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Legend of a Suicide: Stories

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  1,978 Ratings  ·  277 Reviews
“The reportorial relentlessness of [David] Vann’s imagination often makes his fiction seem less written than chiseled. A small, lovely book has been written out of his large and evident pain.”—New York Times Book Review

 In Legend of a Suicide, his heartbreaking semi-autobiographical debut story-collection, David Vann relates the story of a young man trying to come to terms
ebook, 272 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2008)
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Will Byrnes
May 31, 2010 Will Byrnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: alaska
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 betw
Dec 29, 2008 Jasmine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american
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
"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
May 22, 2012 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
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
Simay Yildiz
For English, please visit CommunityBookStop.
Bu yazının orijinali canlabirsene'de yayınlandı.

Bu, David Vann'ın şimdiye kadar okuduğum üçüncü kitabı: Pislik ve Keçi Dağı'nı burada yorumlarım zaten. Şimdi okumadığım bir tek Caribou Adası kaldı. Caribou Adası nasıldır, okumadan bilemeyeceğim tabii ama şimdi Bir İntihar Efsanesi'ni de okumuş olarak bu adamın her seferinde "yok, bu sefer şaşırmam" dememe rağmen beni şoktan şokta koşturmaya devam ettiğini söyleyebilirim...

Pislik yorumumda da Vann'ın ol
Mar 22, 2015 Marianne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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
Oct 23, 2010 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2010 Oli rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 09, 2009 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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,
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Daria Ravlic
Jan 29, 2017 Daria Ravlic rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Autobiografska priča o očevom samoubojstvu, životu u izlolaciji, ludilu koje nadire i tjeskobi koja raste. Jako dobro...
Apr 07, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Nov 11, 2009 Alan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2013 juliemcl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to juliemcl by: Lorrie Moore
Shelves: re-read
Stellar and unforgettable. The novella in the middle, Sukkwan Island, is one of the best things I have ever read. if you are reading this review, I must urge you to READ THIS. It reminds me of McCarthy's The Road (and indeed Vann notes his indebtedness to McCarthy in the acknowledgements) but it's so much more thoughtful and piercing - and I loved The Road. That Vann could make me end up sympathizing with such an odious, self-pitying, self-rationalizing character as Jim Fenn is a mighty feat. ju ...more
I like David Vann's books but this one was confusing - it says it is a novel but it is a set of 6 short stories (with one being most of the book) discussing death, suicide, human weakness and confusion. The characters are all the same in each story but the outcome (who died and how) is very different.
The writing is Vann's usual impeccable level - irony, humour, honesty and a variety of human emotions are explored. I just did not like the structure of the book.
Jan Koster
Mar 08, 2016 Jan Koster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wat een debuut Zie mijn recensie
Nov 29, 2010 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Het is moeilijk uit te leggen hoe dit boek in elkaar zit. Sommige mensen zijn ervan overtuigd dat dit boek enkel bestaat uit losse verhalen, anderen denken dat het een roman is. Dat het een puzzel is en dat het einde niet een echt einde heeft. Ik weet het niet. Of toch wel. Ik heb zo het gevoel dat ieder verhaal hetzelfde verteld, maar iedere keer een andere point of view heeft. Het laat namelijk iedere keer een ander gevoel achter, en dat gevoel neem je telkens mee in het volgende verhaal.

Friederike Knabe
Jan 04, 2011 Friederike Knabe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: us-lit
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
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jennifer (JC-S)
May 16, 2011 Jennifer (JC-S) rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
‘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: ‘They’re fictional, but are based on a lot that’s true’. The book is dedicated to James Vann, David’s father, who committed suicide in 1980 when David was aged 13 years.

Each reader can decide for themselves where and how firm a line to draw between the historical James Edwin Va
Dec 31, 2008 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 22, 2015 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Leni Iversen
This was a very confusing book. It starts out plainly enough with the narrator talking about his birth, his early childhood in Alaska, his parents' divorce and his father's suicide. After this introductory chapter each subsequent chapter changes the facts, the timeline, the point of view, the setting, and occasionally the narrator. A few chapters in I felt myself flailing as desperately as the dysfunctional characters. I was searching in vain for some phrase or object that would tell me if I was ...more
Rene Ijzermans
Sep 17, 2013 Rene Ijzermans rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ingeklemd tussen, vooral aan het eind, wat abstractere verhalen met onwerkelijke aspecten die betrekking hebben op de zelfmoord van Vann's vader bevinden zich twee fenomenale verhalen die je naar de keel grijpen. Wie denkt dat een sobere toon van schrijven waarbij de hoofdpersonen amper tot introspectie komen de lezer niet kunnen raken, raad ik aan dit eens te lezen. Gevoelens worden nooit expliciet, maar worden bij de lezer opgeroepen door de gedachten en moeilijk te bevatten gedragingen van de ...more
Cathe Olson
Mar 10, 2011 Cathe Olson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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Can someone tell me....? 2 21 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
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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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