David Vann’s Dirt is unflinching in its exploration of a family in decay.
The year is 1985 and 22-year-old Galen lives with his emotionally dependent mother in a secluded old house with a walnut orchard in a suburb of Sacramento. He doesn’t know who his father is, his abusive grandfather is dead, and his grandmother, losing her memory, has been shipped off to a nursing home. Galen and his mother survive on old family money—an inheritance that his Aunt Helen and 17-year-old cousin, Jennifer, are determined to get their hands on.
A bulimic vegetarian who considers himself an old soul, Galen is a New Age believer on a warpath towards transcendence, practising meditation, firewalking, etheric surgery and authentic movement. He yearns for transformation: to free himself from the corporeal, to be as weightless as air, to walk on water. But he’s powerless to stop the manic binges that overtake him, leading him to gorge on meat and other forbidden desires, including sex. A prisoner of his body, he is obssessed with thoughts of the boldly flirtatious Jennifer, and dreams of shedding himself of the clinging mother whose fears and needs also weigh him down.
When the family takes a trip to an old cabin in the Sierras, near South Lake Tahoe, tensions come to a climax. Caught in a compromising position, Galen will discover the shocking truth of just how far he will go to attain the transcendence he craves.
‘Well-written and compelling: a dark and powerful read.’