Knockemstiff by Donald Ray Pollock was my husband’s discovering and oh my god what a discovery. The characters are at times so depraved and disgusting but at the same time you can imagine them as real people. I asked myself a few times, why am I reading these stories, but I could not put the book down.
The Devil all the Time by Donald Ray Pollock – of course, after reading Knockemstiff I had to read Pollock’s second books. This was equally as riveting but not quite as depraved. In the end, the ‘sort of’ good guy wins out and I was glad to see a few of the other characters dispatched along the way. I wonder whether Pollock has any more stories as these two books are quite similar.
Blaise Pascal couldn’t have put it better: “Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” I think the characters in Pollock’s books are evidence of Pascal’s statement.
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace was another hard read by this author but not as substantial as The Infinite Jest. As the foreward states, Foster Wallace did not complete this novel and his perfectionism would have made it a different novel had he managed to complete it. I still think Foster Wallace is an incredible writer with immense passion and his ability to drill down into a character’s personality always amazes me.
Lovesong by Alex Miller had me won over until near the end; then it made me so angry that I had difficulty having any sympathy for Sabiha. Her wilful destruction of someone else’s life and family to achieve her own deep set desire was something I could not fathom. And the idea that John would calmly accept her actions without question left me wondering what sort of character either of them were.
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers is a beautifully written poetic book (after all, Powers is a poet). I wasn’t necessarily drawn to the story itself but the telling of it was so lyrically that I could not stop reading. I hope Powers writes more novels, and poetry of course.