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The King of Pain: A Novel with Stories Paperback – June 14, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 69 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Seth Kaufman has been a reporter for the NY Post’s Page Six and the Editorial Director of TV Guide.com. He grew up in New York, Kenya, and India. He plays guitar in The Fancy Shapes and lives in Brooklyn, NY, with his wife and two children. His newest book, If You Give an Architect a Contract, arrives March, 2013.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 298 pages
  • Publisher: Sukuma Books (June 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 098562650X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0985626501
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (69 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,291,589 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Janette Skinner on August 17, 2012
Format: Paperback
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 Rick says; `How can I read a woman's writing so easily and never f*** 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.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book on a recommendation from a friend, and even though I was skeptical at first - novel with stories? sounds kind of precious! - I ended up really loving it. The framing narrative is a hilarious take-down of Hollywood's obsession with reality TV, and of how TV these days seems to be going back to the good old bad old Victorian days of the freakshow. That alone would make for a very satisfying read because the writing is sharp and often very funny, but what took THE KING OF PAIN to the next level for me were the stories that are set into the framing narrative. They're all about people who are in actual pain, are actually suffering - and somehow manage to transcend and overcome that suffering. Some of the stories are pretty dark, others are serio-comic, and they're all polished little gems that form an interesting counterpoint to the zaniness of the main story. The whole thing reads a bit like a modern-day DECAMERON - highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With a title like this, you can't be too sure what you're getting into. (Even with the "very funny" call out quote and comic-book style old TV on the cover). The story of had me from the first page, however. I knew right away I was in the hands of someone who knew what he was doing and the story did not let go til the bitter - or really, rather sweet - end. Rick Slater, an aging, bright and thoroughly compromised producer, has been saved from the Hollywood has-been ash heap by becoming the guiding light of a horrid, torture-based reality TV show. As the show reaches a crescendo of awfulness (and popularity), Slater finds himself one day pinned beneath his collapsed, massive entertainment center. As he endures the varied agonies that come with being pressed like an old Salem witch, he reflects on his shabby, checkered past. When he isn't reminiscing, regretting, reforming, he distracts himself with a book of stories that has fallen off the shelf. The book was given to him by a worthy young woman (and just-out-of-reach object of desire) who once served as his assistant. She has inscribed it with a cryptic message about a lesson he needs to learn. These stories are all written as stand-alone works are uniformly excellent, really often rising to brilliance. Slater's search for the meaning of this inscription helps tie the front of the book to the back. This was a book I looked forward to finding on my night stand for as long as it lasted.
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Format: Paperback
Rick "the Prick" Salter is not a very nice man. So when he wakes up alone in his big, empty mansion trapped under his hefty home entertainment system, the only person he can count on to rescue him is his housekeeper--who won't arrive for at least 48 hours. With no clue as to how he ended up in this predicament, all Rick can do is reflect on his recent dealings with his reality show, "The King of Pain," and read a book that's fallen near him, A History of Prisons by one Seth Kaufman.

Through Rick's story, Kaufman skewers the world of reality television. "The King of Pain" puts its contestants through torturous trials--starvation, sleep deprivation, physical pain--and scores them based on their endurance and audience votes. Essentially, Rick--or Kaufman--has dreamed up a show in which all pretenses are abandoned and reality programming is distilled into its most basic element: drama through human suffering. Rick is well aware that humans have always held a perverse fascination with witnessing the travails of other people.

The stand-alone short stories that make up the book-within-a-book A History of Prisons read like fables, each painting a short but sweet vignette of one person's prison experience and highlighting elements such as karma, kismet, and irony. The Chinese dissident who writes letters for an illiterate cellmate. The protestor who goes on hunger strike. The African prison guard who finds the tables turned on him.

Meanwhile, in the "real" world, Rick has found the tables turned on him. Through his reality show, he has become a master of torture, putting the show's contestants through hell in order to captivate an audience. Now he's the one in hell, immobilized, dehydrated, and helpless, and we, the readers, are the audience.
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