Most reviews of David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide have a warning – do not read a detailed plot summary until after you have read the book. It will spoil the impact of this incredibly powerful story. So I won’t let you in on the secrets of the plot but let me tell you, this is the best thing I have read in a long time.
David Vann, an assistant professor of creative writing at Stanford University, visited NZ recently to promote his book and talk to Kim Hill. He talked about the suicide of his father when he was barely a teen. Based on this relationship with this hopeless Dad, Vann mixes memoir and fiction to exact a stunning but “not so sweet” revenge. It is absolutely mind-blowing and compelling. Lionel Shriver was thinking of suing David Vann for several hours of lost sleep. “I defy you to put this book down,” she says.
Even when you put it down, it haunts you like a vivid dream. The raw beauty of the wilderness, the wry commentary on American middle class families, but, all pervading, is the flawed relationship between father and son. “A father, after all, is a lot for a thing to be,” says Vann. Read it at your peril – it is deeply disturbing, funny, and utterly beautiful. I’d be interested in what you think about it.
Read The Shape of Things by Bill Ralston in the Listener if you are puzzled but only after reading the book. If you really can’t get your head around it think of it not as a straight narrative but more like a sandwich of short semi- autobiographical stories with a novella in the middle. But then I like being puzzled…