Excerpt from Goat Mountain by David Vann, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Goat Mountain

by David Vann

Goat Mountain by David Vann
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 256 pages
    Oct 2014, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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My father put his arm around. Don't worry, all right? We'll be okay. This has happened before.

This was not reassuring, to hear that it was repetitive in real life, just as in the dream.

Tom looking up at the slope above. It's all coming down, he said. Few years, won't be a road here anymore.

My father looked up and studied. Could be, he said. Cutting a new road won't be cheap. But it's Forest Service here. They'd have to do it.

Yeah. What do you want to do?

My father exhaled and puffed his cheeks a bit. Let's go check it out.

So we walked ahead to the slump, three of us single file along the cratered road. About half the width caved away and gone down the hill. Fresh dirt, a darker brown, not yet bleached by the sun. The stone almost black. I was looking at shattered trees below, uprooted, stripped and thrown, the damage continuing beyond the talus slope into forest. The shock of a boulder flung from hundreds of feet above, crushing at point of impact but radiating outward, cracking of every cell in long pale lines like dominoes. I remember thinking that, as if I could see into the meat of the trees.

Enough room on the uphill side, my father said. The truck would fit there.

Just the angle, Tom said. That's pretty steep.

Yeah. Takes a lot to roll, though.

We could sit on the uphill side, try to weight it down a bit.


I looked back at the pickup and saw my grandfather walking toward us along the route we had just taken. He wasn't looking at us, his eyes never looking anywhere, just vaguely ahead. His face showing nothing. Just one foot in front of the other, heavy slow movement that could last for three steps or three days, a walk that could have a destination or not. No glance down at the destruction below. My own grandfather as foreign as a person could possibly be.

The four of us stood there a while, saying nothing, and that was it. No more discussion. I didn't like this at all. We got back in the truck, Tom and I sitting on the uphill side of the mattress, our legs dangling, while my father drove slowly toward the slump and my grandfather remained in the passenger seat. Apparently he was content to tumble down the hill along with two other generations if that's the way it worked out.

Facing uphill, I couldn't see what was happening on the other side. If the tires went off the edge, I wouldn't know until I felt the tilt, and by then it would be too late. I could try to jump, but I'd already be falling through air. Gravity the most terrifying thing in this world, the pull into the void.

My father in low four-wheel drive, moving slowly, rolling at less than five miles per hour. The side lifting as if on a wave, lifting and tilting and I was leaning forward, seeing the wheel well expand as the weight came off the tire, and I didn't know how my father or grandfather would get out in time. They would be trapped in the cab.

I could feel the mountain rolling over beneath us, gravity swinging high in an arc to pull from the side. Gravity a pendulum, and the four of us and this pickup the anchor to that pendulum. But the side lowered, and the world leveled off, and we had not fallen.

Well that was a little hairy, Tom said. The truck stopped, and he climbed back into the cab. We would have to cross this way again in a few days, though by then the road could have changed.

The men in the cab, me on lookout, and we were high on the flank of a mountain now, an open curve of slope without trees. Only low clumps of brush and dry grass, all other ridges too far away to shoot a buck, so there was nothing to search except the warp of the hill as it was revealed ahead, waiting for antlers skylined and the quick jump and run.

A sunny, beautiful day of blue sky and breeze and birds and our pickup winding toward the gate, which would come just as we hit forest again. I was feeling the excitement I always felt on arrival, because this place was not the same as any other. This was where we returned and had returned for generations. This was what we owned and where we belonged and where our history was kept, all who had come before and all that had happened, and all would be told again during this hunt, and for the first time my own story would be added if I could find a buck.

Excerpted from Goat Mountain by David Vann. Copyright © 2013 by David Vann. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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