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Original Essays | September 4, 2014 0 comments
My new book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, is the story of two bodies. The first body was the new... Continue »
Donald Ray PollockDescribe your latest project.
Knockemstiff is a collection of short stories set in the holler of the same name in southern Ohio where I grew up. I tried to link the stories together through the place and some recurring characters. Most of the people in the book are trapped in situations that they wish they could escape from (addiction, a bad relationship, a dysfunctional family, mental illness, etc.). There are no blatantly redemptive or "feel-good" endings to my stories, though I think tiny slivers of hope can be found here and there. In other words, I tried to remain true to the way the world really works for the poor and the troubled.
I worked in a meatpacking plant in Greenfield, Ohio, in the early '70s, and one of my jobs there involved "pushing" hogs in the basement freezer. The hogs were hung from hooks that were connected to metal wheels on a track. You would get behind five or six of them (they were stiff from the cold) and shove them with your shoulder to the doorway where they were transported up to the cut floor. We probably averaged around 1,700 hogs a day.
Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Talk about your vision of the ideal life.
A. Know something about the way the world works (science, math, politics, etc.). A lot of the people I encounter have no interest in knowledge for its own sake.
B. Read the classics (poetry, fiction, philosophy), or at least damn good literary works.
C. Get some good physical exercise every day, something that makes you sweat.
D. Take up a musical instrument and practice it.
E. Be charitable, with your money or your time or both.
F. Don't be so damn dependent on technology. When you get to the point where you feel the need to call your mate on the cell phone and let him/her know, just to feel connected, that you are getting ready to step into the checkout line at the grocery store, you need to toss that piece of plastic in the trash.
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
Dogs, cats, budgies, or turtles?
In the For-All-Eternity category, what will be your final thought?
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
Five books that I wish all college students (hell, everyone for that matter) in the U.S. were required to read (and study) their first year (I'd also recommend Bulfinch's Mythology and Aristotle's The Nicomachean Ethics, but the five below are a good start):
An American Rhetoric by William W. Watt
History of the 20th Century by Martin Gilbert
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Donald Ray Pollock grew up in Knockemstiff, Ohio. He dropped out of high school to work in a meatpacking plant and then spent over thirty years employed in a paper mill in southern Ohio. Currently, he is a graduate student in the MFA program at Ohio State University. His stories have appeared in the Berkeley Fiction Review, the Journal, Third Coast, Chiron Review, Sou'wester, Boulevard, and Folio, and he has contributed essays on politics to the op-ed page of the New York Times.