Sunday, July 26, 2015

Review - Legend of a Suicide by: David Vann

Title: Legend of a Suicide
Author: David Vann
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 228
Format: Paperback
Source: Personal purchase


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.
My thoughts:

This is the 3rd book I've read by David Vann: Before Legend of a Suicide, I'd read Dirt and Goat Mountain. The only one I have of his left to read is Caribou Island, and by having read what I did read so far, I can easily say that he keeps surprising me in many ways even though after each one of his books I'd said, "not next time, David."

When I read Dirt , I realized that Vann has led a weird life full of sorrow and painful events. For example, his stepmother's mother shoots her husband first and then herself. Vann's father, too, shoots himself. And then his grandmother's suicide notes are left to Vann. In the thank-yous at the end of Legend of a Suicide, Vann writes, "Last of all, I thank my family because my father's suicide was a very hard thing and these stories have to do with our private lives. Even though the stories are fictional, they also draw from real events. My stepmother Nettie Rose has talked to me about many things over the years and never held back her support. This woman who has been through many deaths in her life has always impressed me with her courage."*

If you start reading the book knowing a little bit about his life story, you can't help but think, "is he writing the truth right about now?" And you keep wondering how much of it is fiction and how much of it is real. While reading, I couldn't help but think that the parts I thought were real are actually fiction, and the parts I thought were fiction are real. I think this also has to do with my having read two of his books previously: Vann draws from the darkest, scariest places inside people that they don't even know are in there or that they could be. This leads me to believe that to dig that deep, he has to have lived some of it.

Because I don't want to ruin the value of surprise if you do end up deciding to read the book, I don't want to get into too much detail. However, I have to say that (and as is obvious from the title of the book) suicide is in the center of the story. Legend of a Suicide made me realize once again that I cannot stand people who only think about themselves, force others to be by their side with mind games so that they won't be alone, are depressed all the time and spread that negative energy around like it wouldn't hurt anyone, can't even try to be happy with the little things in life.

*I have translated this part into English from the Turkish translation so it might not be 100% the same as the original.
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