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Literary: Donald Ray Pollock

By Jason Gargano · July 12th, 2011 · CityBeat Recommends

Donald Ray Pollock's debut short-story collection, 2008's Knockemstiff, was something of an unexpected sensation — unexpected in that Pollock was a first-time author at age 53; a sensation in that the stories were driven by a visceral, sharp-edged prose style and an uncommonly artful narrative thrust as sensitive as it was savage. Knockemstiff was rightly praised by everyone from The New York Times to Chuck Palahniuk (“more engaging than any new fiction in years”) to literary savant Michael Silverblatt, whose incisive KCRW radio show Bookworm featured a rare interview with the author.

Born and raised in the actual Knockemstiff (a small, decaying town about an hour east of Cincinnati), Pollock quit high school his junior year to work in a meatpacking plant. It wasn’t long before he moved on to a paper mill in nearby Chillicothe, Ohio, where he worked for nearly 30 years and which was no doubt the inspiration for many of Pollock's dead-end characters and depraved narrative turns — think Harmony Korine's Gummo as described by Raymond Carver. Now comes Pollock's first novel, the unsurprisingly grim-titled The Devil All the Time, freshly published in hardback this week by Doubleday. I've yet to partake (my copy arrived at the office late last week), but it's already garnering rave reviews, including this blurb from Esquire magazine: “So humid is The Devil All the Time with moral grime that the characters seem always to be gasping for a breath of divine intervention — some through prayer, others through murder and creepy sex.” Pollock discusses his new novel 7 p.m. Thursday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Free.

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