Seeking relief from the grief of losing her husband and first real love to suicide, a woman named Corvus finds herself at a dangerous and manipulative underground porn studio deep in the woods. The ending is fantastical, violent, and unforgettable. Corvus's inner monologue is hypnotic, and Chiem's unique sentence structure ensures that, from page one, the reader is in an alternate universe all its own (think Mrs. Caliban or The Pisces)
King of Joy is an exciting debut novel, and an art-house thriller with heart—shot through with the levity of pop music and mixed with bizarre but accurate meditations on grief and loss
Like Mrs. Caliban, King of Joy is subvertly feminist, and offers one desperate woman's interior monologue made manifest in reality, and Chiem's style/structure add to Corvus's wavering between numbness and presence, joy and despair, desire and fear
Richard Chiem, an Asian American writer, is an award-winning author and poet, and is a loud and deeply connected champion of the Pacific Northwest literary community. Equally influenced by film and literature, he is based in Seattle, WA.
Bookseller Praise for King of Joy
“What did I just read? I don't really know, but it was just a little bit mind-bending. Chiem's writing is mesmerizing and perfectly suited to a skipping narrative full of strange and disturbing things (there are porn movie sets and hippos and a very good dog). I can't wait to see what he writes next.” —Anton Bogomazov, Politics and Prose (Washington, D.C.)
«I wonder if Chiem has a pair of 4K digital cameras for eyes, or rather, an entire theater built into his brain. Saturated colors and sounds; a surreal world of drugs, luxury, hippos, sex, violence, and sadness; and ultimately, the modern dread of how video seems to unravel time itself. Perhaps one of the most gorgeous imagists I’ve read in a while, his love of scene and cinema shines through in this bizarre novel. King of Joy follows Corvus as she copes with the death of her husband by doing what we all do: running away into the woods and living in a sex mansion with a pornographer named Tim. Realizing she’s made a grave mistake, she attempts to return to a stable world, only to be pursued by both Tim’s darkness and her own grief. With King of Joy, you can never look away. Chiem says it best himself: 'It’s scary to see you made it through a night you don’t remember. The feeling is like eyeing a speeding car rush past you, missing you by an inch or a second.' Also, there’s a cute AF dog named Marco. So there’s that, too.» —Mason Hamberlin, Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill, NC)