Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Today: Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock

Donald Ray Pollock is Cinderella. The bio in Knockemstiff, his debut collection -- published today by Doubleday -- tells that story. Among other things, it says Pollack “dropped out of high school to work in a meatpacking plant and then spent over thirty years employed in a paper mill in southern Ohio.”

What it doesn’t say: the title of this much ballyhooed new collection, is also the name of the southern Ohio town where Pollock came to maturity. What else it doesn’t say: no one -- but no one -- has served up the midwest like this. Donald Ray Pollock makes Jonathan Franzen look like Judy Blume.

Here is the thing that startles: in the very moment of Pollock’s debut, the American economy is foundering, the dollar is staggering, the housing market feels as though it may never fully recover. And just as we put to bed this era of real stone countertops and stainless steel appliances, here comes an author to remind us where we’re really from. And more. Pollock’s arrival feels ordained. Mark my words: you will be hearing more from this author. And mark another set: when you’re done reading, it’s possible you’ll want a shower.



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