By Jack Jeffery
Donald Ray Pollock came to Ohio University-Chillicothe as an adult student, earning a bachelor's degree in English while he was in his 30s. He returns to campus this Friday as a published author who will read from his works and speak about his new book, "Knockemstiff," a collection of Midwestern-gothic short stories set in Southern Ohio.
The event, sponsored by the OU-C Cultural Events Committee, will be held at 7 p.m. in Bennett Hall auditorium and is free and open to the public. Some of the content from Pollock's readings may be explicit.
Pollock is a former paper mill worker who has always had the desire to write, but did not start following his passion until his mid-40s.
"It takes a lot to pull your life together after so many years and return to school," said English Porfessor Veena Kasbekar. "Pollock was an excellent student with great potential and exceptional critical thinking skills. His style is incredible; you read it without realizing how much effort went into it."
Pollock acknowledges Kasbekar and fellow English Professor Ronald Salomone in "Knockemstiff," which was released March 18. The book was named after a hollow where Pollock was raised and has earned high literary reviews.
"It's one of the best collections of short stories that I have ever read and will not be a waste of anyone's time," said Chuck Palahniuk, author of the award-winning novel "Fight Club" that was made into a movie of the same name. "Pollock's characters have a real physical sense in the stories that I couldn't get enough of."
Pollock sums up his thoughts about Southern Ohio on his Web site.
"I feel more comfortable in southern Ohio than I do anywhere else," he writes. "I remember times in my younger years, however, when I felt trapped. 'Knockemstiff' addresses this issue in a real way through characters designed to accurately depict small-town life.
"I never really dreamed I'd get out of the mill when I started (writing)," he notes. "I told my wife, 'I'm gonna give this thing five years and try my hardest and see what happens.' And then I thought, well, if I gave it five good years and nothing did happen, I can still say, when I'm laying in the nursing home or whatever, at least I gave it a shot."
The five-year plan went better than he could have planned. "Knockemstiff" and perhaps the novel he is working on now, which he describes as "a serial killer/coming-of-age book," will serve as his master's thesis at Ohio State University, where he is pursuing a master of fine arts degree.