The Devil All the Time

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The Devil All the Time Fiction
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Product Description

Donald Ray Pollock made his literary debut in 2008 with the critically acclaimed story collection, Knockemstiff. Here, in his second book, THE DEVIL ALL THE TIME, Pollock continues unearthing his rarefied, dark and riveting vision of America. . The novel follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of WWII to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer, no matter how much sacrificial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial killers who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher, Roy, and his crippled virtuoso-guitar playing sidekick. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right. If you’ve read Cormac McCarthy, you won’t want to miss Donald Ray Pollock. 261p.

Editorial Reviews

This debut novel occasionally flashes the promise that the author showed in his highly praised short-story collection, but falls short of fulfilling it.

The unflinching, often hilarious stories in Knockemstiff (2008) drew considerable attention to a writer whose own story was as fascinating as his fiction. A mill worker for three decades in blue-collar Ohio (where he sets his fiction), Pollock belatedly earned an MFA from Ohio State and published his collection of stories in which themes and characters were so interwoven that it might have passed as a novel. It was inevitable that his next book would be an actual novel, and billed as such, but this isn't the total knockout that one might have expected. Instead, its various plot strands, which inevitably come together at the end, might have worked better as individual stories. Set again in rural, impoverished Knockemstiff and nearby Mead, the novel opens with the relationship of young Arvin Russell and his father, Willard, a haunted World War II vet who marries a beautiful woman and then watches her die from cancer. He alternates between praying and drinking, neither of which do much to alleviate his pain. In fact, his son "didn't know which was worse, the drinking or the praying." The tragic ways of the world (in a novel that sometimes aims at dark comedy) leave Arvin an orphan. As he's maturing into young adulthood, raised by his grandmother, the plot shifts include a huckster pair of religious revivalists, a preacher who preys on young girls and a husband-and-wife pair of serial killers (she seduces their victims, whom they call "models," and he photographs and kills them). Though there's a hard-bitten realism to the character of Arvin, most of the rest seem like gothic noir redneck caricature (some with latent homosexual tendencies). A piece of cheap motel wall art could stand as the aesthetic credo: "It served no purpose that he could think of, other than to remind a person that the world was a sorry-ass place to be stuck living in."

Pollock remains a singular stylist, but he has better books in him than this. 

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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