karen's Reviews > The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
45618
's review
Apr 07, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: appalachian-noir-southern-gothic, grit-lit
Read from April 07 to 10, 2012

oh, great. another book i can never recommend to elizabeth...

this book is vicious. understand that. this is a hyper-violent book, filled with completely unsavory characters in a filthy landscape where crimes are committed with breathtaking casualness.

and i gotta confess, i loved it.

because that's not all it is. this isn't just gratuitous violence for shock value and testing of the reader's limits. there is also that heartbreaking thing i love so much in my literature: small-town desperation. the frustration of limitations. the recognition of boundaries, and working within them to steal a little pleasure for yourself, even if your sickfuck version of pleasure is orchestrating murder-victim photographic tableaux or seeing how many little girls you can deflower or daydreaming your pathetically small-frame dreams:

sometime soon, he was going to drive down to the river city and see a doubleheader. his plan was to buy a good seat, drink beer, stuff himself with their hot dogs. he's heard hot dogs tasted better in a ballpark, and he wanted to find out for himself. cincinnati was just ninety miles or so on the other side of the mitchell flats, a straight shot down route 50, but he's never been there, hadn't been any further west than hillsboro his entire twenty-two years.hank had the feeling that his life would really begin once he made that trip.

god, that kills me. that eating a hot dog in a ballpark would be this big life-changing experience; the apex of his imagination. right in my feeling-parts, that.

okay, are you suitably saddened and soft? because now we have to talk about the rest of the book. the part with the murder and the rape and the animal sacrifice and the prostitution and the suicide and all that other stuff. because as much as you can sympathize with people wanting to escape their narrow lives and make their mark on the world, this is what winesberg, ohio would become if eli roth got his hands on it.

and people are going to die.

they will die as misguided attempts to attract the attention of god, or to prove that resurrection of the human body is possible (spoiler alert - it is not), thrill-killings masquerading as art, killing as self-defense, severe beatings as justice: this is a terrifying little slice-of-life.

and yet - it is still so fucking beautiful.

recalling a long-deceased love:

alice louise berry had died in the influenza epidemic of 1918, along with 3 million or so poor souls, just a few weeks after starting her classes at the gilmore sanderson secretarial school. if only they had stayed in the hills, earskell often thought, she might still be alive. but alice always had big dreams, which was one of the things he had loved about her, and he was glad that he hadn't tried to talk her out of it. he was certain those days they spent in cincinnati among the tall buildings and crowded streets before she took the fever were the happiest ones of her life. his too, for that matter.

ahhhhh - again with the feeling-parts!

that's what this book is like - a constant shift between beauty and brutality. and his control of the two elements is masterful. this has definitely earned its place in my personal canon of appalachia lit that gives me a heart-on, and as soon as i can find my copy of knockemstiff, i am all over that like blood on prayer-log.
188 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read The Devil All the Time.
Sign In »

Comments (showing 1-50 of 61) (61 new)


message 1: by Katie (new)

Katie that seems like a relaxing sunday read.


karen yeah, our interests just do not intersect!


message 3: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason I love how GR has become about what not to recommend to Elizabeth!


message 4: by B0nnie (new) - added it

B0nnie alice always had big dreams - the gilmore sanderson secretarial school...that's very funny and sad


karen well, we are looking out for her.


message 6: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell "heart-on," ahaha ILU.

There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate

....yeah I don't think I want you to recommend this to me, either.


karen B0nnie wrote: "alice always had big dreams - the gilmore sanderson secretarial school...that's very funny and sad"

i know!! this book! it makes me appreciate all the opportunities i have squandered.


karen Moira wrote: ""heart-on," ahaha ILU.

There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate

....y..."


the first part alone should be a real clear indication of "whether this book is for you." it is called "sacrifice." there is a lot of blood.


John Nice review. Having read it recently, I concur with all of the above. You'll love Knockemstiff.


Paquita Maria Sanchez Yes! Pollock has this certain something...and if he be a kindly man, he will share some of it with the zillion other authors and movie directors who try to achieve even a bit of what he manages here, and end up being just...gross? Junk food for sadists? I have a library copy of Knockemstiff sitting in front of me, actually. Soon, soon. Pollock!


karen but there are also so many people who do this well. in a lot of ways, this reminded me of And the Ass Saw the Angel...


message 12: by George (new)

George Wow, sounds good!


karen i loved it, but i can see that it appeals to a certain kind of person. you gotta be able to handle some darkness.


message 14: by Sandy (new)

Sandy I would have "liked" this review if only for the expression "heart-on." Can I borrow that sometime?


karen the expression? sure.


message 16: by Michael (new)

Michael Fleegler karen wrote: "i loved it, but i can see that it appeals to a certain kind of person. you gotta be able to handle some darkness."

Introducing another person to aspects of literature that push boundaries can be an extremely arduous prospect. I still remember loaning my treasured copy of Harry Crews's 'Knockout Artist' to a friend of my ex-wife. That woman never looked at me the same, (and you can see how the relationship went). I applaud your attempt to show that art is often an attempt to show things from an alternate paradigm.


karen well, i appreciate that things like this are written, knowing full well that there are going to be some people utterly disgusted by it.


message 18: by Laima (new) - added it

Laima Thanks for the review Karen - Now I know not to read this book. Way too dark for me.


karen yeah, i am really trending towards the dark ones lately. must be spring fever.


message 20: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert This is why you are my Goodreads friend Karen, so I can discover new books I otherwise wouldn't have. I just got my copy from the library. Cheers!


karen ooooh!i hope it goes well!


message 22: by Robert (new) - added it

Robert Also got my copy of Cutie Pies: 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes Cutie Pies 40 Sweet, Savory, and Adorable Recipes by Dani Cone. I wonder which I'll like more?


karen updates!i need updates!


message 24: by Jac (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jac just started 'knockemstiff', been gut shot. gotta read 'devil' next. i would place his work as 'grit lit' larry brown s' 'facing the music' is equally fascinating.


karen i will have to check that out - thanks!


message 26: by Jac (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jac i've worked in a paper mill and been a building contractor all my life, these people are REAL! pollacks' work is heads above anything i have read lately.


message 27: by Jac (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jac karen, 'boy and dog' and 'the end of romance' in facing the music are a must. i want a full report.


karen i am on it!


message 29: by Jac (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jac johnny paycheck 'take this job and shove it' born, bred and died in hillsboro, ohio. it's on route 50. 'i ain't workin' here no mo''


message 30: by Jac (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jac took me two days to read this one. pollock is incredibly talented. readers digests' most unforgettable people kept coming to mind as i read; can't remember any of them, carl, sandy, arvin and all the others are etched in my mind. i'm reading it again.


message 31: by Gea (new) - added it

Gea I'm definitely going to read it now. Another great review.


karen awesome - thank you! hope you love it!


message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

there is also that heartbreaking thing i love so much in my literature: small-town desperation. the frustration of limitations. the recognition of boundaries, and working within them to steal a little pleasure for yourself, even if your sickfuck version of pleasure is orchestrating murder

I couldn't have said it any better myself.


Trudi Ditto.


karen yay!! i have found the like-minded!


message 36: by [deleted user] (new)

Have you read Pop. 1280? It is very similar to American Psycho in its themes, except it is much shorter and with no torture porn, and features rednecks in the boonies of 1910's Texas. From what I have seen of your taste in hick-lit (or whatever the hell it is called), I think there is a serious chance you would like that book a lot.


karen ack! i am only getting this update now! sheesh. i have read other jim thompsons, but not that one. i am pretty sure i own it, though. i do love love love that tone if lit, though. thank you!


message 38: by Brian (new)

Brian Dammit! It's not a debut. Good thing my year of reading ONLY debuts is winding down ...


The Shayne-Train i get all my hillbilly noir books from your reviews. :)


karen sweet!! i can share this grit lit list i made for work if you like - it has lots of books i have not read, but look really excellent.


The Shayne-Train hells to the yes please


The Shayne-Train giggling at Winter's Bone.

god, i'm 7.


karen hahahah that's okay - so am i.


bone!


The Shayne-Train I've been reading single novels after each novel of the 21 book series I'm making my way through, and this one will definitely be the next one (after the weird ' monster tapeworm' book I'm on currently).


karen which monster tapeworm?? the mira grant or the nick cutter?


karen good lord, i had no idea there were so many monster tapeworm books. the world is such a marvelous place


message 49: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Jason wrote: "I love how GR has become about what not to recommend to Elizabeth!"

I wish it still were.


message 50: by Jason (new) - added it

Jason Hi!

It could still be that! We could still come up with lists of things you should never, ever read! =)


« previous 1
back to top