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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wino'sburg, Ohio
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...
Published on 28 Jun 2011 by Ryan Williams

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
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!!!
Published 2 months ago by Blue eyed enn


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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 (Lichfield, Staffordshire.) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Paperback)
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
By 
Paul Luikart (Chicago, IL, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (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 Relentlessly downbeat, but good, 16 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Kindle Edition)
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
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Kindle Edition)
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
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Blue eyed enn (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Paperback)
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
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Kindle Edition)
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
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Paperback)
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
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (Kindle Edition)
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
By 
Ciaran Cooke (Dublin , Republic of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, poetic and emotional debut from a master of the written word, 29 Aug 2008
By 
R. Layfield "ultrasimplified" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Knockemstiff (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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Knockemstiff
Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock (Paperback - 2 July 2009)
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