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Knockemstiff [Paperback]

Donald Ray Pollock
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

2 July 2009

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.

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Knockemstiff + The Devil All the Time + Crimes in Southern Indiana
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (2 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099520974
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099520979
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 129,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"To get an idea of Donald Ray Pollock's astonishing new book, one could try to imagine a drunken punch-up between a redneck Hemingway and an amphetamine-fuelled Raymond Carver... A fiendishly enjoyable collection" (Daily Telegraph)

"Pollock's writing is lean and unflinching. His economical prose excels in its lurid (and often scatological) detail, and his physical descriptions are superb. The book is laced with dry, black humour" (New Statesman)

"Like Denis Johnson, Andre Dubus and Raymond Carver before him, Pollock populates his stories with low-lives and junkies, dreamers and drunks...He is a master of voice and phrasing, and there are some knockout, pitch-perfect sentences.... Pollock treats readers to inventive, melodic and captivating storytelling. It may be as ragged as junkies' jeans, but this has the potential to be a whiskey-stained classic" (Time Out)

"The majority of the inhabitants of Knockemstiff, Ohio ... seem straight out of John Boorman's film Deliverance ... Life experience shows in this exceptional collection" (Guardian)

"What makes this an enjoyable read is Pollock's aptitude for a funny gag in the guise of amazingly inventive language" (Dazed and Confused)

Book Description

Knockemstiff is the world of Vernon God Little by a writer who depicts poor America like no other. Donald Ray Pollock is an astonishing new voice in American fiction.

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A WORK OF GENIUS 19 Aug 2014
By Alexander Bryce TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Donald Ray Pollock you are the man.
I just finished The Devil All The Time and had to read more by Mr. Pollock. Regrettably there are few to choose from so I went for this selection of short stories. Now I do not like short stories because as soon as you are into one it ends often inconclusively. I have made exceptions for masters of the genre like Annie Proulx and Tim Gautereaux and I am happy to say that Donald Ray Pollock is up there with the best.
As with The Devil AllThe Time this collection is set in the dirt poor Appalachian township of Knockemstiff Ohio and the 18 tales mostly involve the young dead end kids seeking entertainment and sex anywhere they can find it. It is dark, it is graphic, it is at times laugh out loud funny and it is a work if genius. Most of the characters would like to move on to better things , but never do . There is no escaping the ignorance and poverty that enfolds them like a security blanket.
Mr. Pollock grew up in Knockemstiff, worked the meat packing plant and the paper mill both of which feature here and therefor he knows first hand what he writes about and it shows on every page of clean , cutting prose.
Each story is a not to be forgotten mini masterpiece.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wino'sburg, Ohio 28 Jun 2011
By Ryan Williams VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best collection of short fiction I've read in 2011 so far. The book's spell is hard to account for. The terrain is Knockemstiff, Ohio, and a million miles away from anything Sherwood Anderson ever imagined. The characters are largely druggies and losers. Haven't we read this before, in Raymond Carver, Charles Bukowski, Denis Johnson?

But here's the thing. Like all the above, Donald Ray Pollock can write. Some of his sentences are so sharp they could almost leave you with shallow cuts. (See the story 'Bactine', which rapidly became my favourite in the collection.) The dialogue is crisp, to the point, authentic; no story idles, and the characters compel further reading. The guy knows his terrain, has seen it, lived with it, and compressed it artfully.

You just can't fake this kind of thing. It's surprising Pollock hasn't been writing longer. In fact, he's a former paper mill worker in his fifties: this is his first book. You'd better believe I'll be checking out his first novel The Devil All the Time without delay.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars visit Knockemstiff 29 July 2008
When people talk about Knockemstiff, they often use the word, "gritty." The word kind of starts to lose its meaning. The stories in Knockemstiff are intense, that's for sure. There were a couple of spots in some of the stories where I had to put the book down for a minute and look away from the page. Rough things happen to the characters and the characters sometimes do horrible things. But, here's what's best about the collection: The compassion for these characters with which Pollock writes. He's able to take the "gritty" things that happen, the abandonments, the empty highs, the violence, etc. and use them to leave the reader with a sense of heartbreak and a sense of connection. That might sound funny. "Why would I want to feel connected to violence?" That's the risk of this read. To pick it up means you have to be willing to acknowledge that a couple of Bactine addicts, for example, might trigger your sense of empathy. Pollock writes in a stark, unapologetic, conversational style, which helps pique that sense of compassion and bring about the sense of connection in the reader. He's not looking down on Knockemstiff from a helicopter. Instead, he's looking at it from the seat of a beat up Chevy parked at the drive-in. I'd call it "immersion fiction," if I can make up a term.

Anyway, Knockemstiff is profound collection that is definitely worth picking up and reading. That's another thing, by the way. You won't have to pick it up too many times. The stories are quite gripping. You'll be through with it pretty quick.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Relentlessly downbeat, but good 16 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
No laughs here, in Donald Ray Pollock's collection of short stories set in one-horse town Knockemstiff. But they're well-told tales, properly structured, that bring to vivid life the rabble of lowlifes that seem to comprise the majority of the town's population. If you like perky tales about high-achieving people this is not for you, but I liked it a lot.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended. 7 May 2014
By KevinF
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Wonderful stuff. This very entertaining book is a must for readers of William Gay or Tom Franklin. It’s set in and around Knockemstiff; a small Ohio town filled with poorly educated, poverty stricken denizens living out their not so quiet, desperate lives.

Don’t expect much sunshine in this meaty, grim, intertwining collection but it effortlessly holds your attention. At the end of each story I found myself wondering just how appalling the people - and the lives of the people - in the next story could possibly get and the author never disappoints. Highly recommended.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading 22 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It's worth having a read just for the moments of 'WTF?!' that are thrown at you. Wait until you meet the brother and the sister - then you'll get where I'm coming from!!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark underbelly that grips you 7 Jan 2014
By Silentg
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Some of the stories made me look away from the page as the stories are so well written, you start empathising with characters who can be so violent in nature that you were hoping for a better outcome. A very well written book that makes it hard to put down even when some of the story can make you wish such a world doesn't exist, but it does and you are along for the ride. Great writing, can't believe it's his first book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent service from seller. Excellent book.
Published 2 days ago by Margaret Martin
5.0 out of 5 stars Grim but compelling.
I came to this set of semi-rural underclass Ohio stories by way of two more recent collections Ron Rush' "Burning Bright" and Frank Bill's "Crime in Southern Indiana". Read more
Published 9 months ago by Bluecashmere.
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read
Had me hooked from page 1. What a fantastic writer. The Devil All The Time is another brilliant book. Can't wait for his next creation.
Published 10 months ago by Carolyn Watson
3.0 out of 5 stars A little light reading
I read Knockemstiff while on holiday in the sun. It's probably the most anti-holiday book anybody could read! Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ciaran Cooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Cormac McCarthy on steroids!
This is a collection of short stories that are brutal and gritty . So enjoyed this book that I bought the author's other book. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Mr. S. Morris
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read
A clever compilation of short stories that reads as a novel. It is a hard hitting insight into low life USA. Different from any thriller writer I have read before.
Published 19 months ago by astrid haynes
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent Prose
Donald Ray Pollock worked for thirty years in a paper mill, which just goes to show that good things come to those that wait - in this case, good things for us as readers in being... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Jimmi C
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful voice
Donald Ray Pollock's voice is refreshing, powerful and more than a little dark. I'm looking forward to reading what comes next as he is a powerhouse of writing potential.
Published 21 months ago by Dave
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