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Publisher's Summary

"One of 2012's most enjoyable novels." (Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

"This is a dark, sharp, very funny novel about imprisonment, torture and the dangerous pleasures of stories." (Zoe Heller, Notes on a Scandal

A riotously funny portrait of an out-of-control entertainment mogul and a dazzlingly original look at incarceration, The King of Pain is part George Sanders, part Italo Calvino, part Entourage, and 100% marvelous. 

Rick Salter is a man everybody loves to hate. But that's fine; in fact, it's become a way of life for Rick ever since the launch of his outrageous - and outrageously successful - reality TV show about torture, The King of Pain. So when one Saturday morning Rick comes to on his living room floor, he's not really bothered that cultural critics have put him on top of the list of “people who will hasten the demise of civilization” - no, his real problem is that he appears to be trapped under his gigantic home entertainment system. Which is no longer attached to the wall, but to him. With no phone or BlackBerry within reach, and with his housekeeper Marta off for the weekend, Rick has 48 long hours ahead of him before he can hope for rescue. Forty-eight hours of pain and bad memories. Thank god there's a book lying around to pass the time. It's called A History of Prisons and the stories in the book seem to be strangely relevant to Rick's own predicament.

©2012 Seth Kaufman (P)2019 Seth Kafuman

What listeners say about The King of Pain

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My favorite book of the year

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

To put it bluntly, this is very close to the experience of reading Infinite Jest condensed down into a fifth of the page count, which is to say it's incredibly funny and remorseful in sublime, subtle ways that can only be expressed via a high word count through an introspective narrator, only this book doesn't completely flood you with footnotes and infinitely nested digressions, instead opting to oscillate between the plight of the protagonist trapped under his fallen entertainment center, the book of short stories he reads pass the time (presented in their entirety with commentary) and his retelling of the events of a popular and controversial reality show he created. I'm a huge fan of metatextual prose and this is wonderfully done as each of the three (or more, if you count the individual shorts) contributes the same range of emotions in very different ways while the protagonist muses over them. This is one of the rare instances of a novel that's exactly as long as it needs to be and leaves you wanting more of the same, although any more would probably degrade the construction of what's there already - a fitting mood for the book in general.

2 people found this helpful

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Original and Unexpected

I grabbed a copy of The King of Pain by Seth Kaufman and narrated by George Kuch, mostly because of the blurb and call-outs on the cover which promised me it was “riotously funny”. Perhaps it wasn’t to my sense of humour but “funny” wasn’t my take away from this book.

By no means am I saying I didn’t enjoy it, in fact I found myself trying to sneak in my earbuds at any opportunity to listen more. But riotously funny? No. An interesting, original and satirical look at the nature of modern television juxtaposed against stories of real suffering? Yes.

From the blurb I admit I was expecting the “King of Pain” television show to be degrees more horrible than it was ultimately described, which only helped to highlight the absurdity of the “TV tortures” they think up for “The King of Pain” reality show. Sleep deprivation, starvation, emotional – all real tortures but controlled and manufactured by the show where the contestants could walk away at any time.

Our protagonist, Rick “The Prick” Salter (a universally despised TV and movie producer) wakes to find himself trapped, ironically enough, by his own consumerism. His massive wall unit filled with awards, gaming consoles, and three absurdly large televisions has him pinned. Unable to free himself or call for help, he passes the time reading “A History of Prisons” – vignettes of prison stories from different perspectives.

As much as I found myself wanting to find out the ultimate fate of Rick, I also found myself equally enjoying these stories-within-a-story. One in particular stands out about an African prison guard who becomes a prisoner during violent regime.

The narrator, George Kuch, I thought did a masterful job of portraying Rick and delivering a fantastic overall experience. His voice perfectly matched what I could envision Rick looked like. Slightly gruff, older, distinguished but with the right amount of self-importance.

TL;DR
Not what was promised by the cover, but highly enjoyable regardless. You’ll find something original and unexpected in this book.

I was given this audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review. I have not let this affect nor influence my opinions of this audiobook, and have left an honest review.

1 person found this helpful