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Donnybrook
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Group Reads > May 2018 - Donnybrook

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message 1: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melki | 881 comments Mod
This month's read is a book referred to by Independent critic Doug Johnstone as a "literary shotgun blast to the face." He goes on to call Frank Bill a "coruscating new voice writing in the American rural noir tradition of Daniel Woodrell and Donald Ray Pollock."

Bill's first book was a collection of short stories - Crimes in Southern Indiana: Stories - published in 2011. Donnybrook, originally published in 2013 is his first novel. A sequel - The Savage - was released last year.

Here are some of the reviews:
-https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...
-www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/fr...
-https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en...

And a brief interview with Bill - https://litreactor.com/interviews/10-...

Now, let's sit back and enjoy our "testosterone-fueled tale" of meth and melees.


Lawrence | 204 comments I just picked up my copy from the library. I was not enthused by this month’s choice, the idea of one big brawl did nothing for me, but hey, how bad could it be. Reading the first 20 pages or so changed my mind. It grips you from the first sentence. A bonus for me, it is set in Kentucky, in an area I’m familiar with. My sister lived for 15 years or so in the next major town to the east.


message 3: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom Steer | 36 comments I had the same first impression, Lawrence, although I’m finding the middle a bit more of a slog. After the first part I was thinking it was going to be a four or five star for me, now I’m halfway through and starting to feel it’s going to be a three or four...


message 4: by Christopher (new)

Christopher (Donut) | 167 comments I kind of thought it was this book's turn, as it has been a runner-up in a few polls.

I will be trying to catch up on Asphalt Jungle, Black Wings Has My Angel, and (time permitting) I, the Jury.


message 5: by Algernon (Darth Anyan), Hard-Boiled (new)

Algernon (Darth Anyan) | 574 comments Mod
I'm also trying to catch up - I finished both Asphalt Jungle and Black Wings, and Spillane shoulodn't give me too much trouble to finish. After that, I'm definitely interested in this Donnybrook that has been mentioned several times in the group.


message 6: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melki | 881 comments Mod
I finished yesterday. It's insanely violent in a way that makes Fight Club look like a genteel drawing room comedy.


Geoff Smith (oncewewerefiction) | 67 comments Yeah- I'm in the middle of this. Not loving it. It starts okay and I was liking the language. But bloody hell, Harry, there's a fight on every page... where say the violence at the beginning of A Clockwork Orange made me feel sick, but then was replaced by something brilliant, this one just layers on fight after fight after fight after fight until you don't feel anything beyond that feeling of the bowl of petunias in Hitch-Hikers that confronted with its own violent destruction thinks only 'Oh no, not again.'


message 8: by Tom (last edited May 04, 2018 05:47PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom Steer | 36 comments Agreed. This is making me feel nauseous reading it, and the last book that did that to me was American Psycho.

I can’t decide whether I like this or not, I’m 80% done and losing track of who’s who and what they did earlier in the narrative. It just degenerates into a collage of violence, characters named after various body parts and interesting verbs for taking drugs.

For me, Anthony Neil Smith does this kind of thing way better. I’m tempted to reread Worm in the same way you’d chase Leonard Cohen with a Radiohead album to perk your mood up...


message 9: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melki | 881 comments Mod
One part made me kind of woozy - (view spoiler) I'm now reading a sweet & innocent Anne of Green Gables book (Don't judge me!) as a palate cleanser.


Lawrence | 204 comments I'm about fifty pages in and it's pretty brutal. But I equate it to a car wreck...you don't really want to see it, but you can't look away. I'm going to take a guess that I have only scratched the surface of violence. I'm working today, so i'll knock off a big chunk on my hour-long train ride home.


message 11: by Jay (new)

Jay Gertzman | 272 comments I agree that the violence and brutality is extreme. But perhaps it is intended to immerse the reader into today’s world of rural Appalachia, West Virginia, the Ozarks, and southern Indiana. It’s a falling world, due to agri-business and free-trade policies, as well as scientific “advances” that make possible, for ex., copyrights on seed, which farmers used to sell. Smaller farms are on their way to obsolescence, the local economy that used to sustain generations of farms and towns has decayed, and young married must leave parents and friends to work and raise kids in larger, impersonal environments. Pancake, Offutt, and Woodrell among others write about this. So does Bill, powerfully, on pp.127-30 in the Kindle ed. It’s a prediction of catastrophe and revolution, told powerfully in the colloquial idiom, to Jarhead, a former marine reduced to thieving. The latter still has some sense of community left, stealing only $1000 from a gun dealer b/c that’s all he needs. Instead of shooting the merchant in the head, he shoots close to his ear, b/c he does not want to do more than -- get this – to feed his family.


message 12: by Lawrence (last edited May 05, 2018 10:59AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Lawrence | 204 comments There are a lot of issues that lead us to this type of environment. And sadly, what is fiction here in this book, is fact in the real world. By the way, one good book on the meth epidemic is Methland by Nick Reding. I read it when it came out in '09. Melki has a good review of it.


message 13: by Melki, Femme Fatale (new) - rated it 4 stars

Melki | 881 comments Mod
Lawrence wrote: "There are a lot of issues that lead us to this type of environment. And sadly, what is fiction here in this book, is fact in the real world. By the way, one good book on the meth epidemic is Methla..."

Thanks, Lawrence. That's a book I won't soon forget.

In an interesting, and timely coincidence, my boss was forced out of her apartment by a fire last Friday night. It seems the guy downstairs was cooking meth . . .


message 14: by Tom (new)

Tom Mathews | 404 comments Melki wrote: "I finished yesterday. It's insanely violent in a way that makes Fight Club look like a genteel drawing room comedy."

I think we may have found my "not my cup of tea" selection.


Lawrence | 204 comments I'm almost halfway through now and I can say that this book is NOT for everyone. The violence is a little more than I prefer, but the writing is rich and it is believable.


message 16: by Tom (new) - rated it 3 stars

Tom Steer | 36 comments Just finished it. It’s an angry three star for me, because there are passages that show promise. But it’s also in my opinion a deeply flawed novel.

I don’t care about what point the author is trying to make about Southern decline through graphic violence—and I for one am not convinced this was the intent here, either. Pages and pages of the stuff are not a story. It’s just needlessly graphic description that quickly becomes desensitising, as a substitute for scenes with any kind of dramatic tension. And to misappropriate a Truman Capote phrase, that’s not writing, it’s typing. Even a book like American Psycho actually uses that level of brutality very sparingly in comparison, and conversely gives them more impact when they arrive by doing so.


message 17: by Geoff (last edited May 08, 2018 02:58AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Geoff Smith (oncewewerefiction) | 67 comments Tom wrote: "Just finished it. It’s an angry three star for me, because there are passages that show promise. But it’s also in my opinion a deeply flawed novel.

I don’t care about what point the author is tryi..."


I agree. If there was a subtext it was lost on me. Maybe it was about the decline of the South. I can sort of see that - but if it was then it seems like a pretty reactionary and unconsidered take on that. But like Tom, I'm not convinced that's the case.


Lawrence | 204 comments I did not vote for this book. It did not seem to be my cup of tea. I don't need a lot of violence, but I figured, hey, the "donnybrook" should be near the end of the book. I hope this isn't considered a spoiler, but the donnybrook begins immediately and never lets up. I actually enjoyed it initially. I feel it's written well, but the violence is relentless.


Lawrence | 204 comments By the way, for those who have made it to the end...here is a link to the Johnny Cash song, "The Man Comes Around" ...referenced in the last chapter.

https://youtu.be/k9IfHDi-2EA

For what it's worth, this is from an excellent double album (okay, okay....double CD, forgive me, i'm a dinosaur) by the man in black near the end of his life. He covers a lot of songs made popular by other artists such as Simon and Garfunkel, the Eagles, Glen Campbell and Depeche Mode (his version of Personal Jesus is superb).


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