King of Joy

Author: Chiem, Richard

Publication Date:

March 2019



Original language and publisher

English | Soft Skull

Territories Handled

World excl. English North America


Literary Fiction

King of Joy

Author: Chiem, Richard


This experimental literary novel is the right amount of both dreamy and dark. . . lush, packed with jarring details, and surprisingly tender. . . . a delicious, demonic novel that fades through adjacent, looping worlds in the magical early 2000s. Chiem evokes a lost decade and suggests the shape of the monsters that churned beneath its surface.”—Foreword Reviewsstarred review

“This novel is transfixing: an imaginative meditation on emotional survival, isolation, and the beauty and limitations of human connection. I love Chiem’s writing.” ―Melissa Broder, author of The Pisces

“What a funny, fresh, bittersweet masterpiece―there is no one else in the world writing like Richard Chiem. From the sentence-level wizardry to the racing plot, I feel smarter just having read this. Every page brings a new set of wonders.” ―Alissa Nutting, author of Made for Love

“ King of Joy is a perfect rendering of that feeling of dark and hopeful closeness with loss I’ve always known but could never put to words.” —Chelsea Martin, author of Caca Dolce

“ Richard Chiem writes like someone whispering in your ear. He’s insistent and methodical, and you want to hear every word he has to say. King of Joy takes Chiem’s unparalleled voice and carefully amplifies it, ratcheting the tension until you’re not sure where he stops and you begin. It is a brilliant, tender examination of the unholy magnitude of trauma. It shows how pain can simultaneously destroy and preserve a person. Most of all, it is just goddamn beautiful writing.” —Kristen Arnett, author of Mostly Dead Things

“ In King of Joy, Richard Chiem shows us what it is to live in the immediate, day-to-day song of forever grief. Each sentence is masterfully written and equally afflicted by the one craving that affects us all, which is the desire to belong. This book turns pain over and over in its raw mouth, exposing what it is like to feel longing in its deepest, most hidden form, and teaches us more than we could have ever hoped to learn about pure love, loss, and the hard work of accepting the human condition.” —Elle Nash, author of Animals Eat Each Other

“ 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.

From one of the most exciting and risk-taking new literary voices, Richard Chiem’s debut novel King of Joy is the triumphant, electrifying story of one woman’s quest for survival against all odds, told in the author’s inimitable prose style.

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, this debut novel is equal parts sledgehammer and sweet song, a neon, pulsing portrait of grief. King of Joy tells the triumphant, electrifying story of one woman’s quest for survival against all odds, and serves as a reminder that resilience can be found even in our most hopeless moments.