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Legend of a Suicide (Awp Award Series in Short Fiction) (Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction) Hardcover – 15 Dec 2008


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press; 1st Edition edition (15 Dec 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1558496726
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558496729
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 14.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,442,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The characters in these stories are extreme in their isolation from one another, whether they come together in a howling wind or in the comforts of a warm kitchen. Here is suicide, infidelity, madness; here are people whose skewed optimism about the next love affair, the next career, the next homestead, proves deadly. . . . Memory, affection for place, the mangled ways we manage to express the love we feel--David Vann is unafraid of the weight and the complication of these things. He is emboldened in these stories to fall headlong into the disorienting wilderness of the human heart and mind." -- Noy Holland

About the Author

DAVID VANN is assistant professor of English at Florida State University. A contributor to Esquire, The Atlantic Monthly, Men's Journal, and Outside, he is author of a best-selling memoir, A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea, and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and Wallace Stegner Fellowship.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By P. Durrant on 21 Jun 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a short, startling and superbly written debut novel. A fictional exploration of the suicide of the author's father, the book boldly and graphically picks through the sediment of tragedy as it continues to shape the life of one left in aftermath. The book is made up of five self-contained yet interrelated short stories, which hinge around a central narrative about a doomed father-and-son trip into the wilderness - literally and pyschologically. There is a ratcheting, subterranean sense of dread throughout, which erupts into a highly and genuinely shocking twist that left me reeling for several days. Perhaps not a good one for the faint of heart, but a highly gripping read and one executed with brutal honesty and disturbing tenderness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By N. Byrne on 10 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm not with the reviewer who labels this book 'arch' and suffering from 'creativewritingitis'. Surely it has the potential to be these things, but I felt that it doesn't stray too far into these areas, otherwise I would imagine it could have been twice as long as it is. The fact that it is a relatively short book, but no less powerful for that, and the fact that I read it in one day, speaks volumes, I believe, for the skill of the author and his refusal to wallow in too much self pity or indeed therapy laced reflections, and so-called 'creativewritingitis'.

Instead we have several chapters or stories (admittedly some published separately and having as a central theme the suicide of the author's father), that although quite obviously the product of perhaps some creative writing workshops over the years, have an economy of style and an honesty of reflection that are only to the betterment of the book as a whole.

I am finding it hard to write a 'critique' of this book without having to discuss too much in detail the much longer and middle story in this book without giving away what happens, or shall we say the intended 'shock' of the turning point at the end of part one of the longer story. I will admit I found this 'development' a little hard to swallow, purely within the context of how the story had been built up to that point, but when taken in the context of the book as a whole, and keeping in mind the author's obvious intention to face up to his own personal tragedy by writing this book, I subsequently found it to be a brave and mature imagining of the effects of suicide that the author has plainly been dealing with for most of his life. Part two of the longer story in particular vividly, if fancifully, depicts the desperation and madness that grief can produce.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kid Ad on 15 Dec 2009
Format: Paperback
Legend of a Suicide is a series of short stories that deal with suicide, both its impacts and its causes. By far the most successful section of the book is the middle pair of linked stories that detail a father and son struggling to survive in self imposed exile in Alaska. The tension in this section is overwhelming: there are so many potential dangers queuing up to attack our protagonists that it is merely a question of which will arrive next. That a genuine shock arrives as the most disruptive event is impressive, and even more so as almost every reader seems to know there is something coming. However, the short spells of calm bring just as much to the table, as this is when we get to really enjoy the characters and their glorious setting.
As many reviewers have noted, the author's life was clearly hugely important to the writing of this novel, but the same can be said of almost any work, it is just more painfully obvious here. In truth, the novel needs to stand in isolation, and it does. The only exception to this seems to be in the shared names in the minor tales that surround the Alaska story. The seemingly distinct but still similar characters add little, other than confusion. Ultimately, these rather light additions pale in comparison to the more weighty middle, and are the bit you'll have forgotten in a few months. Each tale manages to paint at least one vivid image (though one is rather too kitsch and contrived for my liking), but Alaska overpowers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carto1540 on 26 May 2011
Format: Paperback
This is an amazing read - like nothing you might expect from a memoir/novel. The author takes you to places you would never expect as he explores the complex relationship between father and son. Gripping stuff, and with a twist that was the best I've read this year. Strongly recommend!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 30 April 2012
Format: Paperback
I'd read a lot of buzz about Legend Of A Suicide prior to reading it, and then fell across it in a second hand bookshop in Camden last weekend. I have a belief in the synchronicity of chance, and, for a book that you intend to read to appear in a second hand shop you happen to visit, makes it seem like its "there for you". Like you're supposed to read it somehow.

There's a lot to be said about 'Legend Of A Suicide'. Not really a novel, more 4 vignettes with a novella in the middle, it is initially difficult to engage with, and is definitely an experiment in form and storytelling, even at the end Roy and his father Jim maintain a kind of impenetrable mystique as characters. The bulk of the story concerns Roy going to live with his father in a remote corner of Alaska, in a kind of survivalist scenario whereby they live self-sufficiently without contact with the outside world. The beating heart of this story is the crushing weight of responsibility and burden of guilt on Roy, who suddenly finds himself pretty much a caretaker to his increasingly unstable and unpredictable father. The prose has good descriptive passages bleak, stark, conveying well the oppressive solitude of their location and forced togetherness. It reminded me both of Paul Theroux's Mosquito Coast and Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible, two other novels concerning fathers who drag their children into ill advised and dangerous territory to suit their own ideals and needs. The scene in which Roy's father begins to relate intimate details of his sex life to his child makes you squirm for the terrible predicament Roy has been placed in and wonder why on earth his mother let him go there.
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