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Dirt: A Novel Hardcover – April 24, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (April 24, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062121035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062121035
  • ASIN: 0062121030
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,940 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Searing. . . . Vann has an extravagantly literary sensibility, and his novel is full of echoes: One thinks of the stately inevitability of classical tragedy, of Chekhov’s lost souls, of the hallucinatory quality of Faulkner’s rural fantasia, and of Stephen King’s depictions of an unraveling mind.” (Washington Post Book World)

“There’s a lot of humor here, of a very dark vein. And Vann, a Guggenheim fellow, excels at sly truths” (Boston Globe)

“Brilliant narrative. . . . This is a novel of violence, destruction and ruin. There is no salvation. And yet Mr. Vann’s soaring writing carries it forward-a reminder of the beauty that can grace even the beastliest things.” (The Economist)

“His language is sharply funny, even as his characters enact a tragedy of Greek proportions.” (The New Yorker)

“The book is wonderfully twisted, but a sinister humor keeps things from getting too bleak. What begins as a literary family drama turns slowly into a heady horror story, part Stephen King and part Immanuel Kant.” (The Daily Beast)

“Brave and brilliant. . . . Dirt is showing us something unexpected, and unexpectedly stunning . . . Vann’s details here, as always, are pitch-perfect.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“Haunting.” (Financial Times)

“Vann has a remarkable gift for capturing the harsh realities of a family held together by hate and violence. Riveting and impossible to put down.” (Library Journal (starred review))

“Multi-award winner Vann writes undeniably powerful prose, whether he is blithely satirizing transcendental meditation, or meticulously detailing Galen’s descent into madness.” (Booklist)

“David Vann excels at writing about the darkest side of the human heart. . . . Vann fully exhibits the writer’s chops that served him well in his earlier works, and he again plumbs the darker parts of the human psyche. This novel is simultaneously disturbing and haunting.” (Denver Post)

“Harrowing. . . . Vann, a professor at UC San Francisco, is often compared to Cormac McCarthy; he exerts a powerful grip here, as Galen learns how far he’s willing to go to get free.” (San Jose Mercury News)

“Vann truly is brave. . . . there is no denying we emerge indelibly affected.” (Philadelphia Inquirer)

“This experience is prolonged to the very last page, graceful paragraph, stunning word. Then it reverberates. Vann’s book is art, and not to be missed.” (BookPage)

About the Author

David Vann is an internationally bestselling author whose work has been translated into nineteen languages. He is the winner of fifteen prizes, including France’s Prix Médicis étranger, Spain’s Premi Llibreter, the Grace Paley Prize, a California Book Award, the AWP Nonfiction Prize, and France’s Prix des lecteurs de L’Express. His books—Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, Dirt, A Mile Down, and Last Day on Earth—have appeared on seventy best books of the year lists in a dozen countries. A former Guggenheim fellow, Wallace Stegner fellow, John L’Heureux fellow, and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, he is a professor at the University of Warwick in England. He has written for the Atlantic, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Journal, McSweeney’s, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, and many others, and he has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, Nova, National Geographic, and CNN.


More About the Author

Published in 19 languages, David Vann's internationally-bestselling books have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and appeared on 70 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Outside, Men's Health, Men's Journal, The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, The Financial Times, Elle UK, Esquire UK, Esquire Russia, National Geographic Adventure, Writer's Digest, McSweeney's, and other magazines and newspapers. A former Guggenheim fellow, National Endowment for the Arts fellow, Wallace Stegner fellow, and John L'Heureux fellow, he is currently a Professor at the University of Warwick in England. www.davidvann.com

Customer Reviews

Dirt is easily one of the most difficult books I've ever read, yet I can't tell you why.
Michael Snyder
I'm not sure why ANYONE would want to do this, except to enjoy watching other people suffer or to enjoy the suffering vicariously (the protagonist isn't very happy).
Pen Name
As it is, these characters are almost caricatures - funny exaggerations caught up in a story that is just too bizarre.
J. Prather

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Evelyn A. Getchell TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Dirt: A Novel is David Vann at his best. Readers familiar with Vann who approach DIRT expecting another Legend of a Suicide: Stories (P.S.) or Caribou Island: A Novel will most likely be thrown off guard. Vann is still the master of visceral atmosphere and probing characterizations but this time he toys with his reader in an unexpected way, teases the reader gently at first, with quirkiness and humor, before unleashing a dramatic prototype who longs to become a Siddhartha but is driven instead to becoming more like Aeschylus' Orestes or Shakespeare's Hamlet or Hitchcock's Norman Bates.

DIRT is a novel of depth and complexity delivered with Vann's trademark ruthless imagination and penetrating style. It opens in 1985 on a Sacramento Valley walnut farm in Northern California. With a comic tone that is unusual for Vann, he makes a mild mockery of a dysfunctional family consisting of its only male - 22 year old Galen - and the four women who dominate his life - his suffocating mother, Suzy-Q, his 17 year old vixen cousin, Jennifer, his bitter and sarcastic Aunt Helen, and finally his wealthy but dementia-addled Grandma.

Galen has always hoped for a normal young man's life, to perhaps travel across Europe for a year before enrolling in a university and in the meantime to also lose his virginity to a woman he would fall madly in love with...but Galen's mother has other plans for her only child.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Eddie on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What happened to the David Vann of Legend of a Suicide and Caribou Island? That author is a master of emotional manipulation -- in a good way, where you don't actually feel manipulated, you just feel sincere emotions batter you as you read. That author could make me sympathize equally with two characters in dire opposition to each other. That author could write characters full of suffering but never insufferable.

That author is not present in Dirt, a book that had me thinking of Thomas Hobbes. It is nasty and brutish but not in a good way. And it's not nearly short enough. The reader does all of the suffering.

I don't really know what Vann was trying to do with the characters here, as he seems to have nothing but contempt for them all. And well he should because these are contemptible, horrible people. But if Vann doesn't care about them, why should I? And why should I slog through a couple hundred pages of these people just being disgusting human beings? The main character -- Galen, from whose POV the book is told -- is the worst of the lot, so naturally Vann would trap us in his head. A lazy, ungrateful, arrogant, monstrous little schmuck, Galen is obsessed with New Agey, Siddhartha nonsense and has himself convinced he alone is Enlightened and Real (when he's not, you know, fantasizing about having sex with his underage cousin).

Most of the page count is spent with his mindless navel-gazing, and I just didn't get it. Vann is an atheist and obviously thinks the New Age stuff is crap, so why does he devote most of the book to it? It must be to inflate what little plot or action there is; basically one hundred pages are spent on Galen moving dirt around with a shovel. As a short story, this might have worked, but there isn't enough here for a novel.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Prather TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I admired the prose in David Vann's Dirt. It is powerful, well written, and his characters leap off the page. That was unfortunate for me, since I found this story to be rather wretched, and was thoroughly disgusted by all these characters. We get to spend the entire novel in the head of 22 year old Galen, and that is not a fun place to be. He is constantly spouting new age doctrine, attempting to meditate and achieve some sort of flow with the earth. He's hampered in his efforts by a mother who doesn't seem to have ever grown up, an aunt who constantly derides him, and a cousin who wants to bed him - much to his delight.

The send up of all the new age philosophy almost goes over the top. As it is, these characters are almost caricatures - funny exaggerations caught up in a story that is just too bizarre. This is excellent writing, but at the end, when it should have been horrific, it just wasn't. I was expecting a chilling portrayal of mental illness, and maybe a bit of suspense. Not to be found here. I wasn't especially horrified by Galen and his actions as much as I was disgusted by him. At the end, I was tired of listening to him and was grateful when it was over.

It's entirely possible that I just missed the boat on this one. Perhaps some satirical elements that went over my head? This is a dark tale best suited to a dark philosophical mood. Not a recommend.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly J. Karas VINE VOICE on May 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I see a good amount of praise for Dirt though myself I have little good to say here. I realize that this is the work of a much acclaimed, prize winning author and yet I walked away from Dirt empty. My first time reading Vann and if this is any indicator, it will be my last time. I anticipate getting "not helpful" votes for my review by other readers who disagree with my opinions. I'm bringing it on regardless. Reviews are meant to help those who are thinking about reading the book and I want to give my two cents that it wasn't a good read in my opinion.

First off you need to know that the writing is graphic when it comes to sexual topics and violence. That was a little too much for me and I wasn't expecting it, hence my first strike against the book.

The novel is one of a dysfunctional family centering around main character Galen who is 22 and living at home with Mom in the old family home complete with nut orchard, how fitting! Other family members are his maternal grandmother who despite being in good physical health, is confined to a nursing home due to mental deterioration. The family also includes Galen's aunt who is a rival against his mother and his cousin who is 17 and a very disturbing young woman. She is a creature who exudes sexuality and violence simultaneously. Also she professes that being violent is just being part of the family. The premise and trying to figure out what makes these people tick are what brought me into the book. The characters I found to be flat, strike two. If the plot went somewhere, it went without me. Three strikes and you're out.

I don't mind a depressing story of which we all agree this clearly is. I do like dark humor and sarcasm which editorial reviews suggest you will find here.
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