Chiem’s prose, sparse yet dreamy, is perfectly tuned to mine the leveling effects of trauma and grief in a world defined by the wild excess of drugs, private islands, experimental theater, and a hippopotamus named Valerie. It’s a dark book, but it’s never quite a nightmare—think Denis Johnson if he listened to Robyn. King of Joy was included in The Millions’ Most Anticipated 2019 list, and deservedly so. Like Corvus, dance with this one alone—a new book by Richard Chiem is a special occasion.

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