Named a 2019 Writer to Watch by the Los Angeles Times, Richard Chiem has written a new novel that is equal parts sledgehammer and sweet song. King of Joy is a neon, pulsing portrait of grief, and an electrifying story of one woman’s survival against all odds.“This novel is transfixing. . . I love Chiem’s writing.” ―Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces
Corvus has always had an overactive imagination. Growing up, she develops a unique coping mechanism: she can imagine herself out of any situation, no matter how terrible. To get through each day, Corvus escapes into scenes from fantasy novels, pop songs, and action/adventure movies, and survives by turning the everyday into just another role to play in the movie of her life.
After a tragic loss, Corvus finds a sadness so great she cannot imagine it away. Instead, she finds Tim, a pornographer with unconventional methods, who offers her a new way to escape into movies. But when a sinister plot of greed and betrayal is revealed, Corvus must fight to reclaim her independence, and discovers she is stronger than even she could have imagined.
Written in Richard Chiem’s singular style, King of Joy is equal parts sledgehammer and sweet song, a neon, pulsing portrait of grief.
Richard Chiem writes of all the weirdness and ooziness and tenderness of young love, with such lucid specificity. Like some beautiful film from the ’70s, but also distinctly now. Because I also love how in this book he documents the tremors of contemporary existence, of living and working in a city, measuring days not in coffee spoons but in cigarettes and Simpsons episodes.
Richard Chiem’s You Private Person is a bustling prism of a thing, full of passages that actually lead somewhere off the paper. His words have brains that have bodies that wake you up in the way waking can be the best thing, like into a warm room full of good calm remembered things that feel both like relics and new inside the day. Here rings a wise and bravely sculpted book packed full of stunning thankful color.
Oh, what a strange, sexy, little book this is. It will have you wondering whether you would categorize yourself as a sociopath or an animal, and it will make you think very carefully about how to approach unwrapping the tinfoil which covers a pie someone has given to you. It will have your mind occupied with thoughts of God and long-distance relationships. It will have you thinking of love and life and language and flying and cities and cigarettes and the length of a Simpsons episode and that song ’Lover’s Spit.’ Richard Chiem captures the mundane depravities of being young and alive with lucidity and a touching, weird grace. Everyone should live in his world for a little while.
One of the most compelling and simultaneously disarming things about this book is the style of the prose. . . . As all people who know each other intimately do, each set of characters in YPP seem to speak their own language to each other. Chiem’s narration does this too. He takes words, phrases, and even common cliches and destabilizes our knowledge of them . . . animating them with a strange, new kind of life.
Though they share a certain aesthetic with the emotionless-young-people literary boom of the late 1980s, Person’s stories are not Douglas Coupland-style elegies for doomed, ridiculous civilizations or Bret Easton Ellis’s unwitting self-satires. There’s a seething undercurrent just beneath the placid surface of every page. . . . I greatly enjoyed Person on its initial release, but this reissue feels right, like it was foretold in an ancient prophecy. The topics that once felt like jokes now resonate bone-deep, and the structure that once felt interesting now seems just right for a world whose attention has been blasted into millions of tiny splinters. Loneliness. Rage. The always-impending apocalypse. Hate-fucking. Maybe the world wasn’t ready for Person when it came out in 2012. Maybe it’s being reborn at just the right time.
[Richard Chiem]’s swiftly becoming one of our great chroniclers of urban melancholy. You Private Person understands that sometimes, when faced with the weight of the decisions we’ve made, both good and bad, and the consequences they’ve wrought in our lives, the only choice we really have is to start the next shift at work." --ZYZZYVA
"Richard’s stories are as generous as he is. They are the quiet, electric moment between the lightning flash and the thunder rumble. And they have the same odd light."
Like a stranger, sharper, more localized version of Sam Shepard’s Motel Chronicles set in the Pacific Northwest. And I love Motel Chronicles.