Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

"Legend of a Suicide" by David Vann (Penguin, 2009)

Chapter 1 covers Roy (the narrator)'s birth through to his father's death; Alaska to California; golfish tanks to 63ft fishing boats. Lots of guns. The 1st person narrative continues for a while, then on p.35 we reach "Part One", a 3rd-person-privileged section (Roy's PoV; he's 13) which ends with Roy's suicide. "Part Two" (starting on p.129) is from his father's PoV. The father dies. On p.200 a 30 year-old's first person narrative begins. Maybe it's Tracey, Roy's sister. But no, it's Roy.

The Guardian review says "Inside this edition, Vann's series of five short stories - and one long one - is made to appear as if merged into a continuous novel, with numbered chapter headings. ... This has presumably been done on the assumption that British readers are less likely to buy collections of short stories ... The blurb on the cover says that Roy's father kills himself on the deck of his boat, which is weirdly misleading. This happens in one story, but not in another". Ah. That makes the book more conventional, but I can't see that all of the stories could survive in isolation.

Some of the prose dawdles. In the Alaskan wilderness the episodes repeatedly drive home the same points. The father's walk around the island before the burial is one list of events too many for me. If you like quotable fragments, try this - "'I arrived on the ferry in a red Ford pickup. Even the hubcaps were painted red.' Bill shook his head. 'I was pretty interesting then. I wore cowboy boots.'"

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