A native of Knockemstiff, Ohio, Pollock delivers poignant and raunchy accounts of his hometown's sad and stagnant residents in his debut story collection that may remind readers of its thematic grand-daddy, Winesburg, Ohio. The works span 50 years of violence, failure, lust and depravity, featuring characters like Jake, an abandoned hermit who dodges the draft during WWII, lives in a bus and discovers two young siblings committing incest on the bank of a creek, and Bobby, a recovering alcoholic who must face the imminent death of his abusive father. Pollock is intimate with the grimy aspects of a small town especially one named after a fistfight full of poor, uneducated people without futures or knowledge of any other way to live. The most startling thing about these stories is they have an aura of truth. During the Covid crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website.
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Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Preview — Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock. Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock. In this unforgettable work of fiction, Donald Ray Pollock peers into the soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents.
Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories that comprise Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring characters who are woebegone, baffled and depraved but irr In this unforgettable work of fiction, Donald Ray Pollock peers into the soul of a tough Midwestern American town to reveal the sad, stunted but resilient lives of its residents.
Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories that comprise Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring characters who are woebegone, baffled and depraved but irresistibly, undeniably real. Rendered in the American vernacular with vivid imagery and a wry, dark sense of humor, these thwarted and sometimes violent lives jump off the page at the reader with inexorable force.
A father pumps his son full of steroids so he can vicariously relive his days as a perpetual runner-up body builder. A psychotic rural recluse comes upon two siblings committing incest and feels compelled to take action. Donald Ray Pollock presents his characters and the sordid goings-on with a stern intelligence, a bracing absence of value judgments, and a refreshingly dark sense of bottom-dog humor. With an artistic instinct honed on the works of Flannery O' Connor and Harry Crews, Pollock offers a powerful work of fiction in the classic American vein.
Knockemstiff is a genuine entry into the literature of place. Get A Copy. Hardcover , pages. More Details Original Title. Knockemstiff, Ohio United States. Bingham Prize for Writers Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
To ask other readers questions about Knockemstiff , please sign up. In the start of this book we read: All Americans come from Ohio originally, if only briefly. I'm not from USA? J He means it figuratively, as in, Ohio is a pretty good example of America. See 1 question about Knockemstiff….
Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Knockemstiff. Mar 10, Stephen rated it really liked it Shelves: , ebooks , literature , short-fiction , gothic , literary-fiction. This is my first experience with Donald Ray Pollock experience, and I'm already a devout admirer of his talent as a storyteller. This is terrific stuff Seriously, Knockemstiff is unrelentingly grim.
The setting, the people, the stories described by Pollock are so depressed, so downtrodden, and so hopelessly trapped in a cycle of economic hardship and misery that reading this can truly mess with your wellbeing. However, despite the unpleasantness, this is just wonderful. What makes this work so powerful is that Pollock completely eschews melodrama. His characters, beyond a few passing thoughts, rarely reflect upon the disconsolate nature of their existence.
To them, this is life, and we, as readers, are just catching snapshots of the endless cavalcade of setbacks, heartaches and generational misfortune that make up the detritus of their existence.
Pollock writes with painful authenticity, and his stories, while never reaching for the cheap payoff, will linger and stain you with the casual, brutality that he describes. His characters and dialogue ring true and he saturates his stories with the sights, sounds and smells of Knockemstiff. He takes you there Rather than briefly describe each story, some of which would be hard to do without spoilers, I thought I would just touch on a few of my favorites to give you a sense of the material.
Beginning with the first story, Real Life , in which a violent incident at a drive in movie begins the gradual transformation of a sensitive, caring young boy, into the image of his abusive, alcoholic father. Told simply, eloquently, and without emotional emphasis, Pollock sets the stage for the entire collection with the opening of this story, "My father showed me how to hurt a man one August night at the Torch Drive-in when I was seven years old. It was the only thing he was ever good at.
Another memorable piece was Dynamite Hole , which I thought was the darkest story in the collection man is that saying something. Here's how Pollock, who has a knack for grabbing the reader with his initial paragraph, opens this little ditty: I was coming down off the Mitchell Flats with three arrowheads in my pocket and a dead copperhead hung around my neck like an old woman's scarf when I caught a boy named Truman Mackey fucking his own little sister in the Dynamite Hole.
From there, it gets disturbing as our narrator The story is all the more unsettling because Pollock delivers it with such casualness. Schott's Bridge may be my favorite of the lot. A powerful, brutally poignant story about how horrendously unlucky it is to be gay in Knockemstiff.
Unbelievable loneliness transformed into unendurable desolation by a truly despicable action of savagery. The way Pollock ended this story was masterful.
Other stories deal with OxyContin addiction, massive steroid use, rape, incest, murder, and random acts of nastiness. I suspect I will be thinking, recalling, waking up in a cold sweat screaming about moments from Knockemstiff for a long time to come.
The topics addressed within are among the worst of the worst that community life has to offer, but to his enormous credit, Pollock avoids gratuitousness throughout. His stories need no gimmickry to devastate you.
Pollock's voice is unique, and I was very impressed by this collection. If you haven't read him yet, you really should. View all 38 comments. Feb 28, Dan Schwent rated it it was amazing Shelves: hick-lit , , great-titles , i-hate-short-stories , crime-and-mystery , cool-covers.
Knockemstiff is a collection of 18 short stories set in Knockemstiff, Ohio. Reviewing a book of short stories is a tricky business, especially if you haven't been reviewing them as you go. Furthermore, I'm not a huge short story fan so I don't read collections unless one comes along that will knock my pants off and sell them to the highest bidder before I get a chance to put them back on.
Knockemstiff is that short story collection. Eighteen stories of redneckery most foul are contained in this bo Knockemstiff is a collection of 18 short stories set in Knockemstiff, Ohio. Eighteen stories of redneckery most foul are contained in this book. Some are funny, some are sad, all are powerful. Even the funnier stories have a sad undercurrent to them, like the citizens of Knockemstiff know they don't have much of a chance. The tales are connected by common characters and the setting.
Donald Ray Pollock paints a bleak picture of life in a tiny redneck town, though it isn't totally devoid of happiness. As for the tales themselves, I can't even begin to narrow down which one is my favorite. It's not every day you read a short story collection that features washed up bodybuilders, drug dealers, and a kid that gets caught having sex with his sister's doll in the outhouse.
To be honest, I was picturing Knockemstiff to have a feel akin to Winter's Bone. Instead, it reminds of Joe Lansdale's Texas tales.
Since Pollock named the bar owner Hap Collins, I doubt the resemblance is completely unintentional. I can't recommend this book enough. This is one of the easiest five stars I've ever awarded.
View all 66 comments. Sep 14, karen rated it really liked it Shelves: hey-shorty , grit-lit. Jan 17, Kemper rated it really liked it Shelves: rednecks , short-stories , , crime-mystery , modern-lit.
Per his bio, Donald Ray Pollock actually grew up in a tiny town called Knockemstiff in southern Ohio, and he spent over thirty years working in a paper mill.
Each one of these are stories are about damaged, desperate people stuck so solidly in their small shabby lives that even dreaming about doing better seems beyond them. Shifting from moments of stark violence to quiet emotional desolation, this is a powerful depiction of the Americanus Redneckius in one of its natural habitats.
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Blunt, brutal, but infused with a deep sympathy, Knockemstiff is a pitch-dark and hilarious collection of stories set in a tiny town in Southern Ohio. The youth of Knockemstiff grow up in the malignant shadow of their parents; raised on abuse, alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, they are stunted in every possible way: emotionally, mentally, sometimes physically. They talk a lot about escape but they never so much as cross the county line. A fiendishly enjoyable collection ". His economical prose excels in its lurid and often scatological detail, and his physical descriptions are superb.
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