Dirty Realism: Background information when reading Goat Mountain

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Goat Mountain

by David Vann

Goat Mountain
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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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About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Dirty Realism

David Vann fits into an American literary tradition that has been around since the 1960s, but was only given a name in 1983. Bill Buford, former editor of Granta literary magazine, coined the term "dirty realism" to characterize two trends in American fiction: a tendency toward simplified language, largely free from adverbs or flowery language (as is true of Vann's matter-of-fact prose in Goat Mountain), and frank consideration of the awfulness of ordinary, lower- or middle-class lives.

A post-Cold War phenomenon, dirty realism arose in an atmosphere of suspicion and paranoia. It often reflects on capitalism and consumerism through the experiences of blue-collar workers, sometimes using black humor to lighten the mood. The characters usually have no hope of escaping the poverty of their circumstances; as Tamas Dobozy notes in his University of British Columbia PhD thesis, "Towards a Definition of Dirty Realism," the dirty realist story "chooses entrapment as its natural habitat." ...

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