Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Listened: "The Devil All the Time" by Donald Ray Pollock

Listened: The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock, 2011, download.

Damn good.  Damn dirty.  Deceptively dense.

I read Knockemstiff a while ago.  Since I was never getting around to reading this I snagged the audio when I saw it.  Pollock has not suffered a sophomore slump.  This is billed as a novel, and is, but is more a collection of themed stories with interlocking characters.  Since I listened to this I cannot easily recall character names.  Bear with me.

There are three foci.  Arvin, born in Knockemstiff and orphaned as a 12-year-old.  The corrupt Bad Guy Sheriff.  Sheriff's Slutty Sister and Fat Husband who are serial killers during the summer.

Arvin is orphaned when his mother dies of cancer and father commits suicide.  Arvin moves to West Virginia with his paternal grandmother.  Slutty Sister takes up with Fat Husband because he is nice to her.  They kill a hitchhiker for his cash and then take it on as a hobby.  Fat Husband offers Slutty Sister to the hitchers while Fat Husband takes photos.  After Slutty Sister and the hitcher have sex the Fat Husband photographs the subsequent torture and murder of the hitchers.

There are many other characters throughout: The horse faced, orphan, foster sister of Arvin.  Arvin's father Willard. The preacher who screws teenage parishioners.

Reviewers for this kind of novel often write about "impact" and "characterization" and "voice".  What reviewers should point out is that Devil All the Time is unlike a lot of other novels because it is actually interesting.  So many of the characters are vile.  They are all flawed.  They are all struggling with something and most are losing the fight.


1. I think the narrator, Mark Bramhall, did quite well.  A couple weeks ago Anthony Neil Smith hosted a post by Laura Benedict.  Benedict wrote she was mortified by the thick southern accent put on by the narrator for one of her novels.  Bramhall does that here.  But, this is set in the '50s and '60s before, as Benedict wrote, "omnipresent television has...smoothed out southern accents."
2.  German Luger love.
3.  Beat-up, rustbucket car love.
4.  Rural Southern Ohio love.
5.  Rough and violent sexual practices.
6.  Amoral and immoral behavior by many.  Love is a rare commodity or one that drives aberrant behavior.
7.  Knockemstiff did not make it into Google street view.  I expect Knockem looks like every other small town.

No comments: