Legend of a Suicide

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Overview

"In "Ichthyology," a young boy watches his father spiral from divorce to suicide. The story is told obliquely, often through the boy's observations of his tropical fish, yet also reveals his father's last desperate moves, including quitting dentistry for commercial fishing in the Bering Sea. "Rhoda" goes back to the beginning of the father's second marriage and the boy's fascination with his stepmother, who has one partially closed eye. This eye becomes a metaphor for the adult world the boy can't yet see into, including sexuality and despair,
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Massachusetts 2008 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. Signed by Author(s) First US Edition, First Printing. This true first edition, first printing (first impression) ... in a New SECOND State Dust Jacket. The first print run ran to only 750 copies, this Jacket has the New York Times review on the rear cover which indicates it is a second state Jacket. Winner of the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Fiction, 2007. Winner of the California Book Award, Silver Medal in First Fiction. New York Times Editors' Choice and Notable Books of 2008. SIGNED and DATED by David Vann to the title page. [David Vann 11/8/11] *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

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Massachusetts 2008 Hardcover 1st Edition New in New jacket Book. Signed by Author(s) First US Edition, First Printing. This true first edition, first printing (first impression) ... in a New First State Dust Jacket. The first print run ran to only 750 copies, the jacket is also the first state jacket WITHOUT the New York Times review on the rear cover which appears on all second printing's. Winner of the AWP Grace Paley Prize for Fiction, 2007. Winner of the California Book Award, Silver Medal in First Fiction. New York Times Editors' Choice and Notable Books of 2008. SIGNED and DATED by David Vann to the title page. Very scarce. [David Vann 18/9/10] *****PLEASE NOTE: This item is shipping from an authorized seller in Europe. In the event that a return is necessary, you will be able to return your item within the US. To learn more about our European sellers and policies see the BookQuest FAQ section***** Read more Show Less

Ships from: County Kildare, Ireland

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Legend of a Suicide: Stories

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Overview

"In "Ichthyology," a young boy watches his father spiral from divorce to suicide. The story is told obliquely, often through the boy's observations of his tropical fish, yet also reveals his father's last desperate moves, including quitting dentistry for commercial fishing in the Bering Sea. "Rhoda" goes back to the beginning of the father's second marriage and the boy's fascination with his stepmother, who has one partially closed eye. This eye becomes a metaphor for the adult world the boy can't yet see into, including sexuality and despair, which feel like the key initiating elements of the father's eventual suicide. "A Legend of Good Men" tells the story of the boy's life with his mother after his father's death through the series of men she dates." In "Sukkwan Island," an extraordinary novella, the father invites the boy homesteading for a year on a remote island in the southeastern Alaskan wilderness. As the situation spins out of control, the son witnesses his father's despair and takes matters into his own hands. In "Ketchikan," the boy is now thirty years old, searching for the origin of ruin. He tracks down Gloria, the woman his father first cheated with, and is left with the sense of "a world held in place, as it turned out, by nothing at all." Set in Fairbanks, where the author's father actually killed himself, "The Higher Blue" provides an epilogue to the collection.
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Editorial Reviews

Tom Bissell
The reportorial relentlessness of Vann's imagination often makes his fiction seem less written than chiseled. One cannot say that Vann does not do humor well because—here, at least—he does not do humor at all. What he does do well is despair and desperation. In spite (or maybe because) of this, he leads the reader to vital places. A small, lovely book has been written out of his large and evident pain. "A father, after all," Vann writes, "is a lot for a thing to be." A son is also a lot for a thing to be; so is an artist. With Legend of a Suicide, David Vann proves himself a fine example of both.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

This well-crafted debut collection, five stories and a novella, from award-winning writer and memoirist Vann (A Mile Down) revolves obsessively around the suicide of an Alaskan father. Hopscotching through time, each tale examines the father's death from the perspective of his young son, Roy. The first story, "Ichthyology," introduces the young protagonist and his troubled father, a tax-dodging dentist and fisherman who ends up shooting himself on the deck of his fishing boat. "Rhoda" finds the 12-year-old boy bonding with his new stepmother, a pretty young woman his father married before the tragedy. In "A Legend of Good Men," Roy imagines a fantastically violent rampage in which he does away with his mother's suitors, à la Odysseus and Telemachus. The novella, "Sukkwan Island," is an increasingly suspenseful story of survival, in which a 13-year-old Roy and his father brave the elements for months in an isolated mountain cabin. Vann uses startling powers of observation to create strong characters, tense scenes and genuine surprises, leading to a ghastly conclusion that's sure to linger. (Dec.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Tom Bissell
“The reportorial relentlessness of 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.
June Sawyers
“With Legend of a Suicide, Vann looks into the dark and isolated heart of the American soul. It is a devastating journey that is difficult to read but impossible to put down and equally impossible to forget.”
Stewart O'Nan
“The stories in Legend of a Suicide approach a private mythos, revisiting, reinvestigating, and reinventing one family’s broken past. They also transport us to wild, uncharted places on the Alaskan coast and in the American soul. Throughout, David Vann is a generous, sure-handed guide in some very dangerous territory.”
Lionel Shriver
“Headlong narrative pacing, a memorable train-wreck father who gives Richard Russo’s characters a run for their money, and a sure, sharp, inviting voice. So hard to put down that I am thinking of suing David Vann for several hours of lost sleep.”
Alexander Linklater
“His legend is at once the truest memoir and the purest fiction. . . . Nothing quite like this book has been written before.”
Lorrie Moore
“The writing in these stories, informed by both the empirical and the lyrical, is heart-wrenching and gorgeous.”
Christopher Tayler
“Vengeful yet sorrowing and empathetic, plausible yet dreamlike, and completely absorbing.”
Bret Anthony Johnston
“As primal and unforgiving as the Alaskan wilds where it’s set.”
Greg Schutz
“A reckoning. . . . A message of profound sympathy and sadness, anger and regret, Legend of a Suicide is the melting away of one man’s past and the reshaping of tragedy into art. . . . [It] journeys unflinchingly into darkness.”
Nadeem Aslam
“In his portrayal of a young son’s love for his lost father David Vann has created a stunning work of fiction: surprising, beautiful, and intensely moving.”
Ross Raisin
“The most powerful, and pure, piece of writing I have read for a very long time. This book squeezes more life out of the first 100 pages than most books could manage in 1,000, which is pretty impressive, considering it’s a book about death.”
Sarah Broadhurst
‘This is my ‘One to watch’. . . . It’s stunning, beautifully written, with genuine surprises and a complexity which makes you retrace your steps, wonder what really happened and ponder over the whole scenario for days. I loved it. It’s Richard Yates, Annie Proulx territory, and highly recommended.”
Philip Hoare
“David Vann’s dark and strange book twists through natural forces and compressed emotions towards an extraordinary and dreamlike conclusion. One of the most gripping debuts I’ve ever read.”
Colm Toibin
"For the imagery alone and for the sentences, the book would be a treasure."
Colm Tóibín
“For the imagery alone and for the sentences, the book would be a treasure.”
The Times Literary Supplement (London)
“David Vann’s extraordinary and inventive set of fictional variations on his father’s death will surely become an American classic.”
Sunday Times (London)
“A powerful new voice has emerged in fiction.”
The Weekend Australian
“A piece of relentless, heartbreaking brilliance that bears comparison with Cormac McCarthy’s The Road.”
Irish Sunday Independent
“A truly great writer.”
The Times (London)
“Brilliant . . . Vann’s prose follows the sinews of Cormac McCarthy and Hemingway, yet has its own nimble flex.”
Financial Times
“Extraordinary. . . . Reminiscent of Tobias Wolff, Vann’s prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.”
National Geographic Adventure
“The book is as dark, stormy, and beautiful as the ragged Aleutian coast.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781558496729
  • Publisher: University of Massachusetts Press
  • Publication date: 11/5/2008
  • Series: Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Published in twenty languages, David Vann's internationally bestselling books have won fifteen prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and have appeared on seventy-five Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He's written for the New York Times, Atlantic, Esquire, Outside, Sunset, Men's Journal, McSweeney's, and many other publications, and he has been a Guggenheim, Stegner, and NEA fellow.

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Table of Contents

Ichthyology 1

Rhoda 9

A Legend of Good Men 19

Sukkwan Island, Part One 27

Sukkwan Island, Part Two 95

Ketchikan 147

The Higher Blue 163

Acknowledgments 171

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 14 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 14 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Legend of a Suicide is like a drop of water upon a smooth, glassy lake. Small, concentric circles that eventually grow in size as they ripple across the water. Beautiful in one sense, slightly disturbing in another but all in all, an unforgettable re

    Legend of a Suicide is collection of stories. One novella, and five shorter stories. Although they are separate and some were even published independently of the others, they still have a common theme; the relationship between a father and his son.

    As the publisher's blurb indicates, this collection is semi-autobiographical in that the author's father did commit suicide but much of what happens in each story is fictionalized. This is true particularly for the novella, which is quite touching and shocking at the same time.

    Vann does an exceptional job with setting. Nearly all of the stories take place in his native Alaska, so there is much to love. The writing makes you feel as if you're there and considering the fact that I've never visited Alaska, I was quite impressed with how beautiful and true these passages seemed. I could smell the rain and feel the mist and taste the salt in the air. Vann's writing is extremely lush.

    Each story is carefully written. The characters are well-developed, the dialogue realistic but after reading the novella, I was relieved in one sense but felt totally violated in another. I won't discuss what happens within the novella, but I was so completely absorbed in it, that when I realized what had taken place, I felt a tad violated. As if someone had taken advantage of me and then left me feeling all used up.

    I grew up with parents that were/are clinically depressed. The guilt that I felt as a child over not being able to make them happy, ate me up and created scars that will never fade. It's clear that David Vann experienced much of the same pain. The guilt that a child feels over losing a parent to suicide cannot be measured. It's ongoing and overwhelming to consider. These stories clearly share that pain with us.

    Legend of a Suicide is not a fun read. It's not the kind of book to curl-up with, hot cocoa in hand, cat at your side. BUT, it's beautifully written and although haunting at times and even a bit graphic, the images have stayed with me and I would definitely recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2009

    the title catches attention. is a story? Is it real? Where did it happen? was he/she sad or successful? kids in the family?

    Alaska leads the USA in often violent suicides by high calibar rifles, 44 mags are the choices of Alaska Native males. the city males use smaller handguns or point empty guns at local police. overdose on drugs or alchol. the darknees & cold trigger these violent actions. <BR/><BR/>Read Nova by James boice on his view of the dark side of urban suicide in an affluent neighborhood.

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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