Thursday, October 20, 2011

The fiction I've been reading lately has been brain candy - space opera and Patrick O'Brien's sea-faring novels.  But a friend had urged Donald Ray Pollack's new novel, The Devil All the Time.  Its knotted tapestry of murder, rape, religious madness and boondockish ignorance is grueling, (like re-reading The Painted Bird, with the trek across 1950's and 60's Ohio and West Virginia rather than war-twisted Poland).  The book is all masterfully done and utterly convincing, but I reacted with my usual defensiveness toward authors who focus on the sick and twisted - who don't seem to have the skill for giving a fuller portrait of what human society is like.

But in honesty I thought about northeastern Pennsylvania - the shaggy woods and hills around Galilee, Damascus and Rileyville.  And how if you gathered the local tragedies, the murders and madness across those mid-century decades, you could distill just such a tale.  It wouldn't be the full story of the place; it wouldn't be the only story; but it would be a true story.  And terrible as it is, The Devil All the Time, feels like a true story.

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