Robert R.'s Reviews > The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
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's review
Aug 24, 2012

it was amazing
Read in August, 2012

Wow. What a well-written, but horrible book! In Pollock's fictional universe, there are no strong, kind, gentle and noble characters. (One of them, Arvin, is generally less despicable than others -- but even he is an extremely violent man; he is less self-serving than others and generally well-meaning, but he is a malefactor just the same.) In this world, there exist neither a broadly life-affirming, dependable social order, nor any hope of impartial justice. None. In the novel, there seem to be only two kinds of human beings of note, martyrs and evil-doers. Every character who is not a ludicrously, stupidly trusting victim who suffers horrendous torment is a hateful, selfish monster who *inflicts* horrendous torment. (To be honest, at least one of Carl's and Sandy's "models" falls somewhere between those extremes, having the cynical and selfish ill-will of a victimizer, ultimately falling victim to monsters greater than himself. And, admittedly, Arvin is less hateful and less manipulative than most of the others in the novel.) Generosity and kindness are generally intertwined with naïveté and martyrdom. Strength, force of character and effectiveness in action are fairly inextricably associated with violence, a degree of delusion and, in most cases, corruption, addictive behavior, manipulative egotism and/or sociopathic thinking. A wonderfully written and very compelling novel, but gut-wrenchingly horrible as a portrayal of humankind. Who needs Hell when you have human life in this world?
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