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Riots I Have Known, the short, electric, uproarious, and biting debut novel by Ryan Chapman is a real-time confession, set during a prison riot, in a high-comic pitch, a voice-driven narrative in the tradition of Paul Beatty’s The Sellout and Aravind Adiga’s The White Tiger.
It is present-day Dutchess County, New York, where an unnamed Sri Lankan inmate has barricaded himself inside a computer lab while a riot rages outside, incited by an article published in the prison’s literary journal, The Holding Pen. As he awaits imminent interruption by the growing crowd of guards, prisoners, and news crews on the other side of the doors, he takes us on a confessional roller-coaster of plot and language, exploring not only his life in and out of the clink but also asking himself the important questions: How did an enterprising Sinhalese end up here? Should he have remained a quiet Park Avenue doorman? Are his beloved few possessions safe in E Block? What will become of The Holding Pen, a “masterpiece of post-penal literature” favored by Brooklynites everywhere? Meanwhile he reveals how his actions have inadvertently led to the chaos around him.
Smart, wry, and laugh-out-loud funny, Ryan Chapman’s Riots I Have Known is an utter gem of contemporary social satire—an approachable and accessible send-up that packs a punch. “Hilarious, original, and cunningly wrought, Ryan Chapman has written a rocket-powered ode to literary creation and mass incarceration. Weaving satire and seriousness into a singularly rambunctious monologue, rollicking and oddly recognizable at once, Riots I Have Known is a breath of fresh air” (Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine and Intimations).
About the Author
Ryan Chapman has written for GQ.com, Electric Literature, Buzzfeed, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives in Kingston, New York. Riots I Have Known is his first novel.
"Savage, fearless, and funny as hell, Riots I Have Known also possesses, not so strangely, a poignant core. In this mother of all editor’s notes, Ryan Chapman creates a narrative voice that is by turns tender, cruel, profane, wildly inventive and, finally, unforgettable."—Sam Lipsyte, author of The Ask and Home Land
“With Riots I Have Known, Ryan Chapman has delivered a keen satire of America’s criminal justice crisis. The novel is remarKable for many things not the least of which are its wit, humor, and masterful language. I was impressed again and again, and I wager so to will readers with working hearts and brains.” —Mitchell S. Jackson, award-winning author of Survival Math
“Ryan Chapman’s Riots I Have Known joins Rachel Kushner’s Mars Room on the short list of truly remarkable American prison novels. Chapman’s debut is literally riotous: an improbably beguiling, utterly ribald provocation, something like Lenny Bruce’s “Father Flotsky’s Triumph” as retold by Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Underground Man.” – Jonathan Lethem, author of The Fortress of Solitude
"Riots I Have Known is a multivalent title: Ryan Chapman’s debut is about a prison riot, unfurls a riot of word-drunk prose, and, most of all, is itself a riot, a virtuoso vocal performance of acidic seriocomedy whose forebears are Thomas Bernhard’s discursive monologues, Frederick Exley’s deadpan wit, and Kafka’s Kafkaesqueness, but which is ultimately, as they say, all Chapman’s own. It’s hard to find a single sentence that isn’t polished to a brilliant luster in this lacerating shiv of a novel." —Teddy Wayne, author of Loner
"Hilarious, original, and cunningly wrought, Ryan Chapman has written a rocket-powered ode to literary creation and mass incarceration. Weaving satire and seriousness into a singularly rambunctious monologue, rollicking and oddly recognizable at once, Riots I Have Known is a breath of fresh air." —Alexandra Kleeman, author of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
“Riots I Have Known moves at breakneck pace as a pent-up con runs free across every page. Chapman is his very own, and this is a book readers will devour.” —Amelia Gray, author of Gutshot and Isadora
“Riots I Have Known is a wild yawp from the literary frontier that brings to mind both Roberto Bolaño and Thomas Bernhard. It is relentless, hilarious, and unabashedly smart. It's my new favorite manifesto and I loved every last page.” —Scott Cheshire, author of High as the Horses’ Bridles
“Ryan Chapman is an exceptional stylist, and his range of reference runs from Fredric Jameson and Kafka to Carly Rae Jepsen and Kinfolk. Riots I Have Known is a smart, rambunctious, and (it just so happens) riotously funny debut novel. It's a book you don't so much read as ride like a roller coaster—i.e. very quickly, while hanging on for dear life and maybe screaming—and as soon as it's over you'll want to ride again.” —Justin Taylor, author of Flings
“Had Humbert Humbert started a literary journal from prison and penned a jailbreak scene with the spectacular absurdity of the one in Natural Born Killers, there would be a clear antecedent for Riots I Have Known. As it is, Ryan Chapman's book is fiercely original, darkly hilarious, and morally complex. Strong voice, both sympathetic and sharp as a shiv, calls the reader farther and farther into a prison on fire. Chapman's ability to play simultaneously in the two keys of gleeful wit and menace reminded me of Aravind Adiga's polytonality in White Tiger.” —Will Chancellor, author of A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall