Summary and book reviews of Goat Mountain by David Vann

Goat Mountain

by David Vann

Goat Mountain
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2013, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2014, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Book Summary

David Vann creates a haunting and provocative novel that explores our most primal urges and beliefs, the bonds of blood and religion that define and secure us, and the consequences of our actions - what we owe for what we've done.

In David Vann's searing novel Goat Mountain, an 11-year-old boy at his family's annual deer hunt is eager to make his first kill. His father discovers a poacher on the land, a 640-acre ranch in Northern California, and shows him to the boy through the scope of his rifle. With this simple gesture, tragedy erupts, shattering lives irrevocably.

In prose devastating and beautiful in its precision, David Vann creates a haunting and provocative novel that explores our most primal urges and beliefs, the bonds of blood and religion that define and secure us, and the consequences of our actions - what we owe for what we've done.

David Vann is the award-winning author of Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, A Mile Down, and Last Day on Earth.

Excerpt
Goat Mountain

Dust like powder blanketing the air, making a reddish apparition of the day. Smell of that dust and smell of pine, smell of doveweed. The pickup a segmented creature, head twisting opposite the body. A sharp bend and I nearly tumbled off the side.

Kneeling on a mattress tied over the pickup bed, all the camping gear beneath. Northern California, 1978. Gripping through lurches and bends, the metal hot even in morning. Switchbacks up the mountain. I had a shoebox of rocks, and when we hit straight sections of road I'd grab a rock and huck it at a passing tree. The fling and bend, the stone thrown to the side, a thrumming sound, turning and chopping through thick air but swept forward by momentum. Forced off course, bent into an arc, swept forward beyond intent. I had a feel already for that arc, prefiguring it, aiming well behind. Pumping a fist into the air whenever stone bit into flesh. The heavy thud over the growl of the engine, perhaps even a glimpse of...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

If David Vann's parable is too overt and repetitive (even at novella length it can feel too long), its subversion of religious imagery is still unforgettable. Could it be that violence is a language of its own? Might the seemingly inescapable cycle of taboo and transgression simply be a random product of human evolution? These are some of the questions Vann raises in this disturbing, audacious, and deeply impressive allegory.   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review Members Only (873 words).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post Book World

Goat Mountain, his third Sophoclean novel, is muscular, existential, barbaric and dense with allegory.

San Francisco Chronicle

The prose is as taut as lean muscle and creates a chilling kind of hypnosis: We begin to think as this 11-year-old boy thinks, an impossible feat of intense artistry, given his horrendous acts and inscrutably twisted mind.

Booklist

[Goat Mountain] may just may be his finest, most contemplative work to date.

Publishers Weekly

This flint-hard novel, in its intensity, will likely be compared to the work of Cormac McCarthy.

Kirkus Reviews

This book is as all of Vann's fiction: provocative and unforgiving.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Shocking. ... The author's descriptions of the northern California landscape - the chaparral, woods, and mountains-are also masterly. ... This beautifully realized novel is recommended for fans of literary fiction but is not for the faint of heart.

The Times (UK)

The novel is not just gripping: it tightens slowly around its reader like a boa constrictor.

The Observer (UK)

For all its unyielding darkness, Goat Mountain is, perhaps perversely, an exhilarating experience. It is, first of all, cathartic in the way of all good tragedies. But it is also exhilarating for the least perverse of reasons: the experience of reading a novelist of David Vann’s rare artistry and vision.

The Economist

The book has the quality of a ballad or a folk tale…Goat Mountain, the devilish hill on which these events transpire, remains a closed and terrible world…This story has the power of a bullet fired from a gun.

Author Blurb Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
David Vann is at once the most timely and timeless of writers ... Goat Mountain is a ravishing example of his mastery. ... This book will touch you to the depths of our shared, flawed humanity.

Author Blurb Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire Mysteries
Meet David Vann, one the most talented writers in the American West. Goat Mountain, with all its responsibility and recriminations, is the man at his absolute finest.

Author Blurb Robert Morgan, author of Gap Creek
This book is written on the edge, a story of legacies, cruelty, the mysteries of DNA and blood, rewarding the reader sentence by sentence and scene by scene right to the astonishing and terrifying ending.

Reader Reviews

Cloggie Downunder

a powerful read
Goat Mountain is the third novel by American author, David Vann. In the early fall of 1978, an eleven-year-old boy is on an annual deer hunting trip on a Californian mountainside with his father, his father’s best friend and his grandfather. This ...   Read More

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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 ...

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