Legend of a Suicide: Stories
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Legend of a Suicide: Stories

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,211 ratings  ·  188 reviews
In semiautobiographical stories set largely in David Vann's native Alaska, Legend of a Suicide follows Roy Fenn from his birth on an island at the edge of the Bering Sea to his return thirty years later to confront the turbulent emotions and complex legacy of his father's suicide.
ebook, 272 pages
Published March 16th 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2008)
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Lou
Check out my interview with David Vann in August 2012 >>http://more2read.com/review/interview-with-david-vann/
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...more
Jasmine
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
rachel
"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...more
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...more
Oli
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,...more
Alan
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...more
Melissa
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lori
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....more
Charles
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 (http://tinyurl.com/3rh2nw6).

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...more
Jill
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...more
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
Paul
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...more
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
Clare
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...more
Nicole
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...more
Helena
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...more
Myriam
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...more
Guido
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...more
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.
Roshan
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.
Rachael
The longest novella in this book astonished, but also really troubled me. This is definitely an unusually structured novel, clearly influenced by the suicide of the author’s father and how he has, over time, processed that. Highly recommended.
Nasim
This review is from end of 2009, I am just now adding to Goodreads:

I seem to be in the minority, and I almost feel guilty that I did not love David Vann’s novel - my father took his own life when I was eight, so I have an obvious interest in the subject matter. However, I found the book too dislocating & jarring with its shifting perspectives and ‘facts’, and when ‘the terrible thing’ (which seems to have invoked near-reverence in some readers) happens, it seems almost farcical – I found it...more
Derek
An incredible work, powerfully written and deeply, deeply moving. It's been quite some time since a book has impacted me so. David Vann is terribly gifted.
Nic
Just didn't really like this book... Although it's descriptively well written, I just felt manipulated and very depressed by the end of it.
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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.” 2 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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