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Other titles in the P.S. series:
Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.)by David Vann
Synopses & Reviews
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 home-steading 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.
"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, 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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This stunning collection of five short stories and a novella centers on the suicide of an Alaskan father. [O]ne of the most striking fictional debuts in recent memory." Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author
In semi-autobiographical 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.
“The reportorial relentlessness of [David] Vanns imagination often makes his fiction seem less written than chiseled. A small, lovely book has been written out of his large and evident pain.”—New York Times Book Review
In Legend of a Suicide, his heartbreaking semi-autobiographical debut story-collection, David Vann relates the story of a young man trying to come to terms with the guilt and pain of his fathers suicide. The wild outback of the authors native Alaska acts as the ideal backdrop for this collage of six stories—a novella and five shorts—and mirrors the authors own psychological wilderness. From “an important new voice in American literature” (Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain) comes an unforgettable exploration of the tragic gaps between one boy and his father.
About the Author
David Vann is the author of Legend of a Suicide, winner of France's Prix MÉdicis for best foreign book and a New Yorker Book Club pick; the bestselling memoir A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea; and Last Day On Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter, Steve Kazmierczak, winner of the AWP Nonfiction Prize. A recipient of Wallace Stegner and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, with an MFA from Cornell, he's a professor now at the University of San Francisco and writes for magazines such as Esquire, Outside, Men's Journal, and the Sunday Times.
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