In 2000, Matthew Klam was the literary equivalent of Rookie of the Year, publishing Sam the Cat, a collection of stories that prompted the New Yorker to call him one of the top 20 writers under 40. Now, finally, we have the novel Klam’s fans hoped he had in him: Who Is Rich? is the story of an extramarital tangle between a self-lacerating graphic novelist and a one-percenter Connecticut mom. It’s both bleak and joyous, creeping between the isolation of a fuckless marriage and the elusive thrill of the affair. “It turns out that all you need for kundalini multigasmic monkey sex,” he writes, “is two people who know each other just well enough to feel safe but don’t share a kitchen.” We called upon the author to explain.
You’re a married father with a house in the suburbs. What’s the problem with conventional life?
I just think monogamous, parenting, middle-class life is stultifying in ways that I had not predicted. It was fun to transgress that in writing about it, to have the structure of my life be something I could fight against.
How do you write honestly about extramarital affairs?
That stuff is just an expression of the totality of my experience, so it feels true to me. I’ve either done or thought every rotten thing that anybody could ever do. I also happen to be somebody people tell things to. I had a period when I had three friends — a woman and two guys — who I played regular shitty tennis with, and when we’d walk out on the court, stuff about being married just poured out. Somehow it was a safe place to express a real struggle, not just transgressive stuff, but the pain and rage and humiliation and all the stuff that goes along with long-term relationships. By now I’ve seen a bunch of marriages blow up. Nothing surprises me anymore.