Paquita Maria Sanchez's Reviews > The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
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Nov 29, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: literature

Gritty crime thrillers* are not generally my cup of tea, be they in fancy pants, shiny new hardcovers in the Literature section or shitty paperbacks in the mass-market rows of shame where all the bored housewives hang out. There seems to more often than not be this sort of straight to the point, unsalted cracker style to the writing which leaves me feeling dissatisfied. I mean, sure, I know some people in real life who parrot the same words and stories, use "like" and "ummm" as ways to pause in a sentence all the time, and tell a story using "and then he said, and then she said, and then he was like, and then I was all like," etc. Then again, I'm not generally expecting to find myself seduced by words in real life considering that I work in a bar; a bar where I hear, and let's see if you get it, Toby Keith's "I Love This Bar" being played on the jukebox by a bar patron at least one time during every single shift. (Because we're in a bar! That you love! So you sing along! Every night! Ahhhhh, f*ck!) Wait, where was I? Right, genre fiction.

As I was saying, there's this tendency in crime thrillers for purdy prose (and intricately constructed characters, for that matter) to be sacrificed in the service of increasing the plot's momentum, and if I'm being totally honest, I am a flowery, Wilde-loving bitch with her head (and wardrobe, and book/record collections) wedged firmly in the past. What can I say, I love me a good monologue. Despite all that, I'm trying to be better about reading things actually written during my lifetime, and this is one such attempt. So this is basically genre fiction, except it's actually really flippin' good. My gripe above does hold some weight here: there aren't any what you would call "flabbergasting" or "groundbreaking" revelations in this thing, and no immortal quotables to be stripped from the text. However, what there is is a whole lot of stacked, horrifying, and carefully placed imagery concerning savagery and the violent tendencies within all humans, rich to poor, spoiled to abandoned, male or female. The world holds many a charming tune for the snake within us all. Whether our motivations be sadistic, masochistic, righteous, vengeful, righteously vengeful, or just plain hormone-driven, we all carry this reptilian streak which, with the proper circumstantial nurturing, can lead to an explosion of unspeakable violence. All this is sorta old news, but Pollock handles it in a way that is engaging in more than just some torture porn way. He stirs up some feelings, and I mean more than just fear. Unlike all that horror movie stuff, this all feels...Real. Likely. Highly probable. Probably has happened pretty much this way somewhere at some time.

I particularly enjoyed the approach that Pollock took concerning religion, addressing its uses as both a salve and a weapon, or more specifically as a justification for and refutation of violence and exploitation. These parts hit my Flannery bone, which is always a welcome injury. The first section of the book, which includes a truly grotesque sacrificial prayer altar depicted in graphic detail (think maggots, bones clanking in the wind, layers of blood on rotting, patchily-haired flesh driven through with nails and other types of general ick) was my favorite of the many eerie little stories in this interlocking collection of horrific events. The imagery throughout the novel, though described somewhat dryly, still manages to resonate. If this paragraph hasn't scared you away, then by all means GO! READ! IS GOOD!

*Excluding movies, of course. Some of my all time favorite movies are gritty crime thrillers. Speaking of which, this would (will one day) make a great movie. My advice? Give it to Fincher.
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Comments (showing 1-25 of 25) (25 new)

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message 1: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Is the bar like this?

Paquita Maria Sanchez Exactly! Except minus all the chicks...

...there's just me.

Paquita Maria Sanchez I am the chick.

message 4: by Moira (new)

Moira Russell "Flannery bone," awesome.

Paquita Maria Sanchez It's the funnybone's opposite.

message 6: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ While there are no "immortal quotables" gleaned from this book, I think I may have gleaned a few from your review. "The world holds many a charming tune for the snake within us all." Fantastic.

Kemper "The world holds many a charming tune for the snake within us all."

I'm gonna get that embroidered on a pillow.

Paquita Maria Sanchez I think it may be one of the more twss-y things I've ever said in a review. In fact, this whole review...Charm the snake! Hit the bone! Salve the wound!

message 9: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Come tend a bar near MEEEE! I will come every night and kick anyone who tries to play Toby Keith.

(Says the person who used to put Rocky Horror on the jukebox and actually dance the Time Warp around the bar)

message 11: by Esteban (new)

Esteban del Mal Lesbians.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Trailer trash.

Eh?Eh! Last night I was at a bar! And I thought of you because one of your favorites came on, "Hotel California."

message 14: by Paquita Maria (last edited Dec 11, 2011 12:01AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez I have a new and much deeper hatred these days. It's so intense that I am almost glad when I hear "Hotel California." It's this song called "Crazy Bitch" by this GOD AWFUL band called "Buckcherry." Every time it plays (which is every single night at least 2 times) I crush whatever I'm holding, close my eyes, and just try to remember to breathe. Do yourself a favor and DON'T listen to it just to know where I am coming from or be there for me or anything like that. Avoid it at all costs, forever and ever.

Eh?Eh! Paquita Maria wrote: "Every time it plays (which is every single night at least 2 times) I crush whatever I'm holding,...."

Since you're tending the bar, the management must be noticing the spike in glassware expenses? Heh, I haven't heard that song yet.

Paquita Maria Sanchez They listen to that shit in Canada too? And we Americans all thought it was supposed to be Heaven up there.

Eh! There's usually a can around for me to smush, or at least a dishrag to just squeeze real tight. I figured it out, though! I told the regulars today that EVERY TIME they play that fucking song, I am going to play When in Rome's "The Promise" and Erasure's "A Little Respect" immediately after (paying the extra change to "play this song next") back to back at FULL volume. I will retrain their brains to fear Fuckcherry. I am confident about this.

message 17: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I do not know this song. I cannot have solidarity with you, but I can represent the innocent, untrammeled past in which you, too, were happily unaware of it.

Paquita Maria Sanchez God I hate that fucking song.

message 19: by Miriam (new)

Miriam You can come visit! My boyfriend is all German-choral-music-all-the-time for Advent. Complete change of pace.

message 20: by ~Geektastic~ (new)

 ~Geektastic~ Paquita Maria wrote: "I have a new and much deeper hatred these days. It's so intense that I am almost glad when I hear "Hotel California." It's this song called "Crazy Bitch" by this GOD AWFUL band called "Buckcherry..."

Kindred spirits. I DESPISE that song and I hope the assholes that wrote it choke on their holiday nog.

Paquita Maria Sanchez I wish I could get outta here and do some traveling! Somebody gimme some money.

Amber...yes, that song deserves an award for being so awful. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I seriously cannot stress this point enough to compensate for the torture that is hearing that song all the time. It's not possible. It never will be possible. I hope that your life actually doesn't flash before your eyes as you are dying, because hearing that song in my last moments would just be such an enormously cruel trick on my brain's part. No lie. Anyway, books!

message 22: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Is there anyway to sabotage the jukebox? Maybe pour acid on the associated button/code number for the song?

Paquita Maria Sanchez I wish!

message 24: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I'm sure sour mix would have some deleterious effects...

Paquita Maria Sanchez I think that dollars and dollars of Erasure and the Thompson Twins should slowly do the trick. On Sunday, I simply threatened a high-volume 80's blast if the song was dare played; I didn't hear it then, and I haven't heard it again since! (Which is very unusual.) Halle-fuckin'-lujah.

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