introducing readers to writers since 1995

March 04, 2004

The Return of Kyle Clayton

by Ron Hogan

wenzel.jpgKurt Wenzel was at the Astor Place Barnes & Noble last night, reading the first two-thirds or so of the opening chapter of Gotham Tragic, his second novel. The scene reintroduced readers to Kyle Clayton, the bad-boy novelist (and admitted alter ego) who starred in Wenzel's debut, Lit Life, which I considered a rather enjoyable black comedy about the literary scene, mashing together satirical takes on Bret Easton Ellis (or perhaps Jay McInernery) and Tom Clancy and turning them into pals. This time around, Clayton's converted to Islam, though not very effectively, and at novel's start is lunching with his agent, a vivdly drawn, impatiently aggressive woman who will later call him to gloat about "banging" the hostess he had his eye on at City, the hot fictional Manhattan restaurant of the late 1990s, based in part on his own experiences as a waiter at Patroon. It's a good scene; maybe he'll read from it again this Sunday night at KGB (where he'll be sharing the podium with Andrew Sean Greer, currently enjoying a spurt of It-ness for The Confessions of Max Tivoli).

I found the scene Wenzel read entertaining, and I've also enjoyed the following chapters I read on the subway ride home, though as Wenzel noted during the Q&A, not everyone shares that opinion. Stephen Metcalf wrote in the NYTBR that the novel "[goes] a long way toward proving the resilience of utter inanity," and when he compares Wenzel to Tom Wolfe, it's not meant as a ringing endorsement. Janet Maslin glancingly echoed the Wolfe comparison with kinder intentions in her review, and though she doesn't think he stacks up she gives him points for trying...but I ended up asking him how he felt about both reviewers lumping him in with the allegedly emerging "lad lit" genre by reviewing him in tandem with Kyle Smith's Love Monkey. Wenzel admitted to some surprise, since his novel's not about a guy trying to get a date in the way "lad lit" echoes Bridget and her followers, and some disappointment that this second novel isn't getting considered on its own after the strong reviews Lit Life got. On the other hand, he's able to joke with Smith about their evisceration at Metcalf's hands... He told another fan that Clayton's being put to rest for a while. "Spending five to six years with an alcoholic womanizer gets exhausting," he quipped. "I need a break."


And well deserved it-ness it is; Tivoli is a lovely book. I wish I could get to the KGB reading - but perhaps you'll go and give us a report?

Posted by: TEV at March 4, 2004 11:59 AM
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