After twenty years, Sam The Cat‘s dad, acclaimed author Matthew Klam, has arrived with his first novel, Who Is Rich? A very well chosen pun on words through which he unravels the life of cartoonist Richard Fischer, a middle-aged American cartoonist who, like every year, leaves his family to go to a summer arts convention in New England in a “college you’ve never heard of”. Except that, for Rich, those four days away from his life are not exactly like summer camp, but a means for him to look back at what he’s achieved.
Twenty years earlier, Rich had published his first illustration book and was proud of his work as a cartoonist. But now, he just doesn’t know what is his place in today’s society and is struggling on a daily basis to earn as much money as he can to support them. Obsessively comparing himself to wealthy people, he just wants his wife, Robin, to look at him again, to love him like he loves her and he can’t help himself but imagining his kids being hurt while he is away. The thing is, Rich cannot wait to leave them – even though he cannot be apart from them.
Last year, during those same four days, because his marriage is falling apart and he hasn’t published anything in six years, he let himself have an affair with Amy, a mother of three who’s also been neglected by her husband. They have been messaging for a while, developing growing feelings for each other, until Amy stopped contacting him, full of guilt. Then, he cannot wait to see if this year again, she showed up to the convention.
The thing is, Rich may “only” be a cartoonist, but he has the opportunity to hang out with the rich. He evolves between people who have villas in Europe, who can afford to be miserable, in a way. But he feels bad not being able to do that himself and give that to his family. For instance, this creates a weird relationship between him and Amy, like buying a 3,000$ bracelet for his wife but giving it to Amy instead because he accidentally broke her elbow. Rich is the kind of person who makes things worse when all he wants to do is make them better.
Who Is Rich? portrays a world where the poor and the rich try to inhabit together and while Klam writes about Rich, the reader realises that money is everywhere and stands as the main character here. However, money is supposed to make us happy, but does it?
Real and personal, Matthew Klam’s first novel introduces us to the world we live in. Extremely well written, each page makes us wonder why we wake up every morning and fight for our life and our family, trying not to let the reality ruin it.
Twenty years after publishing Sam The Cat – the short story that made him one of the 20 notable authors under 40 according to the New Yorker – Matthew Klam finally published Who Is Rich? on July 4th, 2017 in the United States. For instance, wouldn’t Rich be Klam’s alter ego?