Goat Mountain

David Vann, Author
David Vann. Harper, $25.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-212109-7
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013
Release date: 09/01/2013
Vann (Dirt) offers a meditation on violence set during a deer hunt on a Northern California mountain in 1978. The narrator recalls in flashback a few “days I want to remember in every smallest detail,” when his 11-year-old self, seeking his first buck, “just wanted to kill, constantly and without end.” But the hunt’s first victim proves to be a person, not a deer. The boy sights a poacher through his rifle scope and, purposefully but seemingly without conscious malice, shoots him dead. Through most of the narrative, the narrator, his father, grandfather, and family friend Tom quarrel about what to do with the body, for a time trussing it up like a dead deer. The men’s bonds gradually collapse until, in the harrowing climax, the grandfather reaches a decision, with Old Testament finality, about how to evade the consequences of the boy’s actions. The adult narrator steps out of flashback periodically to ponder the nature of killing: “There was no joy as complete and immediate as killing.” This flint-hard novel, in its intensity, will likely be compared to the work of Cormac McCarthy. (Sept.)
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