17 February 2010

Legend of a Suicide (David Vann)

Caveat- it is very late, I cannot sleep for the third night in a row and, as is always the case when I reach such a hypnagogic state, I am thinking too much for my own good. This is why stupid people have a much better time of it- doltishness the great unknown elixir for a happy life. If there were to be a study of the average intelligence of the insomniac I'm betting it would be higher than the average of the general populace. Although it would probably be staffed and researched by actual insomniacs, desperate to fill in the black hours any way they can. Of course, this would bring the credibility and impartiality of the study under scrutiny and all that work could end up being for naught.

OR, perhaps insomniacs are no more intelligent than the next person. It is possible that we, as a group, just HOPE that we are smarter than average, that our thoughts are so important as to warrant stolen extra hours awake. We want there to be a reason that the ranks of the soporified masses are not open to us- some noble, acumen-based reason.

I finished Legend of a Suicide a few days ago and have been mulling over what to write in my review. Vann's novel is about a man attempting to deal with the suicide of his father when he was a young lad. The author's own father committed suicide and whilst he states that this is definitely a work of fiction, the emotion expressed in the novel must have been mined from his own experiences. So, ultimately, this is an incredibly sad book. Sad in a true way. Not sad in a The Kite Runner way.

Sigh. Before I get disgruntled emails- of course, The Kite Runner was sad. But it was Hollywood sad. Brutal caste system, sexual molestation, racial discrimination, terrorism, rape, child trafficking... YE GODS. Got it. This book is sad with a capital S. Of course, these events do occur around the world, but combined in one novel the effect was so overwhelmingly hopeless that I felt quite removed from the story.

Oh dear, I digress. What I mean to say is that Vann's novel was simple and honest in its portrayal of Roy's struggles after his father kills himself; nothing appeared to be magnified for effect. I felt so hideously and selfishly grateful that I was not Roy, that I have a father whom I have relied on my entire life and will continue to do so for as long as he puts up with me. I have a father whose advice is invaluable to me, who does things for my benefit rather than his, whom I trust beyond all imagining. Roy had a drop-kick.

I didn't particularly like this book. It is written beautifully and Vann certainly surprised me in the way he twisted the plot around (a little obtuse, but I don't want to spoil it for those of you who may read it). But, apart from making me realise how much I love my dad, I just didn't enjoy reading it. Maybe I have had enough of these brutal tales of outdoor survival. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Outlander, Jack London's various works... I like roughing it as much as the next spoilt brat but I now know WAY too much about dolly fishing and weather-proofing. Another thing I am grateful to my father for- he never, in all my years growing up, ever suggested we go live in the Alaskan wilderness for a year, hunting and fishing to survive. Much kudos Daddy.

Rating: 7/10.
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