"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock

If you know the film Gummo, you know the kind of world Donald Ray Pollock's "Knockemstiff" inhabits. If you don't know Gummo, then you're in for a treat. Knockemstiff, Ohio is a damned, doomed, deadend town, and it's inhabitants sling to their sanity in oddle touching ways (though you may have to reevaluate your definition of 'touching'). By turns ribald, disturbing, and hilarious (often simultaneously), Knockemstiff is fantastic new fiction.


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.

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