Richard Kalich

Richard KalichRichard Kalich was born in New York and grew up on the Upper West side. His mother always encouraged her sons to be writers, scholars, artists, poets. Kalich certainly fulfilled her wishes; he went on to write some of the most original American fiction in a generation.

His novels have been published in Bulgaria, Denmark, England, Germany, Holland, Israel, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and Japan. Kalich lives in New York where he co-directs a film company with his twin brother, Robert.

Author’s website:



kalichcover-cpwx2700Central Park West Trilogy includes three novels, The Nihilesthete, Penthouse F and Charlie P., originally published separately and collected for the first time in a single volume.

Postmodern fables, dark, shocking, perversely funny, wickedly astute, and compulsively readable, they share Kalich’s ferocious energy and unique vision. Together, they break down standard notions of plot, character and form a body of work that is distinctive and brilliant.

The Nihilesthete (first published in 1987 and nominated for a Pen/Faulkner Award, The Hemingway Award, a National Book Award, and Pulitzer Prize) introduces us to Kalich’s dark world, where a spiritually desolate caseworker plays increasingly sadistic games with a limbless, speechless idiot with a painter’s eye. This enigmatic physically diminished esthete will reveal not only his true essence, but the very center of what it means to be human.

Penthouse F (first published in 2010) is a cautionary tale that takes the form of an inquiry into the suicide—or murder?—of a young boy and girl in the Manhattan penthouse of a writer named Richard Kalich. The reader becomes the jury as the fictional Kalich’s own philosophical musings, personal documents, and notes on a novel in progress are presented alongside interview transcripts between “The Investigator,” Kalich, and his acquaintances. Blurring the lines between reality and fantasy, kindness and cruelty, love and obsession, guilt and responsibility, writer and character, Penthouse F is a critical examination of an increasingly voyeuristic society, a metafiction where Kalich the writer, Kalich the person and Kalich the character all merge together, as the reader must pick through the confusion to discover the truth.

Charlie P (first published in 2005) dispenses with a conventional narrative altogether, as we follow the comic misadventures of a singularly unique, comic and outlandish Everyman. At age three, when his father dies, he decides to overcome mortality by becoming immortal: by not living his life, he will live forever. Akin to other great American icons such as Sinclair Lewis’s Babbit and Forrest Gump, Charlie P, while asocial and alienated, is, at the same time, at the heart of the American dream.

Central Park West Trilogy encapsulates Kalich’s uncompromising examination of the state of modern life, as well as his experimentations with form and language.

Praise for The Nihilesthete

“A brilliant, hammer-hitting, lights-out novel.”  —Los Angeles Times

“One of the most powerfully written books of the decade.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“As important and original a novel to have been written by an American author in a generation.”  —Mid-American Review

“A shocking, chilling fable.”   —Seattle Times

“A tour de force… equals the best work of playwright Sam Shepard.”   —Columbus Post-Dispatch

Praise for Charlie P

“With his continuous comic exaggeration, Kalich is able to describe, highly uniquely, the overwhelming, vertiginous, risky sensation of being alive.”   —American Book Review

“Charlie P is an urban everyman, the self-regarding and coreless creature of our times. Kalich has captured him through endless reflections down the tunnel of the facing mirrors. One reads and reads and smiles. Charlie P captures the note of our late modern times.”  —Sven Birkerts

“Kalich is after what it means to be profoundly out of step with one’s culture yet still unwilling to let go of the American dream. And this tension between dream and reality makes Charlie P a deliciously painful book.”  —Bookforum

“I would rather that the familiar be embraced and the novel resonate beyond itself and intone the spheres of Plato and Beckett. Charlie P resonates.”  —Review of Contemporary Fiction

Praise for Penthouse F

Penthouse F is akin to the best work of Paul Auster in terms of its readability without sacrificing its intelligence of experiment. […] Kalich delivers afresh, relevant, and enticingly readable work of metafiction.”  —American Book Review

“Ghosts haunt this book from first page to last:  Dostoevsky, Mallarme, Kafka, Mann, Camus, Pessoa, Gombrowicz–and, oh yes, most perniciously of all, “Kalich.”  For he is a man who tortures himself both with the novels he has written and with those he has not. Let us forgive him even if he will not forgive himself, recognizing as we do the one truth of this tale that seems to be beyond doubt:  “It was all in his head like everything else about him.” —Warren Motte, World Literature Today

“If one of the great European intransigents of the last century—say, Franz Kafka or Georges Bataille or Witold Gombrowicz—were around to write a novel about our era of reality TV and the precession of simulacra, the era of Big Brother and The Real World, what would it look like? Well, it might look like Richard Kalich’s Penthouse F… a space contiguous with those dark inner rooms that the European avant-gardists took us into. Right next door is the closet where the whipper whips his perpetual victim in The Trial.”  Brian McHale

Publisher: Betimes Books (2014)

Rights available: World translation except Italian (Odoya Edizioni)

Individual novels previously published in Great Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Israel, Russia, Sweden, Turkey, and Japan (Please contact us for details).



Old CoverAn Empty Mind is a Clear Mind.

A Master Animal is an Ignorant Animal.

Wise Old Owl has unearthed just what it is that has been causing strife since societies began. It is the Artists and the Thinkers who are responsible. They are the greatest enemy to animal-kind because they make animals think about what life could be rather than what it is. The only way to save Animal World is to ‘zoo-in’ those animals that dream, create and just generally confuse the masses. However, a small rabble of the intelligentsia attempt to resist the insidious policing of Muerte Buzzard and Sly Fox on those animals which have an ‘inner life’ and they send turncoat Michael Ferret to seek out the lost and long-forgotten prodigy Polly Parrot. She is the only one who can argue successfully against Owl’s charismatic totalitarianism. But Polly has been searching for the secret to life and who knows what she’s found…

In this endlessly inventive satire about the modern growth of totalitarianism, Richard Kalich masterfully uncovers the minutiae of the propaganda machine and the descent from aggressive rhetoric into systematised state killing-machines. The Zoo is a bleak political allegory about the struggle of the artist to create beauty when confronted with crushing oppression. Kalich’s novel is all the more terrifying because it is still so readily applicable to both the past and the future.


“Kalich has written the definitive novel on the stupidity of intolerance.”Marion Boyars

“He’s after what it means to be profoundly out of step with one’s culture yet still unwilling to let go of the American dream.” Brian Evenson

“Kalich is a successful novelist, one who has succeeded in consistently producing perplexing fictions that fail to categorize themselves and escape the warping influence of authorial intent.” Electronic Book Review

“Speaks with a singular honesty, power and eloquence about our spiritually diminished modern world.” Mid-American Review

“Kalich represents the best in contemporary fiction. He has every chance to become—why not? —a living classical author.”  —Hooligan Literary Magazine, Moscow

First Published in 2001.

On Offer: New revised version for YA. World rights available