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Legend of a Suicide [Paperback]

David Vann
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
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Book Description

29 Oct 2009

Roy is still young when his father, a failed dentist and hapless fisherman, puts a .44 magnum to his head and commits suicide on the deck of his beloved boat. Throughout his life, Roy returns to that moment, gripped by its memory and the shadow it casts over his small-town boyhood, describing with poignant, mercurial wit his parents' woeful marriage and inevitable divorce, their kindnesses and weaknesses, the absurd and comic turning-points of his past. Finally, in Legend of a Suicide, Roy lays his father's ghost to rest. But not before he exacts a gruelling, exhilarating revenge.

Revolving around a fatally misconceived adventure deep in the wilderness of Alaska, this is a remarkably tender story of survival and disillusioned love.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (29 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141043784
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141043784
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

Review

An extraordinary, ground-breaking piece of fiction ... Nothing quite like this book has been written before (Alex Linklater, Observer )

A richly gifted newcomer (Sunday Times Books for 2009 )

Vann uses startling powers of observation to create strong characters, tense scenes and genuine surprises (Publishers’ Weekly )

Oh my god, Legend of a Suicide just bowled me over completely. It is such a tender, heartbreaking, breathtaking, horrifying and insanely compelling read that when I finished it I went straight back to the beginning and round again. I implore anyone with functioning eyes to read this book (Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine )

So hard to put down that I am thinking of suing David Vann for several hours of lost sleep (Lionel Shriver )

This book squeezes more life out of the first hundred pages than most books could manage in a thousand, which is pretty impressive, considering it's a book about death (Ross Raisin, author of God's Own Country )

In his portrayal of a young son's love for his lost father David Vann has created a stunning work of fiction: surprising, beautiful and intensely moving (Nadeem Aslam, author of Maps for Lost Lovers )

One of the most gripping debuts I've ever read (Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan )

Impossible to put down and equally impossible to forget (San Francisco Chronicle )

An American classic ... harrowing but beautifully wrought ... prose as clear and bracing as a mountain stream (Sunday Times )

One jaw-droppingly powerful, courageous and original fiction debut...As a 10th work of fiction this would be impressive; as a debut, it is remarkable (Sunday Telegraph )

Hands down the best fictional debut we have read this year (Dazed & Confused )

For the imagery alone and for the sentences, the book would be a treasure, but the story it tells - the story of the suicide of the author's father - has an immediacy and sharpness made all the more special by the tone of distance in the narrative and the beauty of the writing (Colm Toibin, Observer books of the year )

David Vann's Legend of a Suicide is brave, fantastically well written, and completely defies categorisation (Julie Myerson, Daily Telegraph books of the year )

About the Author

David Vann was born on Adak Island, Alaska and spent his childhood in Ketchikan. A contributor to The Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Men's Journal, Outside and National Geographic Adventure, he is author of the best-selling memoir A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea and a forthcoming novel, Caribou Island. He has been a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow and a Wallace Stegner Fellow, taught at Stanford and Cornell, and is currently a professor at the University of San Francisco. Legend of a Suicide won the 2007 Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking experimental journey 30 April 2012
By R. A. Davison TOP 1000 REVIEWER
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exploring a wound through fiction 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
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic middle with bookends 15 Dec 2009
By Kid Ad
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Legend of the written word 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, not to be missed
An excellent book, beautifully written and with a truly jaw dropping moment within the pages. Best read as intended when first published in America, as a series of short stories... Read more
Published 17 hours ago by daniel
2.0 out of 5 stars A Disappointing Read
I recall very well the publication of David Vann's Legend of a Suicide in 2008. It came with a big bang. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Herman Norford
3.0 out of 5 stars this book had good critics
This book had very good critics and I was very attracted by the plot, the story, but I was a bit disappointed by the end. A pity.
Published 14 months ago by Pierre Brewee
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing...
Loved this. Dark, disturbing, surprising. A great read! I would definitely recommend as a short holiday read or a weekend paperback if it's raining cats and dogs out there.
Published 16 months ago by B. Finnegan
5.0 out of 5 stars legend of a suicide
still weeping softly, alternatively horrified!
cruel, captivating and capricious....
if you wan't feel good, don't read this book.... Read more
Published 22 months ago by piaka
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it - but still feel cheated!
I should have read some reviews before embarking on this book - then I would have known it was a series of interlinking (or overlapping) short stories rather than a linear novel. Read more
Published on 16 May 2012 by Wynne Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars False Advertising?
Although I enjoyed the style(s) in which these stories were written, I must say that upon finishing the book my first thought was "huh?". Read more
Published on 22 Nov 2011 by pacin07
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating glimpses of family dysfunction
Anyone thinking of reading this book or David Vann's follow up, Caribou Island, should know that David Vann's own father committed suicide and that in a prior generation, one of... Read more
Published on 23 May 2011 by Bacchus
4.0 out of 5 stars `He wasn't sure the story could make any sense.'
This was David Vann's first book of fiction and is comprised of five short stories and a novella. The stories are fictional but as David Vann states in the acknowledgements:... Read more
Published on 16 May 2011 by Jennifer Cameron-Smith
2.0 out of 5 stars awful book
Have been really embarrassed by this book. I made the people in my book club read it because my sister was getting her book club to read it. Read more
Published on 10 Feb 2011 by traveller
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