Monday, March 11, 2013

Totally Depressing

Picked up the book purely because of the title. Heh. No lah. Of course I read the back cover summary first. 'Knockemstiff' by Donald Ray Pollock sounded pretty dark and sordid.

Drawing on childhood memories of the town the author grew up in, the characters are set in the American midwest, in a rural town called Knockemstiff that has fallen off the map. It's a real town in Ohio, but a ghost town. Eighteen stories in the collection that are interlinked. Shady violent characters who're abusive, and either on drugs or alcohol, or both. I like stories like that. Fit the mood. (Read reviews here, here, here and here.)

The book's depressing as hell. I couldn't put it down. Needed to finish it in one sitting. Heavy going? Not really. Lots to chew on, yes, simply because it's not a world I'm familiar with. The characters seem to forget that there's such a thing as second chance, and dig the holes deeper and deeper for themselves. Every story is simply sunk in the quicksand of not just poverty  Dunno. Have never gone through this sort of environment growing up, can't judge what people choose to do, or not. In the sardonically named 'Blessed', it's just a blur of living, breathing, eating, and getting through life somehow, hand to mouth, with little happiness.
Even though I got my medication for free with the welfare card, and the government sent me a check every month for my bad back, we were always broke. Toward the end of the month, we'd run out of all the essentials that make living that sort of life bearable - candy and ice-cream and cigarettes -and I'd start hinting to Dee that we should sell some blood. It was the only type of work that I could get her to do. Mine was no good because of my hepatitis, but D was AB negative and still pathogen-free, so the technicians welcomed her with open arms. We'd go to Portsmouth and sell a pint at the clinic on Fourth Street, then unload another one at the lab down along the river. By the time they siphoned the second one off, she'd be white as sheet, cold as ice. It made her feel special, having that rare blood. It was the only piece of her that anybody still desired.

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