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Three generations of men hunt for deer on Goat Mountain. One hot autumn day, grandfather, son and grandson discover a poacher on their land. The eleven-year-old studies the poacher through the scope of his father’s rifle—and pulls the trigger.
Goat Mountain is an intensely powerful novel about how these men, and their boy, deal with the poacher’s death, and with his body. In prose devastating and beautiful in its precision, David Vann explores our most primal urges, the ties that bind us, and the consequences of our actions—what we owe for what we’ve done.
In the tradition of Cormac McCarthy, this is a dark, brutal but magnificent book, the best Vann has written.
‘Goat Mountain by David Vann shows us viscerally that there is no there-there, that humans have to constantly renegotiate what real is, that the rules, laws, commandments are all man-made, and that every time a few people enter a room and close the door or get stuck in the middle of nowhere, there’s going to be a skirmish between spirit and bone. This novel exposes a sort of reality that we all glean but are happy to pretend not to notice. Read it.’
‘The lure of elsewhere saturates the American myth, where escape is not always just escape but the promise of a fresh start, too. In extremis, this instinct for flight can become a longing for purity, for a world unfallen. It’s hard to think of an American writer who knows this more intimately that David Vann. The Alaska that rise from his pages bears little resemblance to Sarah Palin’s hunting paradise. It is a state full of misfits and violent, bitter fishermen. The farthest lip of the American continent, it is where dreams go to die.’
‘A 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. Vann writes with grace and intensity.’
‘Goat Mountain is a full-blooded return to form…Some of the set-pieces are magnificent and the story itself is relentless. The boy’s predicament—both the physical danger he faces and his confusion at finding he exists in a moral vacuum from which no one can help him escape—grips you by the throat…David Vann is at war with sentimentality. I found it impossible to look away.’
‘This story has the power of a bullet fired from a gun.’
‘What Vann does so well is to take recognisably ordinary characters and put them in critical situations, where tiny decisions or actions have life-altering outcomes. This is what gives his books their nightmarish quality – the feeling that these events could happen to anyone.’
‘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.’
‘David Vann is at once the most timely and timeless of writers, a literary master of humankind’s primal embrace of violence, against others and against ourselves.’
‘Vann brings this existentialist family drama about living and killing to life powerfully and convincingly through a charismatic, violent grandfather, a well-meaning father, and the father’s dangerous, sometimes inscrutable 11-year-old son, who kills two men on this ill-fated trip. 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.’
‘This flint-hard novel, in its intensity, will likely be compared to the work of Cormac McCarthy.’
‘His finest, most contemplative work to date.
‘Phenomenal. Goat Mountain is a shocking, dark novel, written in fiery images, brimming with sensory details.’
‘Goat Mountain is a brilliant and wise interrogation of a world in which “We were always killing something, and it seemed we were put here to kill”.’
‘In this powerful tale of the complicated fragility of family ties…internationally acclaimed and bestselling author David Vann convincingly conjures up the primeval atmosphere of the uninhabited wilderness and the depth of the hunting instinct. The spirit of the Old Testament is never very far from his prose, and the story of Cain and Abel hovers over the boy’s sense of right and wrong. This is tense and unsettling stuff, difficult to put down and disturbingly memorable.’
‘muscular, existential, barbaric and dense with allegory…[Vann is] doing something fearless with allegory and character, building a soulless narrator to represent our true nature: primal, instinctual, unapologetic.’
‘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.’