Knockemstiff (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Most new American literary sensations tend to be young, sophisticated, middle-class or upper-class graduates of elite writing programs. Author Donald Ray Pollock comes from a starkly different place: the desolate world of Appalachian rural poverty. A high school dropout, Pollock worked at a paper mill in Chillicothe, Ohio, for thirty-two grueling years before becoming a writer in his middle agean almost unheard-of career trajectory that lends his debut story collection, Knockemstiff, an extraordinary degree of blue-collar verisimilitude.
In eighteen gothic stories set in and around Knockemstiff (a real though now moribund township in southern Ohio), Pollock explores the crude, damaged, often grotesque lives of the American backwoods poor. His choice of subject matter places him in a long and distinguished literary tradition whose practitioners include Mark Twain, Sherwood Anderson, Erskine Caldwell, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Harry Crews, Breece D’J Pancake, Carolyn Chute, Russell Banks, Pinckney Benedict, Annie Proulx, Dorothy Allison, and many others. What is unique about Pollock’s fiction is its powerful blend of exceedingly grim (sometimes horrifying) content, economy and precision of form, and utter neutrality of tonea combination that makes these stories vivid, enigmatic, Kafkaesque nightmares that linger in the imagination.
Though they feature a diverse array of characters, the stories in Knockemstiff...
(The entire section is 1780 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Entertainment Weekly, March 21, 2008, p. 65.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 1 (January 1, 2008): 12.
Los Angeles Times, April 6, 2008, p. F7.
Minneapolis Star Tribune, March 16, 2008, p. F14.
New Statesman 137 (July 14, 2008): 59.
The New York Times Book Review, March 23, 2008, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly 254, no. 46 (November 19, 2007): 31.
USA Today, March 20, 2008, p. 7D.
The Wall Street Journal 251, no. 33 (February 9, 2008): W1.
(The entire section is 47 words.)