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Knockemstiff Paperback – March 10, 2009
"Warlight" by Michael Ondaatje
A dramatic coming-of-age story set in the decade after World War II, "Warlight" is the mesmerizing new novel from the best-selling author of "The English Patient." Pre-order today
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“Knockemstiff is a powerful, remarkable, exceptional book."—Los Angeles Times“More engaging than any new fiction in years.” —Chuck Palahniuk“Pollock’s voice is fresh and full-throated…His steely, serrated prose…calls to mind Harry Crews.” —The New York Times Book Review“[Donald Ray Pollock] could be the next important voice in American fiction.”—Wall Street Journal“These are absorbing stories that linger and haunt. They crept up on me, leaving me breathless and shaken.” —Oregonian “Startling, bleak, uncompromising, and funny…This is as raw as American fiction gets. It is an unforgettable experience.” —San Francisco Chronicle“Here is a collection of stories that are perhaps unique in our time…Wry and raw and poignant, these extraordinary stories are gritty with the yeast of folks caught in the act of being only too human.” —Larry Heinemann, author of Paco’s Story“Profanely comic…Pollock’s tales are spiked with a lurid panache that handily earns its own literary genre: Southern Ohio Gothic.” —Elle “Pollock doesn’t so much push the envelope as incinerate it, but his potent narrative gifts (and pitch-black humor) make it impossible to look away from the flames.” —The Washington Post“This electrifying collection of linked stories uses the voices of the rural hamlet of Knockemstiff to create a coherent world of echoing themes and recurring characters that has the drive and impact of a fine novel. Pollock brings grace and precision to colloquial language, and the ferocious integrity of his vision is flat-out stunning. Pollock grapples with savagery and reveals primal tenderness. After every story in Knockemstiff I had to take a walk and let my head cool down. I keep reaching for some other writer to compare him with—maybe a Raymond Carver with hope and vitality, or a godless Flannery O’Connor—but Pollock is no shadow of anybody else. This is a powerful talent at work.” —Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love
About the Author
Donald Ray Pollock, recipient of the 2009 PEN/Bingham Fellowship, made his literary debut in 2008 with the critically acclaimed story collection, Knockemstiff. He worked as a laborer at the Mead Paper Mill in Chillicothe, Ohio, from 1973 to 2005. He holds an MFA from Ohio State University. His work has appeared in, among other publications, Epoch, Granta, and the New York Times.
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Stories that stand out for me include “Dynamite Hole,” about a young runaway who spends three years hiding in the woods of rural Ohio, “Blessed,” about an injured second story man hooked on pain meds, and “Honolulu,” about a man slowly losing his mind and his caregiver wife slowly losing the dreams of her youth.
Many of the characters in “Knockemstiff” appear in more than one story, lending an authentic layering depth of place. They are desperate, clinging to hope amidst their dying town and its disappearing dreams. This read is not for everyone. It will beat you up and leave you bruised and bloody, but always wanting more.
If there is a problem with “Knockemstiff” it is that there is very little if any letup. The haunting hopelessness is unrelenting, but maybe that is more a valid reflection of the characters’ circumstances than on any arguments about traditional style and pacing. Traditional it is not, and the pace fairly blisters through each of these dark trips through the side of Middle America that most only whisper about.
I spent time growing up in southern West Virginia, and most of these characters and places ring true to me. Pollock is brutally unforgiving, unsentimental, and without judgment. He leaves us with a sense of reality so cold and clear that it blindsides us and slaps us in the face. Pollock is the real deal. His second book and first full length novel “The Devil All the Time” is a must read as well.