Vann (Dirt) offers a meditation on violence set during a deer hunt on a Northern California mountain in 1978. The narrator recalls in flashback a few “days I want to remember in every smallest detail,” when his 11-year-old self, seeking his first buck, “just wanted to kill, constantly and without end.” But the hunt’s first victim proves to be a person, not a deer. The boy sights a poacher through his rifle scope and, purposefully but seemingly without conscious malice, shoots him dead. Through most of the narrative, the narrator, his father, grandfather, and family friend Tom quarrel about what to do with the body, for a time trussing it up like a dead deer. The men’s bonds gradually collapse until, in the harrowing climax, the grandfather reaches a decision, with Old Testament finality, about how to evade the consequences of the boy’s actions. The adult narrator steps out of flashback periodically to ponder the nature of killing: “There was no joy as complete and immediate as killing.” This flint-hard novel, in its intensity, will likely be compared to the work of Cormac McCarthy. (Sept.)
Vann's third novel is his most visceral yet: a grinding examination of killing, God and the unnamable forces that create a dynasty of violence. An 11-year-old boy, his father, grandfather, and his father's best friend, Tom, make the trip to Goat Mountain, a vast family ranch, for their annual deer hunt. When they arrive, in the distance they see an orange-vested hunter sitting on a rock, a poacher on their land. The father spies on the stranger through the scope of his gun. He calls his son over to have a look. When the boy sights the poacher through the cross hairs, he pulls the trigger and shoots. The man is obviously dead--a giant hole through him--and now nothing will be the same. The boy, now a man, narrates this story in a staccato of images, as if remembrance is impossible when accessing the mind of a child, and says "[s]ome part of me was not right, and the source of that can never be discovered." The men call him a monster, but what can be done? The father throws the body into the back of the pickup, drives to their campsite and strings the man up as they do deer, year after year. The boy is so remorseless, he seems an innocent, and the grandfather wants him murdered (even tries to kill him one night). Tom wants to head back and tell the police, but the father doesn't know what to do, and so, in his moral inertia, he continues the hunting trip, making meals, flushing out game, sleeping at night, all as the dead man hangs and festers. The narrator meditates on the Bible and its glorification of violence, of our inescapable murderous legacy, and that "[t]he act of killing might even be the act that creates god." Nothing that begins so badly can end well, yet there is also something comforting in the inevitable; when a gun is loaded, the bullet yearns for a home. This book is as all of Vann's fiction: provocative and unforgiving.
The Story has the power of a bullet fired from a gun.
You’ve been waiting a long time for a novel that’ll capture your attention like this does, which makes Goat Mountain the book to hunt for.
Vann has crafted a gripping masterpiece
[A] deep meditation on death, religion and legacy.
Readers will devour Vann’s masterful plotting.
Meet David Vann, one the most talented writers in the American West. Goat Mountain, with all its responsibility and recriminations, is the man at his absolute finest.
This book is written on the edge, a story of legacies, cruelty, the mysteries of DNA and blood, rewarding the reader sentence by sentence and scene by scene right to the astonishing and terrifying ending.
David Vann is at once the most timely and timeless of writers . . . Goat Mountain is a ravishing example of his mastery. . . . This book will touch you to the depths of our shared, flawed humanity.
[Goat Mountain] may just may be his finest, most contemplative work to date.
Internationally acclaimed and best-selling author Vann (Caribou Island; Legend of a Suicide) unveils a shocking and disturbing novel about a deer-hunting trip to a remote 640-acre family ranch in northern California gone tragically, monstrously awry. The book offers a meditation on the violent nature of man, an extended disquisition on Cain and Abel, the Bible, the condition of man's relationship to God, and the "beast" within us all. Alaska-born Vann experienced catastrophic family violence in his past, and his work has returned to this theme again and again, this being his most ambitious exploration of the subject. Vann brings this existentialist family drama about living and killing to life powerfully and convincingly through a charismatic, violent grandfather, a well-meaning father, and the father's dangerous, sometimes inscrutable 11-year-old son, who kills two men on this ill-fated trip. The author's descriptions of the northern California landscape--the chaparral, woods, and mountains—are also masterly. VERDICT This beautifully realized novel is recommended for fans of literary fiction but is not for the faint of heart.—Patrick Sullivan, Manchester Community Coll., CT