Do we need to move on from the ‘Musical Masters?’
OSU Writer Don Pollock Scores with Collection of Short Stories
Listen to the Story
An Ohio author with a troubled past and a bright future has hit what is being praised as a home run in the literary world. Chillicothe resident Don Pollock‘s new collection of short stories entitled “Knockemstiff” recently received a rave review in the New York Times book review.
Neatly dressed and looking squeaky clean, at fifty-three, Don Pollack seems like a man who is comfortable in his own skin. But not necessarily comfortable with his newly found celebrity. In a full-page review, New York Times book critic Jonathan Miles describes Pollock as a writer with a “fresh and full-throated voice.”
Enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Ohio State, Pollack is the author of a much-heralded collection of short stories, called “Knockemstiff” named after the holler where Pollock grew up in southern Ohio.
Bespectacled and slightly graying, Pollock looks more like a college professor than a former paper plant worker and drug and alcohol addict. He went through rehab four times before changing his life for good. It’s that gritty part of his background that fuels “Knockemstiff.” The stories are often dark and unrelenting, but his writing is so well-crafted it pulls the reader in before he or she can resist the disturbing characters and their lives.
While each opening sentence to each story seems designed to capture the reader’s attention, Pollock says he was writing for a slightly difference audience. Fictional residents of Knockemstiff appear unrelenting in their determination to self destruct or inflict injury or insult on others, Pollock says he thinks the dark humor woven throughout the stories is lost on urban readers.
In the story “Rainy Sunday,” Sharon the younger and thinner of the two women lured men for her Aunt Joan to take home for the night. It is one of the tamer tales in a collection of stories. In another story a child burns down an ant hill while his father beats his mother inside the house. In “Discipline” an eighteen-year-old body builder dies of a heart attack after being injected with steroids by a father looking to relive his own glory days. In the opening story called “Real Life” a young boy earns the attention and praise of his father only when he nearly beats another boy to death.
The collection is full of references to drugs, alcohol and sex…there is plenty of sex. But as dark and earthy as they are, the stories are beautifully written and strangely unforgettable.
Pollock realizes that hitting a second home run with his next literary offering will be difficult. Pollock is very modest about his achievement describing himself as lucky and deflecting attention to what he calls more talented writers in OSU’s MFA program. He says he has done nothing to celebrate the publication his first volume of short stories and has promised his wife success will not change him.