Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollack

IT's hard not to compare Donald Ray Pollack's Knockemstiff to an earlier work from a less rusted era. Oh, I'm sure there were rusted hulks back in Sherwood Anderson's day, maybe a picnic pavilion went unpainted a season or two to the eternal embarrasment of some long forgotten marching band but not a single denizen of Winesburg ever unloaded in an alley or overdosed on Anabolic steroids.
You can ascribe it to a general coursening of our culture or blame the education system but you won't be able to put this book down regardless of it's rough edges. The stories are short and satisfying, the characters remarkably lifelike (in fact I think some of them lived next door to me) and unlike so many other midwestern tales of despair, there is no salvation. The final story returns to the lives of the family in the first, thirty years later. The boy is now a man, dried out and off the sauce but you won't find any Nicholas Sparks type of revelation here, just the long shuffle towards death.
Read it now so that you can say that you did twenty years from now, when this book will be used in College classrooms across the country as a primer on twentieth century mores.
Knockemstiff, Ohio actual photos