Goat Mountain Hardcover – 3 Oct 2013
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"Part of the experience of reading Vann (over time across his oeuvre, and within individual books) is a kind of uneasy curiosity about just how dark he’s going to get and where he’s going to go to find that darkness. This new excursion is as harrowing as anything he has written, as thrillingly desolate, in its way, as the traumatic hallucinations in Legend of a Suicide…One of the most intense and detailed examinations of an act of violence I have ever read in a work of fiction. Its unflinching realism eventually becomes a kind of nightmare surrealism. It is at once deeply disturbing and powerfully propulsive, a hallucinatory insight into what it means, and how it feels, to kill. The book is a vision of hell focused not on the supernatural, but on nature itself. Vann is a writer who hunts big game. He tracks the same wild territory as Joseph Conrad and Cormac McCarthy – the violence and perversity at the root of what we call human nature, the animal savagery that is our first inheritance…For all its unyielding darkness, Goat Mountain is, perhaps perversely, an exhilarating experience. It is, first of all, cathartic in the way of all good tragedies. But it is also exhilarating for the least perverse of reasons: the experience of reading a novelist of David Vann's rare artistry and vision." (Observer)
"The Cain imagery is powerful and the narrator’s psyche fascinating...Vann’s prose never lags. The novel is not just gripping: it tightens around its reader like a boa constrictor...Goat Mountain is a brilliant and wise interrogation of a world in which “We were always killing something, and it seemed we were put here to kill”." (The Times)
"Vann is a daring writer, as bold in his plot development as he is unflinching in his prose...Goat Mountain is a compelling and morally challenging novel by one of America’s most powerful writers." (Times Literary Supplement)
"Vann evokes the scrub, ridges and conifers of northern California with the meticulous eye of a great landscape artist...This story has genuine potency." (Sunday Telegraph)
"This is Vann’s fourth novel, and in that short time he’s mapped out a unique fictional territory, a rugged, literary landscape with debts to Cormac McCarthy and Ernest Hemingway but with an acuteness of eye that’s all the author’s own...Vann’s description of place and action is unsurpassed, a wonderful clarity to his prose, and the voice of his narrator is truly frightening as he tries to come to terms with what’s happened. The tension builds to an extraordinary and explosive climax among the heavily forested mountains, where everything that makes us who we are is called into question. Powerful and deep stuff." (Big Issue)
"The book has the quality of a ballad or a folk tale…Mr Vann’s work is death-haunted…[He] is so adept, in Goat Mountain, at conjuring a world where rationality has no place…This story has the power of a bullet fired from a gun." (The Economist)
"[A] powerful tale of the complicated fragility of family ties…Internationally acclaimed and bestselling author David Vann convincingly conjures up the primeval atmosphere of the wilderness and the depth of the hunting instinct. The spirit of the Old Testament is never very far from his prose, and the story of Cain and Abel hovers over the boy’s sense of right and wrong. Tense and unsettling stuff, difficult to put down and disturbingly memorable." (Daily Mail)
A shocking, suspenseful and daring new novel from one of the greatest American writers at work today, whose previous books include Caribou Island, Dirt and Legend of a Suicide.See all Product description
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If you like blood and gore then buy .I'm going to bin it as I wouldn't impose it on my friends
The structure of the plot is bare, crude and basic. Stylistically it reads as if the reader is privy to the stream of consciousness via the boy. The events unfold, as if one is watching them happen at that moment in time. It is brutal without the gratuitous use of graphic violence. The author manages to create a very vivid imagery and uses biblical comparisons to expand and explain the characters and their actions.
Just one click, one moment and reality of the boy and his true nature become apparent to all.
He feels nothing for the man he has killed and yet flows over with compassion for the buck he later has to kill. The first he does instinctively the second he is forced to do. Feelings of thrill and excitement at the death of a man and feelings of pity for the animal. Vann uses the imagery of the landscape and geography throughout. Land becomes man and man is one with earth.
The boy feels nothing for humans, obviously identifying with his own image and feels the pain of the animal. In his mind the animal fares better because it expects nothing from death. Simplicity in death.
What does become apparent is the genetic predilection to violence and the sociopathic tendencies. Grandfather thinks nothing of suggesting the murder of one of his blood. He domineers over his progeny. Most people would automatically go for help or get the police but these men think of killing to rid themselves of witnesses.
What has happened in the interim? Has he followed his thrill of killing or did that one occasion help his inner pathology retreat into the background never to be uncovered again. How do the remaining men explain the incidents?
The reader is left wondering, especially about the child, who feels alive instead of feeling remorse, because of his actions.
The moral of the story being perhaps that some things can't be undone and we cannot control our genetic footprint but can we control whether we choose to act on the compulsion brought about by that footprint.
On a more base level it also questions the morality of hunting. Why is killing the man a crime of murder and yet the hunting/killing of the animal considered to be a right, a sport and an extension of our prior caveman existence. Humans elevate themselves to a level of superiority and everything beneath that is a sub-species, which makes it morally right to hunt and kill animals just for the fun of it.
I enjoyed it. It was one of those books you tend to remember.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.
The story is basic - 3 men (Grandfather, father, son, and Tom - the only person that actually gets named) and a child head up to goat mountain for their annual hunting trip. The child kills a poacher. This happens in the first few pages, so I don't think it's any kind of spoiler. Even the blurb on the back pretty much gives it away. The book is then about how the four people handle - or completely fail to handle! - that single event.
The writing is stark, and upsetting in places. There is a long scene in the middle of the book where the boy makes his first (non-human!) kill. It's messy, bloody and traumatic. More so even than the fact that he has already killed a man in cold blood.
The book provides no answers. It doesn't tell us what became of people. We know the child is still alive as an adult because he is narrating from the future. Other than that, nothing. It asks a lot of questions though, and the adult-boy is obviously still trying to work things out.
In the dedication at the back of the book Vann mentions that this was his way of getting the family history of violence out of his system. I'm not familiar with his background, but man did he have a messed up childhood if this is any indication!
I'd heartily recommend this book, but not for a cheerful holiday read by the pool!
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