Tuesday, August 9, 2016

"The Heavenly Table"

Donald Ray Pollock is an American writer. Born in 1954 and raised in Knockemstiff, Ohio, Pollock has lived his entire adult life in Chillicothe, Ohio, where he worked at the Mead Paper Mill as a laborer and truck driver until age 50, when he enrolled in the English program at Ohio State University. While there, Doubleday published his debut short story collection, Knockemstiff, and the New York Times regularly posted his election dispatches from southern Ohio throughout the 2008 campaign. The Devil All the Time, his first novel, was published in 2011. His work has appeared in various literary journals, including Epoch, Sou’wester, Granta, Third Coast, River Styx, The Journal, Boulevard, Tin House, and PEN America.

Pollock applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, The Heavenly Table, and reported the following:
One of the two main storylines running through my new novel, The Heavenly Table, involves the Jewett brothers, a family of poor sharecroppers headed by their slightly insane father, Pearl. They have worked on a plantation for a Major Tardweller for almost a year and are just barely surviving on what he pays them. By page 69, Pearl has died and the brothers have just partaken of a funeral supper, eating up all the food in their shack. Two of the three brothers, Cane, the oldest, and Chimney, the youngest, have decided to leave and try to better their miserable lives by robbing a bank. The problem is that they must convince the middle brother, the simple and goodhearted Cob, to go along with the plan. As they lie on the dirt floor in the shack looking upon their meager, mostly worthless inheritance, piled up in the middle of the room, the two try to convince Cob to go with them. At first he refuses, but then, on page 69, he begins to relinquish, mainly out of a fear of being left alone: “He couldn’t imagine a life without his brothers any more than he could imagine being his own man. They had never been apart, not for a single night.” Looking back on it, I’d consider it a pivotal moment in the book.
Visit Donald Ray Pollock's website.

The Page 69 Test: Knockemstiff.

--Marshal Zeringue