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Knockemstiff [Hardcover]

Donald Ray Pollock
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
RRP: £15.99
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Book Description

3 July 2008

Knockemstiff is a pitch-dark and often hilarious collection of stories set in the tiny Appalachian town of Knockemstiff, Ohio, a community so deprived and diminished it no longer appears on any map.

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.

The stories in Knockemstiff are simple and compact, blunt and brutal, but are also infused with a deep sympathy for the incapacitating loneliness of poverty, neglect and severely limited horizons.

Knockemstiff is a human, very funny and unforgettable debut from a stunning new voice in American fiction.


Frequently Bought Together

Knockemstiff + The Devil All the Time + Ablutions
Price For All Three: £26.09

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Secker (3 July 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846551560
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846551567
  • Product Dimensions: 21.1 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 556,053 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

In Knockemstiff, Donald Ray Pollock give us the impossible - fast, funny stories about the saddest people you'll ever see in fiction ... More engaging than any new fiction in years (Chuck Palahniuk )

KNOCKEMSTIFF by Donald Ray Pollock is the best book I have ever read. This is the America they don't let you see on television. This is real literature. It will be read for centuries. (Michael Guinzburg )

It's as if you put David Lynch, Denis Johnson, and a drunk speed freak body builder into a blender. The result are some of the darkest, wildest, most messed up, hilarious stories I've ever read. Knockemstiff is really something (Willy Vlautin )

This electrifying collection of linked stories ... has the drive and impact of a fine novel. 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 ... but Pollock is no shadow of anybody else. This is a powerful talent at work (Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love )

I picked this up Sunday, intending to read a story or two before I went to the movies. Three hours later, I was reluctantly finishing the last story. I just couldn't put it down, because as sad, seedy and sordid as the lives and stories are, there was an honesty, commitment and balls-to-the-walls verve to the writing that was ultimately exhilarating ... This is the kind of short story collection that reminds people that love them why (Terry Goodman, Senior Book Buyer Amazon.com )

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
8 of 9 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
Format:Hardcover
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 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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5.0 out of 5 stars Grim but compelling. 17 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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". Both of the later collections seem to me to owe a good deal to Donald Ray Pollock and particularly to "Knock-Em-Stiff", which I had no notion was a real Ohio small town.

I think I had expected these stories to be more muted, but as it turned out I found them by some way the most harrowing of the three. The lives of the characters are as constricted and undernourished as Frank Bill's and the violence more understated, but here I found the accumulation of concrete details and the truncated, spare and telling dialogue even more powerful. The matter of fact style of utterance : " you put my eyes out, my granny gonna be mad" together with flashes of humour and human warmth only serve to underscore these sadly impoverished lives.

It seems to me an impressive collection that not once strikes a false note.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read 18 Nov 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A little light reading 17 Sep 2013
Format:Paperback
I read Knockemstiff while on holiday in the sun. It's probably the most anti-holiday book anybody could read! It is so unrelentingly grim I just had to laugh to myself and wonder what kind of horror would come next. I found it hard to like a book that wallowed in such misery.

That said the writing was sparse and haunting in places and there was a fascination in reading about these characters and the dark paths their lives were heading down. I admired the book but didn't love it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Think of that moment at the end of Kes when Billy realises that all his dreams have been crushed and he's doomed to work in the pit like his brother and father before him. That's the overarching feeling you get from this book - hopelessness, dreams unfulfilled, the cruelty of being doomed to be always "where you're from."

The stories are powerful, beautiful, visceral and tragic. It's some of the best short fiction I've ever read and it paints a portrait of backwater america that's so tangible it almost makes me nostalgic for it. From the father proud of his son's first fight, to the kid trying to dodge the draft by luring his pursuers into a snake pit, to the tale of love lost at the petrol pumps as yet another local leaves for the big city, the stories are by turns frightening, disturbing, tragic, hopeless and poignant.

Donald Ray Pollock claims to be a former resident of the real town of Knockemstiff and whilst none of the stories are actually based in fact, he's used his experience well to cast them in a believable reality of their own.

This is a very very well-written book and it will reward you.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 8 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 14 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 15 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 16 months ago by Dave
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary
This is an extraordinary book. Pollock describes appalling and damaged people in ghastly situations, behaving badly, and somehow elicits for them something which is close to... Read more
Published 20 months ago by MallingFox
4.0 out of 5 stars Knockemdead!
Pollack's debut is a fantastic collection of short stories about his alleged hometown, where he supposedly worked in a slaughterhouse for thirty years! Read more
Published 20 months ago by The Outsider
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, but didn't quite knock me stiff.
This was surprisingly and refreshingly good fun. The American Dream isn't often represented like this; sought after but not grasped (not in a million years), and the results -... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Sceptic
5.0 out of 5 stars effecting and wonderful
This was my first taste of Pollock.It wont be my last. A collection of short stories that are in turns bitter and bleak, never flinching away from the nasty underbelly of this... Read more
Published on 3 Oct 2011 by vi
5.0 out of 5 stars another great book by Donald Pollock
This was a great read, I have only recently stumbled upon Donald Ray pollock when in America I was looking for a book to read on the plane home and bought his other book The Devil... Read more
Published on 7 Sep 2011 by bexley
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