David Vann / Text Publishing
Ever since his memorable fictional debut, Legend of a Suicide, David Vann’s books have been taking us to brutal emotional terrains, often radiating from his own experience. The subject here is killing and its spiralling aftermath, after an eleven-year-old boy kills a poacher on a seeming whim during a hunting trip. Related by the now-grown man he has become, it is filled with invective for humanity and philosophical interrogations into our true natures. The Biblical story of Cain and Abel is employed as a frame on which to hang his central argument; that we all contain this brutality. Although these sections of the narration are sometimes overworked, the rendering of the landscape and the act of hunting is a masterclass of evocation. A particular account of the killing of a buck should be enshrined in literary history. In this boy’s family – as in the author’s – hunting culture is so entrenched that guns are appendages of their flesh. Vann writes into violence; this is no clinical observation. In reading Goat Mountain be prepared to emerge bloody and scarred.