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Dirt Paperback – 2 May 2013

3.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Windmill Books (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099558742
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099558743
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 872,649 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Review

"Vann’s gift – his quest, almost – is a willingness to explore the unimaginable, the unthinkable, on the page. He is the real thing – a mature, risk-taking and fantastically adept fiction writer who dares go to the darkest places, explore their most appalling corners. I haven’t read a novel as rough and shocking or, importantly, as wise and warm as this one in a long time." (Julie Myerson Observer)

"Vann’s rendering of the everyday gratings of family life is pitch-perfect ... A well-written, unflinching exploration of the often terrifying chasm between who we want to be, and who we actually are." (Sunday Telegraph)

"Vann is a brave writer, daring to write about and depict things that most other authors would baulk at, but that’s what makes him so good – that unflinching eye for the darkness you could potentially find in any of us, given the wrong chain of events ... If you want the naked, awful truth, then dive in." (Doug Johnstone Independent on Sunday)

"This is a novel of violence, destruction and ruin. There is no salvation. And yet Mr Vann’s soaring writing carries it forward – a reminder of the beauty that can grace even the beastliest things." (The Economist)

"Unputdownable, thundering at breathtaking speed towards the shocking climactic act. Brilliantly chilling." (Evening Standard)

Book Description

A devastating new novel from one of the most exciting and acclaimed American writers

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Galen lives with his mother in the family home. He is trying to find transcendence through meditation so he can leave this earthly plain and free himself. His mother has controlled him for all of his life and manipulates him to stay at home, she has a rose-tinted view of her childhood. His aunt is the opposite and is trying to get hold of the family inheritance and views her growing up as painful. His cousin, whom he lusts after, teases him sexually and is just as manipulative and cynical as the others in his family. His grandmother has alzheimers and lives in a care home. A trip to the family cabin brings the realtionships to a head and sets Galen off on the path of true freedom.

This is a dark and unforgiving novel where none of the characters have any real redeeming qualities, the closest you have to a sympathetic character is Galen himself. All the characters can either be viewed as either products of their upbringing or they are naturally nasty and cynical. This leads into thoughts about nature vs. nurture which is why, I think, David Vann doesn't bring in any particular motives for their actions and thoughts.

The first part starts fairly light and humorous (mostly at the expense of New Age-ism) and slowly this turns darker and nastier as the novel progresses. David Vann is a master stylist and he handles the almost non-existent plot and unlikebale characters with skill - the way he makes the book readable is with the prose, which it is easy to get swept up in.

I have a feeling this is the type of novel that critics will like and the vast majority of readers unfamiliar with David Vann will dis-like - but for once in a modern novel it is not just style over substance.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found this book to be very dark and was not able to finish the book. As a book blogger and reviewer, I do not do this lightly, however I did not enjoy the author's writing style. Although the beginning of the book was light it was not long before the book took a dark turn of events including both abuse and incest.
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By O E J TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 April 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
It's 1985 in Sacramento, California and 22-year-old Galen lives with his 46-year-old mother Suzie-Q in a remote house that she has spent her whole life living in. Galen, a bulemic vegetarian, seeks transcendence or the state of being free from the constraints of the material world, so he is not particularly interested in the money that his mother claims she has access to by way of an inheritance from her abusive father. Galen's grandmother is still alive though, albeit with a failing memory, and the only other characters are Suzie's sister Helen and her promiscuous 17-year-old daughter Jennifer. The story starts off in one direction - Helen's fury at not having access to the family riches - but then changes to focus almost exclusively on Galen's pursuit of transcendence. He is distracted by the sexual advances of his teenage cousin, and one or two of these incestuous experiences are described in intimate detail, yet the very long-drawn-out ending has little to do with that and very much to do with the irrelevance of everything physical and material.

After a few chapters this promises to become an entertaining black comedy, but it never really fulfills that impression. In many ways emotions are described too literally and even obviously. It would have been better to have left more to the reader's imagination, but the author consistently saves the reader the bother of wondering about details and tells us himself. So despite being a relatively short novel, there's a degree of excessive and unnecessarily heavy dialogue and narrative that spells out for the reader what might have been more entertaining to figure out for ourselves. On the other hand, this could be seen as simply the deliberately adopted style of the story-telling and some might welcome it.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is a vicious, brutal read full of hatred and violence - and, yet, at the same time, it's utterly compelling and intense. With Vann, all the gloves are off as he gets inside the shocking and sometimes nauseating head of 22-year old Galen, still a virgin and linked to his mother through a relationship of hating co-dependence.

This isn't a book for anyone who likes traditional storytelling or moral narrative: this is bleak, disturbing and as grubby as the title promises.

Vann is a writer who doesn't just take risks and push boundaries but throws the reader headlong into a chaos of emotional and narrative danger. This may well be one of the most powerful reads of the year, but it's also one to approach with caution - you have been warned!
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Format: Paperback
“Everything shrank in the glare. The roof of the shed maybe a foot or two lower, the boards thinner by half an inch. The fig tree more squat to the ground, not as tall as before. The furrows shallow. Galen didn’t know what that meant, that everything grew as the light faded and shrank again in the day”

Dirt is the second novel by American author, David Vann.
Recipe for family disintegration
1 young man, 22 years old (going on sixteen), the favoured grandchild, a virgin, trying unsuccessfully to transcend his baser instincts to exist on a higher plane (Galen)
1 single mother, product of a dysfunctional childhood, the favoured daughter, in control of the family trust fund and unwilling to let her son go (Suzie Q.)
1 grandmother, descending into dementia, relegated to a care facility
1 aunt, filled with anger and jealousy about her childhood and her violent father, resentful and determined to get her share of the trust for her daughter (Helen)
1 cousin, seventeen years old, promiscuous, flirtatious, very selfish (Jennifer)
1 trust fund, supposedly being reserved to pay for the care facility
1 secluded mountain cabin with very cramped accommodation.

Combine all the ingredients for a few days and allow to simmer. Wait for the inevitable interaction to occur, observe as things come to a head, then return all ingredients to their previous environments. To the young man and his mother, add one ill-considered threat and a shed with a rusty padlock.

Vann’s novels are never comfortable reads. In this one, he includes underage incestuous sex, described in some explicit and rather disturbing sex scenes, family secrets only hinted at, abusive relationships and mental illness.
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