All Joe Knight
A Novelby Kevin Morris
An audacious debut novel set in hardscrabble Philadelphia about an orphan named Joe and the basketball team that raised him—a team that also has the power to be his undoing.
I am Joe, sometimes Joey. Ordinary Joe. Average Joe. Joe Blow. Joseph Michael Knight, Jr. Joe Knight. All night long. All Knight Long. All Knight.
Kevin Morris received wide literary acclaim with his story collection White Man’s Problems, praised by David Carr as “remarkable” and Tom Perrotta as “revelatory.” Now Morris cements his place as a bold new voice in American literature with his muscular debut novel, All Joe Knight.
1961. Outside Philadelphia, a soon-to-be father runs into a telephone pole while driving drunk; nine months later, his widow dies in a smashed-up T-Bird. From the start, the orphaned Joe Knight is a blank slate. Taken in by a kindly aunt in a tough-skinned suburb, Joe finds his family in high school with the Fallcrest basketball team—the kind of team that comes around once in a lifetime. All these kids want is to make it to the Palestra, UPenn’s cathedral of college basketball.
Fast-forward thirty years. Joe is newly divorced with one daughter and certain he is unfit for love. Ever since selling the ad firm he built from the ground up for millions, he’s been wiling away his time at a local business school and going to strip clubs, the only place where he can quiet his mind. But then he hears from Chris Scully, a former Fallcrest teammate who is now district attorney. The Justice Department is sniffing around the deal that got Joe rich years ago—a deal he cut every member of the basketball team into, except for Scully. As the details about Joe’s possible transgression are unreeled, he is forced to face the emptiness inside himself and a secret that has haunted him for decades.
“A remarkable and agonizing portrayal of a middle-aged man who doesn’t know what’s become of his life, and doesn’t seem to care.” —Tyler Confoy, Esquire
“[A] two-fisted debut novel . . . Joe is John Updike’s Rabbit Angstrom revised for the Trump era—more profane and straight-talking . . . Like a corner-bar Montaigne, Joe has an opinion on just about everything, from the wealthy to Bob Dylan, Philadelphia Flyers to women’s breasts . . . Joe is a boor, but Morris gives him an awareness of that boorishness, a complex past, and a gift for sturdy, well-turned observations . . . And Morris . . . has put a spotlight on a lower middle class that gets little attention in contemporary fiction, regardless of race . . . One of the graces of fiction is that an effective character doesn’t have to be likable. Morris’s novel is a surprisingly full portrait of one man who exemplifies the notion.” —Mark Athitakis, USA Today, 3/4 stars
“An engaging debut novel. Joe Knight . . . narrates in a gritty, defiant, sardonic voice that’s one of the work’s greatest strengths . . . As he’s had his full share of success, Joe Knight can sing about himself and America, but he sings mostly about the loneliness and disillusionment he’s brought on himself through bad choices, self-pity, and a sense of entitlement. A moving portrait of a lost soul in modern America, for all readers of literary fiction.” —Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT, Library Journal
“Kevin Morris goes for a slam dunk in his debut novel, All Joe Knight.” —Vanity Fair Hot Type
“Suspenseful . . . Morris vividly evokes the dynamics among the boys—and later the disillusioned men—who came of age on the margins of a city in decline, and in the shadow of great colonial founding fathers.” —National Book Review
“Morris’s novel deftly shows that the frustrations of a stunted middle-aged man are evocative terrain.” —Publishers Weekly
“Morris’s muscular prose deftly captures his protagonist’s rough-and-tough beginnings and the scramble to achieve the American Dream.” —Library Journal
“An in your face account of friends, family, and Philly that I enjoyed all Knight long.” —My Dad Reads Too Many Books
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
An Amazon Best Book of the Month in Literature & Fiction for December 2016
Truth is I’ve made enough money and cut off enough strings that I don’t have to do anything and I like it. Coming up the way I did, from where I did, I am not burdened by a sense of sympathy or the guilt of a free pass. Truth is the math is simple: I don’t care enough about changing the general state of things to do anything. If you tuck enough away and are just carrying yourself, there is really not much anyone can do to you, especially if you are not pushing into anyone else’s world. That’s the great thing about America—the freedom to succeed and the freedom to be let alone once you do.
I think about kids once in a while, like who is the kid out there who is me, just forty years later. That passes unanswered. My own kid, she’ll be okay, I have her fixed up, and she doesn’t really want much from me anyway.
Truth is there’s nothing about the status quo that on balance makes me want to do anything differently than live life in this nice-ass apartment, above what’s left of the greene country towne that will never be burnt, always wholesome. Truth is I have ridden a wave generated by a miracle wind-machine born in this brick city five lifetimes ago. All this freedom. Truth is I will probably die like this, another American man who got what he wanted.