so enraged by the art produced that he slowly, painstakingly removes all his aids again. Perhaps it is this building up of hope and the consequent shattering of it that gives Haberman his kicks, but then that also is perhaps too simplistic a reading; it is imposable to know the true drives behind his act of cruelty, and the reader keeps wanting to know just how terribly it all will end.
Kafka, Gombrowicz and Beckett might all spring to mind as you read this short stab of a novel, but Kalich stands on his own feet in producing a twisted and often grotesque imagining. This novel has fortunately been brought back to life again by Betimes Books as the first part of the Central Park West Trilogy, and the publisher should be heralded for bringing to our attention a writer too long ignored.
A must then for readers interested in unusual fictions, excited by the idea of alternative (albeit horrible narrators) and those simply tired of the staid and banal. For those curious (and brave) enough to step over to the other side, Richard Kalich maybe be the writer you’ve always been searching for.
What’s in a title? Well, quite a lot in my estimation. My current work-in-progress is a novel (though that’s debatable) called (tentatively) The referee is taking a long hard look at his watch. Now, you might not like that title, and that’s OK, but hell, it’s original. I’ve checked to see if it has been used before. It hasn’t (except by me in a very obscure poem I wrote in the 90s).
Now, I had a look at an upcoming title by the lauded Haruki Murakami. The title is Men without Women. Ring any bells?
This information is courtesy of: http://howtojaponese.com/
Does this seem just a bit…wrong? I mean, it’s the name of a Hemingway book for God’s sake. Let’s hope the title will be changed in the English version.
There are a few story titles in this collection taken from, as usual Beatles songs: Drive my Car, Yesterday. And no doubt you remember Norwegian Wood. I don’t have much of a problem with that. Taking titles from the world of song is fine by me, good referencing and all that (Pere Ubu often had fun with the concept and went the other way round, using song title from films etc, I seem to remember an album called, cheekily, Lady from Shanghai).
But to call a book after another book! And a famous one at that! He’s a writer, surely he has enough imagination to come up with his own titles. He had imagination enough to give us 1000 pages of drivel in 19Q4 (don’t let me get started on that title).
If you are going to put out a book at least make an effort to have an original title. My fellow Betimes Books author Jackie Mallon’s debut novel is called Silk for the Feed Dogs. You can be pretty sure that no one has used that before (intriguing title, and a bloody good read it is too).
C’mon Mr. Murakami, you are better than that. You once gave us The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Great title. Great read.
Even Colorless Tsukuru etc etc is original (haven’t read it yet though).
Men without Women is a Hemingway title, simple as that. Even Richard Ford had the good grace to turn the title around.
Right, that’s it from me. I’m off to write another new novel. It’s called The Great Gatsby. I hope you will like it.