Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Dirt by David Vann

Galen is twenty-two and still living at home without a job, totally dependant on his mother. His only interest is philosophy and he considers himself an 'old soul', without much evidence to back up his assessment. His mother's interest is in keeping Galen dependant on her. To that end, she dribbles out a meager allowance but tells him there is no money for college or anything that would encourage him to make a life on his own.

Mother and son live alone on a walnut farm in California, the family farm and the basis of the financial trust that keeps them going. Galen's grandmother is still alive, but his mother has moved her to an assisted living home. Galen's aunt and teenage cousin live close and visit, but only to try to extract money from the mother. Galen, with no other exposure to women, develops an unhealthy attraction to his cousin, Jennifer.

The family endures day after dreary day, the same arguments and history revisions visited daily. Things change, however, when all five, grandmother, mother, aunt, cousin and Galen, go together to a cabin for a weekend. Things occur there that change the relationships and bring old resentments to the fore. As Galen makes a final attempt to break free from his family, he learns the extent to which he will go, and the actions he is capable of.

David Vann has received a lot of positive attention for his writing. He is the winner of multiple literary prizes, a Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, and a professor at the University of San Francisco. Dirt is another success in his string of novels such as Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, A Mile Down and Last Day On Earth. This book is written in sparse, compelling language as the action alternates between Galen's view of himself as a higher being and the base actions he actually performs. Readers should be aware of graphic violence and sexual matter. This book is recommended for readers interested in family relationships and what the human spirit is capable of. It is a harrowing tale not easily forgotten.

1 comment:

laura thomas said...

I recently won an ARC of this book. Have yet to read it. Your review has made me move it up on my list. Thanks for sharing. I just hopped over from Goodreads to follow you. Nice blog site. be seeing you!