A Debut Novel Takes On Adulting

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When, in 2017, you pick up a novel that’s basically about middle-aged white male melancholy, you have certain expectations. Namely: Eye-rolling. Fortunately, Matthew Klam’s debut novel, Who Is Rich?, stops short of veering into why am I reading this? territory and is instead bitingly funny and surprisingly relatable. (Even if you’re not a white dude.)

Here’s the premise: Rich Fischer is a 40-something cartoonist watching the art-world clout he once had fade away. Now he works as a magazine illustrator, which he finds unfulfilling and sell-out-ish. (Not that he’s making a ton of money, FWIW.) And then there’s his loveless marriage and all-but-nonexistent sex life.

Each summer, though, he gets a brief respite by teaching a cartooning workshop at a weeklong arts conference in New England, where he takes up with the wife of a successful financier and attends insufferable cocktail parties with fair-to-middling playwrights and narcissistic academics.

As Rich recounts the events of the conference (including his ensuing guilt over not only cheating on his wife but buying his mistress a bracelet that basically drains his family’s savings), Klam’s tone shifts from morose to sharply funny to oddly poignant.

Think John Irving with a side of Maria Semple.

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sarah stiefvater
Sarah Stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...
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