Kemper's Reviews > Knockemstiff

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock
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Mar 01, 12

bookshelves: 2012, crime-mystery, modern-lit, rednecks, short-stories
Read in March, 2012

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 are stories are about damaged, desperate people stuck so solidly in their small shabby lives that even dreaming about doing better seems beyond them. Centered around the holler of Knockemstiff and ranging from the sixties to the modern day with recurring characters, Pollack develops each tale into it’s own small tragedy. Shifting from moments of stark violence to quiet emotional desolation, this is a powerful depiction of the Americanus Redneckius in one of its natural habitats.
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Comments (showing 1-20 of 20) (20 new)

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message 1: by Amanda (new)

Amanda I'm curious about this one. I heard him on NPR about a month ago and immediately bought The Devil All the Time, which immediately went on Mount To-Be-Read, where it has sat ever since.


Kemper Amanda wrote: "I'm curious about this one. I heard him on NPR about a month ago and immediately bought The Devil All the Time, which immediately went on Mount To-Be-Read, where it has sat ever since."

I've been on a redneck noir spree lately and this one is top notch so far. I've also got Devil All the Time on deck from the library so I'll be checking it out shortly.


message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 5 stars

Dan Schwent I really like the term "hick lit." Also, I could go for a frosty PBR right now.


Kemper I came across 'hick lit' the other day and I've been dying to use it.

Go for a warm PBR. That way you can really taste it.


message 5: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Has y'all read Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road ? How's about The Beans of Egypt, Maine ? A dark play called "Clear Liquor and Coal Black Nights" ?


message 6: by Judith (new) - added it

Judith I live in SE Ohio and Knokemstiff is about 180 miles W/SW of me....I loved this book because I know these people...don't necessarily love them or want to spend time with them..but I know them.

And I second the recommendation for The Beans of Egypt, Maine, andMerry Men by Carolyn Chute


Stephen So Kemper, among all the recent hick lit you have read, which one did you like the best? I think I have most/all of your recent reads in this area but was wondering where best to start.


message 8: by Mike (new)

Mike I've not read Knockemstiff, but I did read The Devil All the Time, also occurring in Knockemstiff, Ohio. I'm still searching for a first of Pollock's first. They seem to be in high demand with a very short print run.

I was talking with the manager at Square Books in Oxford, Ms. "Knockemstiff? Yeah. I remember Pollock. Kind of an obstreperous fellow." Well, yeah. "Hmmm, I think I've got that book. It's boxed in the warehouse. Somewhere. I'll have to see if I can find it." Still drumming my fingers. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Pollock will be at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville in October. I'm looking forward to seeing just how obstreperous he is. I think in Oxford, obstreperous must be politically correct language for redneck. Here's to hick-lit. You gotta nice way of turning a phrase.


Kemper Judith wrote: "I live in SE Ohio and Knokemstiff is about 180 miles W/SW of me....I loved this book because I know these people...don't necessarily love them or want to spend time with them..but I know them.

And..."


180 miles may not be quite enough of a buffer zone to the people in this book.


Kemper Stephen wrote: "So Kemper, among all the recent hick lit you have read, which one did you like the best? I think I have most/all of your recent reads in this area but was wondering where best to start."

Um.... so I guess I've done Woodrell's Outlaw Album, this one and Frank Bill's Crimes of Southern Indiana recently... I'd give Woodrell's a slight edge over this one, but it's almost a coin flip. Bill's would be #3. I liked it a lot but the ultra-violence in it got a bit repetative after a while.

Less recent but still high in my rankings, Woodrell's Winter's Bone. Franklin's Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter (which I know you read) and Whitmer's Pike.


message 11: by Kemper (last edited Mar 02, 2012 07:48AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kemper Mike wrote: "Here's to hick-lit. You gotta nice way of turning a phrase.

Thanks, but I can't claim hick lit or redneck noir as my own. I've seen them elsewhere on the interwebs and adopted for my own purposes.


Stephanie HickLit = love. it.

There is a Knockemstiff Ohio? Seriously? Never heard of it.

I live very North Central Ohio. There is a huge difference between the North and South in Ohio. But I did live in Dayton, and Cincinnati for a while....and Pittsburgh, which is basically next door to this place, so I am sure I have run across a few of these folk.


Stephanie Shoot. 167 miles, due south. Wow.


message 14: by Mike (new)

Mike Stephanie wrote: "HickLit = love. it.

There is a Knockemstiff Ohio? Seriously? Never heard of it.

I live very North Central Ohio. There is a huge difference between the North and South in Ohio. But I did live in..."


Well, yes. There is a Knockemstiff, Ohio. From Wiki:
Knockemstiff, also known as Glenn Shade or Shady Glenn, is a ghost town located in northeastern Huntington Township, Ross County, Ohio, United States, to the southwest of Chillicothe. It sits at an elevation of 692 ft. (211 m). The Geographic Names Information System gives Knockemstiff's coordinates as 39°16′04″ N, 83°07′09″ W, placing the original hamlet at the intersection of Black Run Road (County Road 156) and Shady Glen Road. A number of more recent rural residences now occupy the same area.


Below is the town center, circa 1950...

Photobucket


Stephanie Huh....Thanks Mike!


message 16: by Mike (new)

Mike Stephanie wrote: "Huh....Thanks Mike!"

Tips his hat to the lady..."Why, shucks, Ma'am. It weren't nuthin'." Grin I did a little digging when I read The Devil All the Time. There's interesting stories about the place. I would have thought I was right down home in Alabama. We've got a few places like Knockemstiff. And they're not even ghost towns...yet.


Stephanie Mike wrote: "Stephanie wrote: "Huh....Thanks Mike!"

Tips his hat to the lady..."Why, shucks, Ma'am. It weren't nuthin'." Grin I did a little digging when I read The Devil All the Time. There..."


Ohio is the U.S.'s mini me. Northern ohio people are more metropolitan, and the South has it's share of rednecks.....who sometimes seep to the north.


Kemper Stephanie wrote: "Ohio is the U.S.'s mini me. Northern ohio people are more metropolitan, and the South has it's share of rednecks.....who sometimes seep to the north.

And then there's all the damn dirty socialist hippies....


Stephanie Yes. Yes there was.


message 20: by Thom (new) - added it

Thom Dunn Have y'all considered Shelby Foote's novel, September, September ? Don't quite know if I'm reading of rednecks or scalliwags.


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