The King of Pain by Seth Kaufman
This is a dark, sharp, very funny novel about imprisonment, torture and the dangerous pleasures of stories.” –Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal
“Seth Kaufman’s novel is a hoot and a boot, a zany, unsettling, satisfying, post post-modern, tragic-comic tour of prisons around the world and pain in the human heart. Start it and you won’t stop. If you’re a claustrophobe, read it out-of-doors.” –John Darnton, Neanderthal
I really enjoyed this book, the writing is original, at times very funny and at times very dark and revealing. The main character Rick, is trapped in his own house and in a lot of pain after a drunken accident, and tries to pass the time during his captivity of a weekend, reading a book which is short stories about people who are imprisoned, and in pain of one kind or another.
The use of language is excellent for example on reading a note from a woman colleague; ‘How can I read a woman’s writing so easily and never fucking understand what’s actually being said.’
I laughed out loud at the description of Shane, an investigator in Guantanamo prison, in one of the short stories, ‘He was pale. He was from Seattle, where the sun is a theoretical construct.’
The book also has a lot of serious points to make about the American modern television audiences, reality shows, and how far the programme producers will go to satisfy the same need that made people throng to the coliseum to see lions rip slaves apart. You can laugh one moment at the book and be horrified the next, but it is all within the realms of reality. The reality shows of today and the endurance/adventure type programmes are definitely heading this way. The style of switching between reflection by the main character and short stories throughout this narrative make the whole thing a very interesting read.
There is a satisfying ending which I won’t spoil by saying anything about it. This is an original and witty work that I have no problem in recommending.