Book Review: Dirt by David Vann
April 26, 2012 20 Comments
Number of pages: 272
First published: 2012 (April 24th)
Genre: contemporary fiction
I got this book: for review from Harper as an e-galley
This new book is equally well-written as the previous ones, but not for the faint-hearted. The story begins out just fine, maybe a little too sexually explicit for some people’s liking, but later in the book, well, what can I say? The book becomes rather shocking (in quite a different way) so I ended up liking the book but hating the story, if that makes sense.
Dirt: What it is about
Harper, the publishers, say this: “The year is 1985 and twenty-two-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 seventeen-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 toward transcendence, practicing 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 obsessed 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 crescendo. Caught in a compromising position, Galen will discover the shocking truth of just how far he will go to attain the transcendence he craves. ”
Dirt: What I thought
This was a very different book from Vann’s previous ones. On the other hand, there are quite a few correspondences: family relationships play a large role, isolated living, violence or cruelty is used when deemed necessary.
Galen is 22 years old and apparently waiting to go to college, but he needs money for that, which he doesn’t have. He and his mother live in poor circumstances although it seems that his grandmother may have some money. So, at 22, Galen doesn’t do a great deal with his life, except on a spiritual level. His mother pretends all is well and likes to keep the situation as it is. Galen loves and hates his mother and the life he’s leading, but is too passive to change anything.
I didn’t like Galen nor his mother. They were negative people who damaged each other’s lives as well as their own. The grandmother, with her memory loss, was the most sane person in the family. Helen, Galen’s aunt, and her daughter Jennifer were irritants who were in a constant fight with Galen’s Mum and Galen himself, while only really there for the money.
The time spend in the holiday home with the five of them was a recognisable and interesting family situation. After that, the story slid down into crazyness. Galen’s crazyness. This was (again) very well written but I wasn’t particularly interested in Galen’s thoughts. At least, not that many of them! The whole book was written from his perspective so the reader is in his mind constantly. So, the reason for me to keep reading was that I was hoping for a good ending (under the circumstances).
In all, this was an intriguing book with unpleasant characters. I was disgusted and appalled for quite a bit of the book. Still, it was a great reading experience, hence the 4 stars. Can I recommend it? Yes, to people that enjoy well-written books, like to read a confused person’s mind and can handle shocking events.