This is a richly absorbing and dark, domestic drama that combines the natural, icy world of the Alaska frontier with a story of deceptive love and betrayal. If Steinbeck and Hemingway married the best of Anita Shreve, you would get David Vann’s CARIBOU ISLAND. His prose is terse and the characterizations are subtle, but knifing. Like Shreve, his characters are saturated with loneliness and disconnection with their lives, with each other, in a pit of misperception, despair and exile, in a conflict of selves that beat each other down. The topography and remoteness of this “exclave” state, a place non-contiguous physically with its legal attachment (of the US) serves as one of many metaphors to the attachments exemplified in this story.
January 18, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: David Vann, Fictional Biography, Identity, Life Choices, Married Life, Nature Â· Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Alaska, Character Driven, Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Wild West
Many people think of Alaska as wildness with great open spaces in a mountainous wildernous with sub-arctic cold, dark and long winters, ever-light summers, bears and moose. This is not the Alaska of David Vann. His Alaska consists of what sounds like an area most likely the Tongass National Rain Forest. This is the northernmost rainforest on earth, and it extends into southeast Alaska. Trees here are huge but grow close together here much like in the Amazon. It rains up to 400 inches a year in this part of Alaska and the days are often dark and dismal with damp that cuts right through you. There is no vista in this forest; all you have are the trees that hem you in.
David Vannâ€™s LEGEND OF A SUICIDE consists of a novella and short stories that are semi-autobiographical. Vann spent his early years in Ketchikan, Alaska where his father had a dental practice. His father sold the practice and bought a fishing boat that he hoped would provide a living. His father invested unwisely and lost a lot of money. On top of that, the IRS was after him for some investments he made in other countries. Vannâ€™s parents divorced when Vann was about five years old because his father was unfaithful. Vann was witness to some horrific fights between his parents. His father was mercurial of mood, likely with manic-depression that appears to have been undiagnosed. After his parentâ€™s divorce, Vann moved to California with his mother and sister. When Vann was thirteen years old, his father asked him to spend a year in Alaska with him. Vann declined. Two weeks later, his father shot himself. This book is Vannâ€™s attempt to get his head around his fatherâ€™s suicide, along with his own feelings of guilt, shame, anger, denial and fears.