The Devil All the Time

The Devil All the Time

A Novel

Book - 2011
Average Rating:
7
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"Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II 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, Theodore, running from the law. 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"--Jacket.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, ©2011.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9780385535045
038553504X
Branch Call Number: FIC/POLLOCK
Characteristics: 261 pages ; 25 cm

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l
lukasevansherman
Jan 28, 2017

"Arvin didn't know which was worse, the drinking or the praying. As far back as he could remember, it seemed that his father had fought the Devil all the time."
Debut novel from Ohioan Donald Ray Pollock, whose still has been called hillbilly gothic, but I prefer white trash noir. Bringing together a range of damaged and disturbing characters, including a serial killer couple, a local sheriff, a fervently religious vet and his son, "The Devil All the Time" plunges you into a very dark, very violent world where, despite the religion theme, God is nowhere to be found. Comparisons to Flannery O'Connor and Cormac McCarthy are common and a few see similarities to Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers," which I think is inaccurate. Stone's film is wildly over the top and bombastic in its "satire" about violence and media. Pollock isn't trying to shock, he simply presents the brutality and nihilism of this world. That said, I think his second novel, "The Heavenly Table," which has more of a conventional crime story is stronger. It's almost too perfect that he grew up in a town called Knockemstiff, which is also the name of his first book, a collection of short stories.

p
PearlyBaker
Oct 30, 2015

David Spade's old, snarky reviews on SNL played in my head the entire time I read this piece. He once said, "Casino? Caseenit the first time when it was called Goodfellas." I too like this book better the first time when Oliver Stone called it Natural Born Killers. At least Woody H. made a powerful speech to Wayne Gayle about how we all murder only we label it industry or defense. There were savage parts about the book that I admired for their sick, originality. However crucified dogs, graphic sexual serial murder and pedophelia are not really my cup of tea. It's one of the scariest propositions of parenthood knowing how powerless you are to protect these innocent souls from the dangers of the world. I remember when shock and tragedy and the cruel reality of life turned me form a naive Mormon into a pessimistic, emo-brooding-stoner almost overnight. I try to protect my kids from the dark side of the force but know ultimately just how powerless we all really are. I would give this 3.5 stars and probably read more of his works and if nothing else I read where Mr. Pollock was compared to Flannery O'Connor so I have yet one more author to explore. I will never get through all these books before I die but at least I won't be bored waiting at doctors offices or sitting through weddings and funerals.

n
nickabe57
Mar 25, 2013

I love reading the gothic, particularly the southern variety. And when I first began reading novels written in this tradition, many of them didn't seem to have many dimensions. The characters and narrative lean a little too hard on Flannery Oconnor, Faulkner's darker works, Mccarthy's Appalachian novels, or Carson Mccullers small town loneliness. Some have stood out. If you haven't read Breece D'J Pancake you should run to your nearest amazon.com and order a collection of his works. Its breathtaking. I mention Pancake because there are moments in Devil that remind me of his short story Trilobites. Capturing the yellow film of tobacco smoke and stale coffee ambiance of small town cafes, patrons nursing hangovers and leering at young, disheveled waitresses. It's a simple enough image and mostly used to establish setting, local color, usually not integral to the central narrative. But when written effectively, these types of nuances skilfully project a mood, here casting a sickly pallor on characters and place.
By and large, Pancake is far too sentimental to be compared to Pollock. Most 'hillbilly noir' makes you squirm a bit, makes you feel grimy, but has dead aim on the heart while doing so. This book is almost all darkness. There are scenes that could be cut from Daniel Woodrell's oeuvre, if Oliver Stone hijacked the scene for a rendition of Natural Born Killers. One needs to really read between the lines, to squint really hard to find any redemption.

k
khammack
Jan 20, 2012

Having read one of Donald Ray Pollock's other efforts, "Knockemstiff," I knew what to expect with this book and could not get my hands on a copy fast enough. Yes, some of the characters and events are very disturbing. Mr. Pollock draws you right into the characters though, something a lot of other authors just cannot seem to get right. The characters also manage to cross paths in unexpected ways. I believe Mr. Pollock is from Ohio but this book seems to have a very Southern Goth vibe. Picture a Coen Brothers movie with an Iron & Wine soundtrack. A very good read.

m
MsLit
Nov 28, 2011

I read a review before I read this book which described it perfectly. This book is a cross between "No counrty of old men and natural born killers." It is not for the faint of heart. If you look around the violence you will discover the smart way in which Pollock ties all his stories together. This book will stay with me for a while.

DesPlainesReaders Nov 02, 2011

Disturbing, twisted and intense. I could not put it down

w
wiltonsugiyama
Oct 24, 2011

Channels
David
Ly
nch and Oliver Stone, you can taste the ugliness. A compelling read nevertheless.

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