Knockemstiff
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Knockemstiff

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  3,380 ratings  ·  631 reviews
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. Knockemstiff is a genuine entry into the literature of place.Spanning a period from the mid-sixties to the late nineties, the linked stories that comprise Knockemstiff feature a cast of recurring...more
Hardcover, 206 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by Doubleday (first published January 1st 2008)
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109th out of 1,343 books — 6,696 voters
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Stephen
Here's a Life Coaching tip:

If you're given the choice between living in Knockemstiff, Ohio, or having your naughty bits gnawed to shreds by a ravenous honey badger
honeybadger
…the correct selection is B.

This is my first experience with Donald Ray Pollock experience, and I'm already a devout admirer of his talent as a storyteller. This is terrific stuff...but, ho doggie, can this man write himself into your happy zone and shit bleak all over it. Seriously, Knockemstiff is unrelentingly grim. The setting, t...more
Dan Schwent
Knockemstiff is a collection of 18 short stories set in Knockemstiff, Ohio.

Reviewing a book of short stories is a tricky business, especially if you haven't been reviewing them as you go. Furthermore, I'm not a huge short story fan so I don't read collections unless one comes along that will knock my pants off and sell them to the highest bidder before I get a chance to put them back on. Knockemstiff is that short story collection.

Eighteen stories of redneckery most foul are contained in this bo...more
Steve Sckenda
Aug 31, 2013 Steve Sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Those needing to escape suburbia
Recommended to Steve Sckenda by: richard derus; stephanie
“When you first heard him talking about it, you’d figure he was bat-shit crazy, but really, he was just trying to latch on to something that would fill up his days so he didn’t have to think about what a mess he had made of everything. It’s the same for most of us; forgetting our lives might be the best we’ll ever do.” (155)

Welcome to the underbelly of America. As a former prosecutor and a public defender, I have had a front row seat from which to view the criminal underclass in America. I have...more
Kemper
I don’t know if I should consider this redneck noir or hick lit, but I like it.

Per his bio, Donald Ray Pollock actually grew up in a tiny town called Knockemstiff in southern Ohio, and he spent over thirty years working in a paper mill. It shows in the collection of short stories that are such authentic and gritty portrayals of rural poverty that you’ll feel like you just moved into a double wide with only a garbage bag full of dirty clothes and a case of warm Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Each one of these...more
Stephanie
If you are feeling kind of crappy, like your life sucks and it couldn't get any worse, pick up a copy of Knockemstiff and give it a read. Soon you will be saying to yourself "Hmmm, well at least I'm not a crackhead, huffer, morbidly obesse whore, alcoholic or steroid user........I just can't stand my boss". (unless you are any of those things......my apologies.)

"I woke up thinking I'd pissed the bed again, but it was just the sticky spot from where Sandy and Me fucked the night before. Those kin...more
karen

...i'm beginning to believe that anything i do to extend my life is just going to be outweighed by the agony of living it

i'm pretty sure i can't say anything better to sum up the collection, so for once, i am going to keep it short. very enjoyable short stories - occasionally gratuitous, not as good as The Devil All the Time, but still tremendous.

some things deserve the short-and-sweet treatment.
Trudi

I'm going to start this review with a humble caveat -- there's no way I can do these stories (or Pollock's writing) any sense of justice. But if I can get you to pause whatever it is you're doing, if I can get you to put down whatever else you happen to be reading, for just a moment to think about this book then I will be a very happy woman indeed.

What can I say? Knockemstiff knocked me flat on my ass. The interconnected stories are an assault on the psyche - a kind of brutalization lined with...more
Greg
"Jill's always on me about my clogged pipes, but I'm a big guy-they don't call me Big Bernie for nothing-and I crave junk food like a baby craves the tit. Besides, I'm beginning to believe that anything I do to extend my life is just going to be outweighed by the agony of living it."

Welcome to Knockemstiff, Ohio. Hometown of Donald Ray Pollock and literary home of a whole slew of fucked up redneck, hillbilly, poor white trash.

What is it about white trash that makes for such good readin'? I thin...more
Paul

Well, the list of great contemporary American short story writers goes on and here’s another guy to add to it. I’m on a roll – one pitch-black collection about the underclass after another, from Frank Bill to Jordan Harper and now Donald Pollock. I can’t see this happening in the UK so I’m kind of jealous. The only book I’ve got to put up against these guys is The Acid House by Irvine Welsh. I need to do more research – where are the tales of the British underclass? (And while I'm on the subject...more
Lou
Stories set mostly in Knockemstiff and some centred round A Paper mill where the author used to work. I have just completed recently reading his very good first novel The Devil All the Time which had some memorable characters and a brutal plot. With the novel being the first work of his I have read my expectations where risen high on the beginning of reading these short stories in his writing prose and they fell short in satisfying my appetite for his work slightly. These short stories do have m...more
Maciek
My father showed me how to hurt a man one August night at the Torch Drive-in when I was seven years old. It was the only thing he was ever any good at.
-Donald Ray Pollock, Real Life

Knockemstiff is a real place. It's a small town in southern Ohio, where Donald Ray Pollock grew up. The place supposedly owes its name to a preacher's advice: when a woman came to him and confessed her suspicions that her husband was cheating on her, he is told to have replied "knock'em stiff". An image search will sh...more
Tfitoby
Dreams and fears are contained in this collection, mostly what happens to poor uneducated people when their fears and reality destroy their dreams.

This is the story of a town told through vignette like short stories of the towns residents. It's a poor town, that keeps its people trapped, that slowly wears down even the most optimistic dreamers until they too are fucking a childs toy, inhaling chemicals from a plastic bag, killing themselves and others, and being inexplicably drawn back to the ho...more
Laura
"As my parents' bed thumped loudly against the floor in the next room, I lapped the blood off my knuckles. The dried flakes dissolved in my mouth, turning my spit to syrup. Even after I'd swallowed all the blood, I kept licking my hands. I tore at the skin with my teeth. I wanted more. I would always want more."

So ends "Real Life," the first story in Donald Ray Pollock's knockout of a debut. It seems that every review I've read uses two phrases to describe this collection: "pulls no punches" and...more
Bill
I'm glad it's over.

Knockemstiff is Donald Ray Pollock's first publication, comprising of
several vignettes of the residents of Knockemstiff, Ohio. This is a sad
place, populated by what can only be described as white trash hillbillies.

Drug use is rampant, as is deviant sexuality, and while I am in no way
a prude or naive in the ways of various intoxicants, by the time I
finished this collection I couldn't take any more. The best thing about
this reading experience was being able to put it down and ap...more
Jacob
January 2011

All the ugly parts of humanity are crowded into a single town--and all of those ugly parts trying to escape. They rarely do. Donald Ray Pollock's first (and hopefully not last) collection of stories is thuggish and brutal; reading it, however, is a delicate act. If you try to speed through Knockemstiff in a few days, like I did the first time I read it back in spring 2008, you may have to fight back the urge to curl up on the bathroom floor and not talk to anyone for about a week. On...more
Adam
Two recent story recent story collections represent a particular strain of American short story writing represented by master such as Flannery O’Connor and Raymond Carver and also the harsh viewpoint on American life found in Dashiell Hammett, James M Cain, and Nathaniel West. These two collections are Knockemstiff by Donald ray Pollock and Dead Boys by Richard Lange. Set in the wildly disparate environments of low rent L.A. and the hollow of Knockemstiff, Ohio. One urban and one rural but both...more
Melki
Say howdy to a bunch of wife-beating, lowlife, scumbag ne'er do wells. And while you're at it, don't forget to nod hello to the rest of the drunks, drug addicts, rapists, racists, and murderers.

They're all residents and prisoners of a town called Knockemstiff.

The stories in this book are well-written, but gawd...are they ever depressing! All, not some, but ALL the characters are hopeless, unsavory and unsanitary bottom feeders. They plow through their miserable lives, just waitin' for death. For...more
Jeniffer Almonte
Countless times while reading this (stunningly well-written) book, I had to put it down to read something that was less depressing. Since I am simultaneously reading "Year of Wonders", which is a novel about how the Bubonic plague devastated a small English 17th century town, it became the case that yes, reading about that deadly epidemic was a welcome escape from the bleak existence of these unlucky folks in Southern Ohio.

Donald Ray Pollock has an incredible gift for telling the dark and seari...more
Kevin
Yep. I'll put it on my all-time faves list. Donald Ray seems to be working on a much higher, much riskier level than any other new writer out there. This set of slightly-connected stories (they all take place in Knockemstiff, Ohio) is so constantly great that I couldn't help but shake my head. Some people I've talked with about this book have suggested it's too brutal for them to read in long stretches but I found that Pollack's bleak narratives were often spiced up with enough strange details a...more
Marvin
According to author Donald Ray Pollock, Knockemstiff is an actual place, although I find it hard to believe that any place can be as depressing as the Knockemstiff Pollock portrays in his book of the same name. It is a collection of short stories centering around the residents of that town and they are loosely connected to each other. Characters tend to weave in and out of the stories like pesky moths. These tales are hard-hitting, repulsive and full of the kind of folks you do not want to be ar...more
Bill  Kerwin

I grew up in Cincinnati, and whenever I read Raymond Carver, all the characters seem to speak to me with an Appalachian accent. Wrong of course, but it feels right to me.

Here comes Pollock's "Knockemstiff," set in the hopeless oxycontin hollers of Southern Ohio, and now those Carver-like characters of Appalachia have a fine writer who knows how to give them voice.

Half the stories (the first fourth of the book and the last fourth) are very fine indeed. and the others--although they often seem sel...more
Gregory Baird
May 15, 2008 Gregory Baird rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Fans of Chuck Palahniuk or Denis Johnson
“Forgetting our lives might be the best we’ll ever do."

The stories found In “Knockemstiff,” Donald Ray Pollock’s raw and powerful literary debut, are not for the faint of heart. Brutal and uncompromising, they capture the hardscrabble lives of the residents of Knockemstiff, Ohio – the very same town that Pollock comes from (although he cautiously points out in his acknowledgments that the actual residents of his hometown are really “good people who never hesitated to help someone in a time of...more
Teresa
3 and 1/2 stars

While reading this, I was reminded more than once of Barb Johnson's More of This World or Maybe Another. I can only think that's because it too is a collection of linked stories with recurring characters, set in one place, and with a very strong sense of place, so much so that the place maybe is a stronger character than any of the people, though they are achingly real as well. And like Pollock, Barb Johnson was a blue-collar worker before earning her MFA.

And, yet, I feel there is...more
Troy
Don't get me wrong; the writing is good, and the acts of the characters are unapologetic and seem to be basic fucntions of their personalities. But I simply cannot read the inner thoughts of a segment of the population that would sooner call me nigger and blame me for their lot rather than the very fact they're stuck in a dead-end life. I'm not emotionallly involved in the book, and started to actualy root for them to screw each other's life up.

Others have remarked how touching the book was; I s...more
Zerbe
Like Sherwood Anderson's classic Winesburg, Ohio on speedballs comes Donald Ray Pollock's Knockemstiff. Told from the viewpoints of a variety of hopeless, fuck-ups from the little town of Knockemstiff, Ohio through the years, this novel is a truly (and wonderfully) brutal piece of work.

Each story builds upon those before it in theme, character and story itself. People show up again and again, their problems doubling and tripling, the path of destitution continuing to spiral downward. As it nears...more
Nigel Bird
Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock

One Man's Opinion


“When you first heard him talking about it, you’d figure he was batshit crazy, but really he was just trying to latch onto something that would fill up his days so he didn’t have to think about what a fucking mess he’d made of everything. It’s the same for most of us; forgetting our lives might be the best we’ll ever do.”

On my bookshelves, higgledy-piggledy as they are, Raymond Carver’s ‘No Heroics Please’ has been living next to Tristan Egolf’...more
Erik Simon
Two things:

1. The whole fucked up country folks from the holler routine can get pretty tedious after a while, especially when it is done poorly, as it often is. When bad, it comes off as fake or condescending. That doesn't mean that the people writing it are fake or condescending; it just means that it's very, very hard to pull off. The masters of hyper-rural lit are, of course, Faulkner, Flannery O'Conner and Toni Morrison. Others who are really good at it: Larry Brown, Erskine Caldwell (someti...more
Shaindel
Jul 09, 2008 Shaindel rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: anyone, short story writers, people from working class or blue collar backgrounds
Recommended to Shaindel by: The great Kyle Minor
Here's my review at Contrary magazine:

http://www.contrarymagazine.com/Contr...
Goose
Though I don't read many short story collections, I have enjoyed some by Jayne Anne Phillips, Tobias Wolff, and Perry Glasser in the past. I had no intention of reading this collection but picked it up one day and WHAMMMMM!!!! These stories are a visceral, literary punch to the stomach. The characters are sad mostly lonely losers. Many seem to be searching for a bit of hope and looking for change, but they lack the intiative to create change themselves. Though these people seem a bit bleak they...more
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Donald Ray Pollock was born in 1954 and grew up in southern Ohio, in a holler named Knockemstiff. He dropped out of high school at seventeen to work in a meatpacking plant, and then spent thirty-two years employed in a paper mill in Chillicothe, Ohio. He graduated from the MFA program at Ohio State University in 2009, and still lives in Chillicothe with his wife, Patsy. His first book, Knockemstif...more
More about Donald Ray Pollock...
The Devil All the Time Hair's Fate / Knockemstiff (Storycuts) Blessed / The Fights (Storycuts) Fish Sticks / Rainy Sunday (Storycuts) Dynamite Hole / Real Life (Storycuts)

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“I'm beginning to believe that anything I do to extend my life is just going to be outweighed by the agony of living it.” 28 likes
“When you first heard him talking about it, you'd figure he was batshit crazy, but really, he was just trying to fill up his days so he didn't have to think about what a fucking mess he had made of everything. It's the same for most of us; forgetting our lives might be the best we'll ever do.” 13 likes
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