Rick Salter expects to be hated; after all, he’s the mind behind the outrageous—and outrageously successful—reality TV show about torture, “The King of Pain.” What he finds much more worrisome than the ire of cultural critics is that when he wakes up one Saturday morning, he’s trapped underneath his gigantic home entertainment system with no idea how he got there. Rick has 48 long hours ahead of him until his housekeeper will come to his rescue and nothing to pass the time except pain, bad memories—and a strange book he finds lying beside him. Called “A History of Prisons,” it is written by one Seth Kaufman, and it seems mysteriously relevant to Rick’s predicament…
So reads the book jacket of Seth Kaufman’s premiere novel, The King of Pain. Kaufman contacted me and offered to send me his book months ago and I sort of brushed him off. I don’t have a Kindle, for a blogger I am shockingly a Luddite. I currently don’t even have a functioning dumb cell phone, let alone a smart one, and that is just fine with me. I figured that would end our contact until he offered to send me a book made from dead trees with pages I could turn by hand. Suddenly, I am thinking that this blogging thing is pretty cool. I am getting a free book! I love books! And so it began.
My anxiety has been flaring up a lot lately. I had some court cases to deal with, I took a vacation, and all the while I needed to read the book. Then I knew I would have to say something about it. So after months of procrastination, it’s time to tell you all what I thought.
The King of Pain is a satirical look at both the absurdity of reality TV and our views of crime and punishment. I can’t imagine a book more perfectly suited for the readers of Tamara Tattles. We are a group of people who enjoy schadenfreude perhaps more than any other. We are obsessed with reality TV, a genre usually set up entirely to mock the participants in the show. We love to gleefully watch as the real housewives of everywhere make asses of themselves on TV. When housewives like Teresa Giudice are looking a the prospect of serious prison time, we a secretly hoping that it happens. Face it, we like to see people punished.
Take our obsession with Jodi Arias for example. Finding her guilty of first degree murder was not enough for most of us. We want her dead. Nothing short of the needle will placate us. We want to know she suffered.
It seems that The King of Pain was written just for us. It is for that reason that I had a hard time with some of the other reviews. Across the top of the book, is a review that says , “This is a dark, sharp, VERY FUNNY novel. ” And while that is true, it is also a book filled with tragedy. The book pushes the limits of what we will laugh at. So while the book is riddled with humorous moments, it is also shot full of tragic ones. By reading this book, I think we can all do a bit of self-examination about where our moral line lies. At what point is it just not funny anymore? Whether or not that was the author’s intent, it seems to me that this is a question we could all take some time to examine. Are you among the masses of people who laugh when people fall down? What makes that funny?
I in no way mean to scare you off by suggesting there is a lesson to be learned by reading this book. I would not presume to say that is the author’s intent. I only mean to say that the book manages to be intellectually stimulating as well as funny. There is even a love story in there for those of us who like such things. I’d be remiss if I did not also mention the sadistic overtones more often seen in BDSM novels. It’s a funny, sad, romantic, sadistic novel that examines our cultural obsession with punishment and torture and watching others humiliate themselves.
The King of Pain is “a novel with short stories.” The novel itself is about Rick Salter who produces a reality show called The King of Pain. The show literally tortures contestants to their breaking point. One of the challenges they face is being branded on national TV. Salter is adamant about making sure the sound of searing flesh can be heard by the audience as well as their shrieks of pain. Did I mention one of the contestants is a nun? It is repeatedly pointed out that these people are voluntarily subjecting themselves to the show. Why on earth would people do this? It seems so unlikely, and yet, not so unlikely given shows like Fear Factor and even Bravo shows where the participants don’t seem to realize they are being manipulated for our entertainment.
The novel is tied to the short stories seamlessly as the majority of the novel’s storyline is told by Rick Salter as he is trapped ironically under a huge entertainment system. It just so happens that the only thing that Rick can reach is a book called A History of Prisons written by Seth Kaufman. The book was given to him by his friend and one time love interest, Amanda with a note that reads, “Dear Rick, Read this book. The stories are meant for you. At the end, you’ll really be…you know! Thanks for everything. xoxo Amanda.” It’s his goal throughout the book to figure out why she gave him the book. It will become your goal as well.
You can follow Seth Kaufman by clicking here. He is a cool guy who has worked for NY Post’s Page Six, as well as being the editorial director for TVGuide.com. His work has been published in the New York Times as well as other publications.
You can buy his book by clicking here.(Amazon) You can also read other reviews there. Edit: Seth has lowered the price of the e-book version to $4.99 for the Tattlers. Go get it! And thanks Seth for the discount! Or if you have a Nook you can get the same deal here! BTW that Gizless story is part of KoP so it’s not necessary to buy it too.
So I will leave you with this plea…
Buy this book. The stories are meant for you. At the end, you’ll really be…you know! Thanks for everything. xoxo Tamara