An unnamed Sri Lankan inmate has barricaded himself inside a prison computer lab in Dutchess County, New York. A riot rages outside, incited by a poem published in The Holding Pen, the house literary journal. This, our narrator's final Editor's Letter, is his confession.
... a compact cluster bomb of satire that kills widely and indiscriminately ... If you get it, there’s something rewarding about Chapman’s manic humor, the special satisfaction of catching his references to Foucault, Pentagram or Martin Baron. His satire of academic pomposity, the commercialization of the prison system and the infectious influence of marketing zaps with the power of a highly charged stun gun ... if you’re part of the Venn diagram that subscribes to N+1 and McSweeney’s, this is the most fun book you’ll read all year.
This is not a typical setup for a work of comedy. But somehow, Chapman's book is one of the funniest American novels to come around in years, a sharp satire of the literary scene as well as the broken prison system. Despite the grim subject matter, Chapman packs more laughs into 128 pages than most sitcoms do in an entire season ... the narrator's sheer punchability actually works in favor of the novel. Freed from the obligation to sympathize with him, the reader is able to appreciate the absurdity of the book, and the obvious fun Chapman is having with the story ... Chapman uses pitch-black humor to highlight how broken the system of criminal justice is ... Modern satirical novels sometimes make the rather obvious and fatal error of never approaching anything close to humor, but Chapman avoids that trap. Dark, daring, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Riots I Have Known is one of the smartest — and best — novels of the year.
Chapman revels in literary parody as his imperiled narrator describes his editorial coups and shares eyebrow-raising tales of his past ... Chapman’s bravura performance is piquant, rollicking, and richly provoking.