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Worthless?  Only if you're not a fish.

Worthless? Only if you're not a fish.

When I first read the title of Knockemstiff, I thought it was a self-help management book like that Fish! book or The Cereal is the Prize.  When I read the back cover and saw that the author actually comes from the town of Knockemstiff, Ohio, I was intrigued.  When I saw that the book couldn’t really be considered a novel or a collection of short stories, I had to buy it.

I like things that can’t be 100% defined.  Try telling me what Tiny Life is about after all ten books are released.

Knockemstiff is located in a valley in Ohio that resembles my home town: there’s really nothing there, the only people that live there are white trash, and it seems that everyone is strung out on something.  Each story talks about how this loneliness, xenophobia, and drug addiction affects peoples’ relationships.

knockemstiffThere’s one about a kid who gets regular beatings and tries to make his dad proud by beating someone else.  There’s one about how drugs might actually be the Way Out as long as they’re not abused.  There’s one about how, if you grow up with racism and then grow out of it, you quickly revert back to your old ways.

The thing I like about Knockemstiff is that the short stories are actually stories.  For the past year or so I’ve been getting into short stories (how people can tell a whole story in just a few pages fascinates me; it takes me thousands of pages and dozens of years) and it seems that most short stories that I read or so abstract that one could just label them vignettes; that is, they paint a picture, but they don’t tell a story.

For instance, I just read one about an animal shelter and how a woman is addicted to rescuing these animals toward the end of their lives: she only rescues them if they’re about to be euthanised and if they have some sort of terminal disease.  The end.  There’s no real plot, there’s no beginning/middle/end to speak of, and no one changes by the end of the story.  To me, that is a vignette; it paints a picture of sadness.  “This woman enjoys the pain of death” is what I got out of that story.

But in Knockemstiff, every story (except one) talks about a character’s development and at the end of the story the main character has a different perspective.

That’s why I like Stephen King’s short stories; he doesn’t know how to be subtle.


4 Responses

  1. “There was a guy who was a good writer, but sold out and became a hack. He poured himself a drink. Then some inexplicable, spooky stuff happened, and a number of people died. The number was between one (1) and seven billion (7,000,000,000), approximately.”

    Repeat times twenty. Put a picture of a skeleton or a bloody spoon or something on the cover.

    Here’s your four hundred million dollars, Mr. King.

  2. yea! steven king’s a hack!

  3. That’s what I thought it would be when I started reading King’s short stories. But most of his short stories aren’t really about the spooky stuff (there are a few, to be sure).
    It seems the longer his stories are, the worse they are (that Dark Tower / Gunslinger stuff is awful, I couldn’t get through The Stand, etc. but “In a Very Tight Place” is pretty damn good).

  4. Lol, love the name of the town, for sure! This book sounds like a PostSecret kind of book, but instead of one liners, they’re short stories? Sounds interesting.

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