Meg's Reviews > Ketchikan: A Short Story from Legend of a Suicide

Ketchikan by David Vann
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's review
Jul 11, 2011

liked it
Read from July 11 to 16, 2011

Hmmm...where to begin. I really liked the writing of this book - pulled me in immediately. And I couldn't put it down. Then....I hit page 160 and I realzed that something was very wrong - the book was no longer making any sense. Sure, the book had run around a bit in time and space, but that was okay. But suddenly, it wasn't just jumping around - it was....a whole different plot with different characters....alive or dead. What the hell? So...I put it down for a bit because I was so frustrated, and then googled it, thinking at least someone else would post a similar frustration. And waaalaaah! The Guardian wrote a piece last year about The Legend of a Suicide (note that the title on this page is different...hmmmm....) and how the English version of the book -aka printed in the U.K - had a strange defect in that the publishers, based on the weakness of the short-story market in the U.K, had printed it as if it were a single book, and changed the lay-out to present the book as if it were in fact a single narrative. They changed the title of the book (see above) to omit the words "short story" and changed the layout to omit the titles of the short stories and instead numbered them as of they were chapters of a single book. Of course there was no mention on the back or front cover describing the concept of this collection of short stories. The sad thing, is doing this completely deprives the reader from understanding how cool the concept of this book is. The concept is this - the author's father committed suicide when he was a young man. This book takes that suicide, either the before, the event, or the after, and changes one major plot point each time. He sets the story in a different place, or at a different time - he changes the truth to get at the truth. He changes key details to get at different aspects of the reality, and the first three "chapters" are very powerful. The issue is that after the third chapter, the book should have ended. The three shorter chapters at the end of the book are took much of a rehash. That being said, the first three chapters (80% of the book), are definitely a worthwhile read, and the concept is something I haven't seen done before.

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