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Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.)

by

Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.) Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"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.)

Review:

"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

Synopsis:

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.

Synopsis:

In The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea, Rosemary McGuire's compelling debut short story collection, fishermen and -women cling to a life on the ocean's border. Risk and loss are habits to them, but ones that have not undermined their essential humanity--or their hearts. Their lives are rugged, full of grief and grace. No one in these stories comes through unscarred, but they still cling to the hope that comes from a belief in secular miracles.

A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years, and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken.  And in the title story, a soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.

These are fishing stories, told as such stories are told: simple, violent, often coarse, but paying homage to the elemental beauty of the sea. In the end, the reader is left with a sense of the fragility and beauty of life, as it is exposed in proximity to danger and loss.

Synopsis:

In this exquisite debut novel, Mary Emerick takes readers into the watery landscape of southeast Alaska and the depths of a family in crisis.

An abusive father and a broken home forces a teenage Winnie to seek the safety of a neighboring bay and a pair of unlikely father figures. Years later her mother goes missing, and Winnie returns to the hunting and fishing lodge she grew up in to find the world she knew gone. Her once-powerful father disfigured by a bear attack. Her childhood hero revealed as merely human. And her mother’s story rewritten by a stray note.

As Winnie uses the help of friends to sort out the details of her mother’s final exodus, she finds herself pulled into a murky swirl of family secrets and devastating revelations. As the search heads higher into the mountains, Winnie must learn to depend on her own strength in order to reach the one she loves.

Synopsis:

A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken. A soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.

These are fishing stories, told as such stories are meant to be: simple, often coarse, and tinged with the elemental beauty of the sea. They reflect rugged lives lived on the edge of the ocean’s borders, where grief and grace ride the same waves. Rosemary McGuire, a fisherman herself, captures the essential humanity at the heart of each tale. No one comes through unscathed, but all retain a sense of hope and belief in earthly miracles, however humble.

A dazzling debut, The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea will leave readers with a sense of the fragility and beauty inherent in eroded lives spent in proximity to danger.

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.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

The Lost Boys Longtime Co.

The Murder

Easter, Thompsen’s Bay

Innocence

Angel Hotch

Dutch Harbor, New Year’s Eve

Snow Night on the Richardson

Luke

Thompsen’s Bay

The Vega

The Day We Went Down to Chalkyitik

Daniel, Kodiak

The Creature at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

Bonnie Brody, January 1, 2011 (view all comments by Bonnie Brody)
David Vann has written a dark and brooding novella and short stories that are semi-autobiographical in nature. They re-enact his own father's suicide when he was 12 years old. Taking place in remote southern Alaska, Vann explores the inner and outer landscapes of the human psyche. His sense of place is impeccable and his writing is riveting. I was hooked from page one and could not stop reading until the end. This is one of the finest books I have ever read, not just for 2010.
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OneMansView, December 27, 2010 (view all comments by OneMansView)
Harsh environment leads to tragedy (3.75*s)

This book of five short stories and one novella – 75% of the book – is an effort by the author to shed some light on suicide generally, but more specifically on that of his father some thirty years prior. Because of the autobiographical intent of the book, it is somewhat unfortunate that the author included strange, inconsistent twists in some of the stories that confuse and dilute the effort. However, little doubt is left concerning the psychic pain surrounding suicide – its haunting after effects, not to mention the mental deterioration leading to it.

The main story is set in a totally isolated fiord, surrounded by steep mountains, in southeastern Alaska where Jim, a lapsed dentist and twice divorced, has prevailed upon his thirteen-year-old son, Roy, now living in California with his mother, to live for a year in an A-frame cabin. It quickly becomes evident that they are almost totally unprepared for such a life; they lack both knowledge of primitive survival techniques and essential tools and supplies. Within days of being flown in on an amphibian plane, a bear breaks in and devastates their cabin, ruining most of their food supply. That is only a small sample of what the harsh, rocky, wet, and cold landscape suggests is to come.

Beyond the upsetting environmental surprises, little did Roy understand the psychological depths to which his father’s life had sunk. His life had been spiraling downward for some time, with two failed marriages, numerous affairs, a failed commercial fishing venture, and a dentistry career left behind. Roy was not ready for the nighttime crying and talking of his father, which was covered with false cheerfulness in the mornings. The entire scenario was unsustainable, bursting with tension, and it all finally exploded with a devastating death. It quite literally took months for a rescue, but not before tremendous physical hardship and agonizing self-admonishments and rationalizations were endured.

The author does play with facts and no doubt employs much exaggeration, yet most of that is more than justified in trying to explain suicide. Reconstruction of thought processes may be about as close one can get to understanding suicide. Nonetheless, the reader is left wondering how Jim arrived at his mental situation beyond his more obvious setbacks. Mental states and actions do have a large social component.

The saga of life at the cabin is a little repetitious, but is fairly gripping; Roy and his father seemed to be on the verge of disaster on a daily basis. The other, shorter stories are not without interest, despite their somewhat dissonant aspects. Beyond suicide, this book would make any rational person have second thoughts about embarking on a life in the wilds of Alaska on no more than a whim.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780061875847
Author:
Vann, David
Publisher:
University of Alaska Press
Author:
McGuire, Rosemary
Author:
Emerick, Mary
Subject:
Short Stories (single author)
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Paperback
Series:
University of Alaska Press - The Alaska Literary Series
Publication Date:
20150315
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
160
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Sale Books

Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.) New Trade Paper
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Product details 160 pages Harper Perennial - English 9780061875847 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "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.)
"Review" by , "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."
"Synopsis" by , 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.
"Synopsis" by ,
In The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea, Rosemary McGuire's compelling debut short story collection, fishermen and -women cling to a life on the ocean's border. Risk and loss are habits to them, but ones that have not undermined their essential humanity--or their hearts. Their lives are rugged, full of grief and grace. No one in these stories comes through unscarred, but they still cling to the hope that comes from a belief in secular miracles.

A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years, and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken.  And in the title story, a soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.

These are fishing stories, told as such stories are told: simple, violent, often coarse, but paying homage to the elemental beauty of the sea. In the end, the reader is left with a sense of the fragility and beauty of life, as it is exposed in proximity to danger and loss.

"Synopsis" by ,
In this exquisite debut novel, Mary Emerick takes readers into the watery landscape of southeast Alaska and the depths of a family in crisis.

An abusive father and a broken home forces a teenage Winnie to seek the safety of a neighboring bay and a pair of unlikely father figures. Years later her mother goes missing, and Winnie returns to the hunting and fishing lodge she grew up in to find the world she knew gone. Her once-powerful father disfigured by a bear attack. Her childhood hero revealed as merely human. And her mother’s story rewritten by a stray note.

As Winnie uses the help of friends to sort out the details of her mother’s final exodus, she finds herself pulled into a murky swirl of family secrets and devastating revelations. As the search heads higher into the mountains, Winnie must learn to depend on her own strength in order to reach the one she loves.

"Synopsis" by ,
A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken. A soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.

These are fishing stories, told as such stories are meant to be: simple, often coarse, and tinged with the elemental beauty of the sea. They reflect rugged lives lived on the edge of the ocean’s borders, where grief and grace ride the same waves. Rosemary McGuire, a fisherman herself, captures the essential humanity at the heart of each tale. No one comes through unscathed, but all retain a sense of hope and belief in earthly miracles, however humble.

A dazzling debut, The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea will leave readers with a sense of the fragility and beauty inherent in eroded lives spent in proximity to danger.

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