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Legend of a Suicide
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Legend of a Suicide

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  1,489 ratings  ·  215 reviews
Set mostly in the wilds of Alaska, the stories featured in this book take on the shifting legend of a lost father. It features the story 'Ichthyology', where a young boy watches his father spiral from divorce to suicide.
Hardcover, (AWP Award Series in Short Fiction), 172 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by University of Massachusetts Press (first published 2008)
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2666 by Roberto BolañoSir Gawain and the Green Knight by UnknownUnaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa LahiriNetherland by Joseph O'NeillAmerican Lion by Jon Meacham
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2008
18th out of 100 books — 25 voters
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay AsherThe Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey EugenidesRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
377th out of 427 books — 363 voters

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This is an extremely confusing book. I feel the need to put the warning out there that this book is short stories not a novel. Except it is all short stories about the same person. Except that the stories insist on contradicting each other. Do not try to figure out when the suicide happened you will undoubtedly drive yourself crazy. Do not try to figure out who is who. Do not under any circumstances question the narration. And then when you finish all this ignore everything I have said throw out ...more
Check out my interview with David Vann in August 2012 >>
David Vann will take you by the hand and into an abyss, a dark and poignant walk into relationships. Powerful, potent quality of meaning and what had been and a stark warning on that which one can prevent treading upon the same path mentioned within these pages.
This is a story that a reader should not disappointed if they find not a happy Disney like ending. It's raw at times but h
"A father is a lot for a thing to be." What a coincidence to have finished this fantastic, brutal, transformative book over Father's Day weekend.

As a reader, there are certain plotlines and motifs that I am very moved by. These include the following:

a.) animals and the gentleness of nature
b.) the terse affection between fathers and sons
c.) the tragedy of inherited depression
d.) the personal archaeology & myth-making that begins and never ends when one you love commits suicide

This book works
Will Byrnes
When David Vann was 13 years old his father committed suicide. This book is Vann’s way of trying to reach out to his dead father, to bring him back to life in a way. Don’t expect a yuck-fest. The book is divided into five short stories and one much longer piece (175 pps).

All are told from the view, if not necessarily in the voice, of a young boy, Vann’s avatar.

In Icthyology – a father’s suicide parallels a boy’s (Roy) interest in fish and his fish tank.

Rhoda tells of the increasing strain betwe
“Watching the dark shadow moving before him, it seemed as this were what he had felt for a long time, that his father was something insubstantial before him and that if he were to look away for an instant or forget or not follow fast enough and will him to be there, he might vanish, as if it were only Roy’s will that kept him there”

Legend of a Suicide is the first book by prize-winning American author, David Vann. It consists of five short stories and a novella. The stories are all connected and
In the postscript to this astoundingly original book, David Vann quotes Grace Paley in saying that “every line in fiction has to be true. It has to be a distillation of experience more true to a person’s life than any moment he or she has actually lived.”

Through that definition, Legends of a Suicide is a true book. James Edward Vann – the author’s father – did, indeed, kill himself when David was only 13. But the circumstances described here are that of mythology – a real-world event that is ima
Let’s start with the good points. The writing, although nowhere as beautifully moving as Cormac McCarthy’s like some reviewers suggested, is fluid, skilled and really rather good. The ambition of the author should also be acknowledged and the concept to explore a central story through several, often conflicting, angles is both intriguing and appealing. Unfortunately it never really convinces, and such device feels more like an after-though to justify the compilation of several short stories with ...more
David Hebblethwaite
David Vann’s Legend of a Suicide is one of those books that takes concepts like ‘novel’ and ‘short story collection’, tears them up into tiny pieces, and leaves the reader to make sense of the result. It comprises six chapters/stories, the longest of which takes up 170 of the 230 pages. The five shorter pieces may or may not take place within the same chronology; the novella probably doesn’t, because it contradicts the rest of the book – but it depends how you interpret what happens.

What, then,
Simay Yildiz
Yine bitirdin beni David'cim.
yeh pretty good, compelling, shocking, - proper review later

Riveting and visceral, all the stories centre around a boy with a suicidal father (a failed dentist), and a mother with a series of boyfriends (very Tobias Wolf). The viewpoint is usually the child’s, but in the long novella it switches with heart freezing effect to the father’s halfway through. Seriously chilling – appropriate as it’s set in the wastes of Alaska - it deals with isolation, starvation, depression, fear, false hope, failu
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
ARC from publisher

How I love the ladies at Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of "Legends of a Suicide". This is a book I may never have picked up on my own, so I am very thankful to them for the opportunity to review it.

David Vann's family has been surrounded by suicide. At a young age, his father took his own life, his step mother's parents died by murder/suicide, and his grandmother found her mother dead by self-hanging. David had a hard time accepting and believing in his fathers death.
The novella at the heart of the book is worth six stars, while the framing stories, while essential, don't quite cut it for me; they feel a little too mediated by the influence of some of Vann's heroes and mentors, such as Tobias Wolff. So the rating averages out as four (I'd give it four and a half if I could.) But the book as a whole is absolutely worth your time.
switterbug (Betsey)
This is a savage, gutsy probe of suicide and its aftermath. These allegorically linked stories, notably the middle novellas, bring the reader to a naked immediacy, a place where there is no escape and no room to sit on the perimeter. David Vann has re-imagined his father's suicide (thirty years ago, when Vann was 13) and mythologized it in this semi-autobiographical memoir, and he has done this with a graphic, naked brawn and authenticity that I have rarely encountered in other stories of suicid ...more
Friederike Knabe
Whether or not you know about the author's personal context (touched on in the Acknowledgements) that led him to write this deeply affecting and thought provoking collection of stories, the title itself implies that it will be anything but an "easy read". Not a book I would have picked up without strong recommendations. Five short stories, structurally grouped around the substantial and central novella, are linked together through Roy and his relationship to his father Jim, a former dentist turn ...more
Deborah Biancotti
"An author more haunted by paternal amputation would be difficult to imagine. A sadder book about fathers and sons would be impossible to imagine."

So says the New York Times Sunday Book Review (

Vann here collects 5 short stories & a novella, all relating to his father, all exploring Vann's relationship to his father and his relatiionship to his father's death. Some of these are fiction, since we know from a study of Vann's own life that his father suicided when he
Bonnie Brody
David Vann's Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.) consists of a novella and short stories that are semi-autobiographical. Vann spent his early years in Ketchikan, Alaska where his father had a dental practice. His father sold the practice and bought a fishing boat that he hoped would provide a living. His father invested unwisely and lost a lot of money. On top of that, the IRS was after him for some investments he made in other countries. Vann's parents divorced when Vann was about five years ol ...more
Feb 14, 2009 Paul rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2009
Though this is a collection of stories, each focuses on the same character, Roy, and how his father's suicide has shaped his life. After I finished reading the last story, I immediately read the first one again, just to get a stronger sense of connectedness. The book is incredible. Its style is simple, straightforward, and at times reminiscent of Richard Ford in Rock Springs, particularly the duck hunting story. (Though this may be because Roy spends a good amount of time hunting and fishing.) O ...more
Thurston Hunger
Write what you know is often the credo applied to new writers. It always stymies me, as I don't know much...

But Vann has known pain. It comes out mutated (but not muted) into his "fiction" here, almost like the way some movies have alternate endings. His writing is crisp and exceptional, and the focused, or at least longest, story here is a difficult read. More troubling than The Road, as here the apocalypse created is smaller and more personal. I cannot recommend this for everyone; if this is a
Cathe Olson
I recently read Caribou Island and liked it so much, I wanted to read more of this author. Legend of a Suicide contains several short stories and a novella. While the short stories were well-done, it was the novella "Sukkwan Island" that really knocked my socks off. A father and son are dropped in a remote part of Alaska, to homestead in a small cabin and live off the land. The father has some serious emotional problems he's trying to work out and his son Roy is just kind of stuck there with him ...more
Nick Sweeney
This is an extraordinary book, the main story of which is set, mainly, in the inhospitable terrain of a remote part of Alaska. It won’t give anything away if I tell you that the central character is a thirteen-year old boy called Roy, whose flaky father, Jim, has killed himself. This is the frame of the story. Roy looks at his parents’ relationships before, during and after their divorce, and casts what appears to be an author’s eye over them – he seems strangely detached, sometimes – but there ...more
It is clearly a very good, interesting and unique sort of book and I did enjoy it. Some of the imagery was beautiful and clear by only being indicated and it had a tension that was built on despair and frustration throughout it.
I think you could think many things about it, and I think it is good to interpret it how you feel is right. Some ideas it gave me made my head twist a little and I had to give up thinking them.
I think the main thing to know before reading this book is that the author's
LEGEND OF A SUICIDE. (2008). David Vann. *****.
This was a collection of five short stories and a novella, all dealing with a young boy’s relationship with his father. The stories are particularly well written and to the point, in a style that brooks little fantasy and little imagination. They are all relatively straight-forward tales of a boy’s life with his father, and his attempts to discover more about him at times when they are apart. The diamond of the book, however, is the novella: “Sukkwa
A series of semi-autobiographical short stories that surround a hauntingly dark and horrifyingly beautiful novella make up this exploration of David Vann's father's suicide via Roy Fenn and Roy's father, Jim. The short stories themselves were good - each a different story with the same cast of characters that seemed to be more autobiographical than fiction. However, it was the novella that really, truly knocked me off my feet.

In the author's notes at the end of the book, we find out that James
Legend of a Suicide is a strange, sobering book, titled as it is for good reason. Forensic psychiatrists tell us that even when a suicide leaves a note, their motivations are still obscure. For those left behind, the pain of loss is exacerbated by the torture of never really understanding how anyone could do it…
My review does contain a spoiler, but not the big one ...
Helena (Renchi King)
Vrlo mirna a ujedno i uznemirujuća fabula složenog odnosa oca i trinaestogodišnjeg sina.Kao što i sam naslov ovog,autobiografskog,romana govori,stranicu po stranicu osjećamo sumorni nagovještaj samoubojstva.Dakle,imamo roman u tri djela..tri faze piščeva života (dječaka Roya) na Aljasci.
U prvom dijelu kojeg bismo mogli svrstati pod "Ketchikan",dječak opisuje životne prilike svojih roditelja,pokušaje i neuspjehe svog oca u raznim poslovima i brakovima,te,konačno i put do samoubojstva.U drugom,naj
Stonden er zes sterren aan het boekenfirmament, ze mochten alle neerdalen over Sukkwan Island, de godvergeten plek in Alaska waar de centrale novelle (met de gelijknamige titel) uit ‘Legende van een zelfmoord’ zich afspeelt.
De zelfmoord van David Vanns vader is reëel, de legende die er rond geweven wordt een manier om dat trauma gestalte te geven. Vann is met dat trauma niet ‘klaar’ (is iemand dat ooit?), hij tracht het op een hoogst persoonlijke manier te verwerken in ‘Sukkwan Island’ en in vi
Ronduit verpletterend is deze 'Legende van een zelfmoord' van David Vann: de natuur (prominente rol van de wildernis in Alaska), de stijl (meesterlijk uitgepuurd), de thematiek (de extreme eenzaamheid van de hoofdrolspelers), de manier waarop autobiografische elementen verweven en getransformeerd worden (de zelfmoord van David Vanns vader), de structuur (een novelle met daarrond vijf verhalen met evenzovele invalshoeken),... Gewoon perfect.
Tien jaar schreef (en schrapte en herschreef) de auteur
Inge Vermeire
Vooral 'Sukkwan Island' is zo'n gruwelijk 'verhaal' dat je bijna niet verder kan lezen omdat de pijn, het verdriet en de waanzin zo werkelijk lijken. David Vann beschrijft als geen ander hoe een mens alle houvast met de werkelijkheid kan verliezen. Ik vind deze verhalenbundel een meesterwerkje. Het is lang geleden dat een boek mij zo overweldigd heeft.
A thoroughly engaging book about a most depressing subject. The book is shaped by the author's own trauma and is able to bring out the pain & desperation that a suicide brings to individuals and families. Tough book to read due to the subject but very well written.
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Can someone tell me....? 2 18 Jan 23, 2015 04:54AM  
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Published in 19 languages, David Vann’s internationally-bestselling books have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain and, most recently, the $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize 2013, and appeared on 70 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, The Sunday Times, The Obse ...more
More about David Vann...
Caribou Island Aquarium Dirt Goat Mountain Sukkwan Island

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“I thought that was a wonderful idea, that one could be on hell without being in it, like “Just Visiting” on the Monopoly board.” 3 likes
“A favored bit from "A Legend of Good Men"

"My mother and I each had our routines. She taught high school, took long hikes in the state parks near our house, read mystery novels, and sometimes disappeared with explanations as thin as, "I just need a few days," or "I'm going to visit a friend."
"Which friend?" I would ask.
"That's right," she would say.”
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