Wenzel, Kurt 1965-

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article
views updated

Wenzel, Kurt 1965-

PERSONAL:

Born April 5, 1965; married.

ADDRESSES:

Home—New York, NY; East Hampton, NY.

CAREER:

Writer.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Lit Life, Random House (New York, NY), 2001.

Gotham Tragic, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 2004.

Exposure, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2007.

Contributing editor to PrivyMagazine.com.

SIDELIGHTS:

Kurt Wenzel is a fiction writer. Wenzel published his first novel, Lit Life, in 2001. Young, commercially successful, but hollow writer Kyle Clayton forms a unique relationship with Richard Whitehurst, a literary genius who strives for commercial success. Kyle stays with Richard at his summer home in hopes that both their careers will get a boost from the other.

Kevin Smokler, reviewing the novel in the San Francisco Chronicle, found the prose "limber" and the plot set to "galloping" speed, adding that Wenzel's "enthusiasm is catching." Smokler observed that through the story, Wenzel has "nothing original to say about the world of publishing." Smokler conceded, however, that readers would "dig his chutzpah and enjoy the ride" anyhow. Booklist contributor Kristine Huntley noted that "Wenzel takes more than a few jabs at the publishing industry in his clever, satirical first novel." Sheila Riley, writing in Library Journal, "recommended" this "light reading," adding that Lit Life "is full of ironic fun, dashes of darkness, and well-delineated characters." A contributor to Publishers Weekly thought that Lit Life's "funny and disturbing content should generate sufficient word of mouth to fuel respectable sales." The same contributor noted that the topic would "interest anyone who loves books or the behind the scenes intrigue of the publishing busi- ness." Polly Paddock, reviewing the novel in the Charlotte Observer, wrote that Wenzel's book is "a hoot, deliciously witty and caustic." Paddock remarked of Wenzel: "Clearly, he knows whereof he speaks. The guy can write a yarn that's both entertaining and uncomfortably close to reality." Paddock concluded: "Given the current climate in the book business, you have to wonder how Wenzel got such zingers through his publishing house. But if you're looking for a breezy, intelligent summer read, you'll be glad he did." In a Miami Herald review, Margaria Fichtner commented that Wenzel's debut novel is an "entertaining finger-wag at Manhattan's book-publishing scene."

Gotham Tragic, Wenzel's second novel, was published in 2004. The novel sees Lit Life's Kyle move to New York to make a literary comeback. In the process he converts to Islam and gets a fatwa put on him. Wenzel adds Erin Wyatt, a former one-night-stand of Kyle's and Lonny Tumin, the former richest man in the country. The three go after each other viciously for various reasons.

Hilary Williamson, writing on the BookLoons Web site found that "Gotham Tragic is crowded with larger than life characters looming over Manhattan at the turn of the millennium" where "life is fast, furious, and everything's taken to excess." Williamson concluded that the novel "combines comedy, drama, and farce in a highly entertaining manner." Sarah Dudley, writing on ReviewingTheEvidence.com, took issue with books containing multiple characters out to get each other, saying that "none of them are appealing or engaging." Dudley concluded, though, that "Gotham Tragic should be successful with fans of books where big fish try to ruin the lives of little fish, who in turn end up the happiest." A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that "Wenzel's second novel is plenty smart enough to satisfy his target audience—hip, urban, literary readers. The author skewers lots of recognizable types, and the Muslim angle provides extra depth." In a People article, Ed Nawotka wrote that the novel "is apt to please connoisseurs of New York stories about writers." Booklist contributor Brendan Driscoll said that "Wenzel's absorbing, perceptive tale floats some tough theological questions … but his true emphasis is the setting." Barbara Conaty, writing in Library Journal, believed that the novel "will attract readers who liked the big-city combination of glitz and sleaze." She also projected that this publication would make Wenzel "a looked-for author" among urban novel fan bases. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews found the novel "perceptive and close to brilliant, when it's not trying too hard to be funny." Connie Ogle, writing for the Miami Herald, indicated that the many story lines strayed too far just before the book's ending. She remarked that "Wenzel tries hard to wrap up his apprehensive observations on money and lust, ambition and fame, but his surprisingly mawkish solution to Kyle's crisis of faith—to the whole city's crisis of faith, really disappoints." USA Today contributor Jackie Pray noted that "although Wenzel telegraphs many of his best plot punches early in the book, Gotham Tragic is a captivating read, mixing money, religion, and greed."

In 2007 Wenzel published his third novel, Exposure. The account projects the media-dominated lifestyle of the United States in 2017 and the hyper-celebrity of individual stars and their fall. Writing on the Armchair Interviews Web site, Maria Elmvang called the story "an interesting book" that "raises some valid points about a future we may be fast approaching." Elmvang pointed out, however, that better editing was needed, citing plot holes. Elmvang commented that the novel "did not manage to capture my attention quite as much as I would have liked." Keir Graff, writing in Booklist, said of the novel: "This is clever and engaging, though its satirical edge is blunted by the lack of unexpected insight." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews, described it as "outlandish and oddball funny."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, July, 2001, Kristine Huntley, review of Lit Life, p. 1984; January 1, 2004, Brendan Driscoll, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 829; May 15, 2007, Keir Graff, review of Exposure, p. 19.

Charlotte Observer, August 16, 2001, Polly Paddock, review of Lit Life.

Esquire, July, 2007, review of Exposure, p. 32.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2003, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 1381; May 1, 2007, review of Exposure.

Library Journal, August, 2001, Sheila Riley, review of Lit Life, p. 160; February 1, 2004, Barbara Conaty, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 126.

Miami Herald, July 13, 2001, Margaria Fichtner, review of Lit Life; March 3, 2004, Connie Ogle, review of Gotham Tragic.

New Yorker, September 17, 2001, William S. Cohen, review of Lit Life, p. 46.

New York Times, November 28, 2001, review of Lit Life, p. 1.

New York Times Book Review, February 22, 2004, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 12.

People, August 20, 2001, review of Lit Life, p. 41; March 1, 2004, Ed Nawotka, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 57.

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, August 19, 2007, review of Exposure.

Publishers Weekly, June 18, 2001, review of Lit Life, p. 54; December 22, 2003, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 34.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 29, 2001, Kevin Smokler, review of Lit Life, p. 62.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), August 19, 2001, review of Lit Life, p. 3; July 14, 2002, review of Lit Life, p. 6.

USA Today, March 23, 2004, Jackie Pray, review of Gotham Tragic, p. 06.

ONLINE

Armchair Interviews,http://www.armchairinterviews.com/ (January 2, 2008), Maria Elmvang, review of Exposure.

BookLoons,http://www.bookloons.com/ (January 2, 2008), Hilary Williamson, review of Gotham Tragic.

ReviewingTheEvidence.com,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (January 2, 2008), Sarah Dudley, review of Gotham Tragic.