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May 16, 2008

Book Notes - Donald Ray Pollock ("Knockemstiff")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

One day I was listening to NPR's Weekend Edition and heard a fascinating segment profiling Donald Ray Pollock and his new book of short fiction, Knockemstiff. The concept of the collection grabbed my interest, linked short stories are a favorite genre of mine and the author himself had a story of his own. A former paper mill worker, Pollock was publishing his first book at age 53 and brought a fresh perspective to both writing fiction as well as the publishing industry.

These stories are hauntingly dark, and the characters will stay with you long after you finish the book.

The New York Times wrote of the book:

"Pollock, who grew up in the actual Knockemstiff, Ohio (which may or may not resemble the town he depicts), and who worked in a paper mill for more than 30 years before enrolling in Ohio State University’s M.F.A. program, conveys all this in steely, serrated prose that — along with his crippled, disfigured or otherwise damaged characters, as well as his jolting sparks of humor — calls to mind Harry Crews.'


In his own words, here is Donald Ray Pollock's Book Notes essay for his novel, Knockemstiff:

As far as music and writing go, though I never listen to it while I’m working on new stuff (generally in the morning), I often turn to it for inspiration when I’m revising at night. I think that’s one of the main reasons I like revision so much—I get to listen to kickass music! I grew up in the Sixties, and even out in the sticks where I lived, music was a big deal. My buddies and I might have been hicks, but we worshiped Hendrix and Blue Cheer, Joplin and the Stones, Cream and The Doors. When I’m revising something, I tend to play the same album over and over while I’m working, until I’m just immersed in the emotion of it, but not hearing the words, etc. anymore (creating, I guess, something like a “background” effect). So, in a way, if things are going well, that album becomes a part of me and my writing for a short time. Some of the words that have been used to describe my collection of short stories, Knockemstiff, include, gritty, profane, warped, rough, and sad. I guess those same words could be used to describe a blues song, and most of the stuff I listened to while revising Knockemstiff is influenced by the blues in one way or another. With that said, below is a pretty comprehensive sample of the music that I listened to while writing my first book.

Tommy Bolin. “Post Toastee” from Private Eyes
Chris Whitley. “Can’t Get Off” and “Din” from Din of Ecstasy
The Rolling Stones. “Moonlight Mile” from Sticky Fingers
R. L. Burnside. “Bad Luck City” from I Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down
Dave Alvin. “Mary Brown” from Blackjack David
Monster Magnet. “Superjudge” from Superjudge
Johnny Dowd. “Pictures from Life’s Other Side” and “Ballad of Lonnie Wolf” from Pictures from Life’s Other Side
Clutch. “Immortal” from Pure Rock Fury
The Replacements. “Unsatisfied” from The Best of the Replacements
Jim White. “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” from No Such Place
Acid King. “Not Fragile” from Busse Woods
Blackfoot. “Highway Song” from Strikes
R. L. Burnside. “Let My Baby Ride,” “Don’t Stop Honey” and “It’s Bad You Know” from Come On In
Toadies. “Possum Kingdom” from Rubberneck
The Handsome Family. “Weightless Again” from Through the Trees
The Black Keys. “When the Lights Go Out” from Rubber Factory
Sleater Kinney. “Let’s Call It Love” from The Woods
Chris Whitley. “Radar” from Rocket House
Monster Magnet. “Nod Scene” from Spine of God


Donald Ray Pollock and Knockemstiff links:

the author's website
the author's blog
the author's page at the publisher
the book's page at the publisher
"Discipline" excerpt from the book
"Real Life" excerpt from the book

The Believer review
Cleveland Plain Dealer review
Dayton Daily News review
Los Angeles Times rreview
New York Times review
The Oregonian review
Powell's Books review
USA Today review

Chuck Palahniuk interview with the author
Columbus Alive profile of the author
Columbus Dispatch profile of the author
Corduroy Books interview with the author
Hobart interview with the author
Los Angeles Times profile of the author
Metro Boston profile of the author
NPR Weekend Edition profile of the author
Ohio State University Do Something Great profile of the author
Seattle Post-Intelligencer interview with the author
The Stranger interview with the author
Wall Street Journal profile of the author


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)

Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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