An extract from "Caribou Island," the new novel from award-winning American author David Vannby David Vann / January 26, 2011 / Leave a comment
When David Vann published Legend of a Suicide in 2009 he was hailed as a new voice in American literature. Alaskan-born Vann wrested his fictionalised memoir from the post 9/11 fragments of American narrative and stretched the limits of what fiction could do. His book was an exercise in existential despair which sought to pinpoint the moment when the death of his father, who committed suicide when Vann was a boy, changed his world view.
Its author went from being an unknown to a global name and in 2010 he won France’s Prix Médicis for best foreign book. The extract below is from Vann’s second novel Caribou Island and concerns the fate of seven characters struggling to find love and hold on to it within the constraints of marriage.
Monique didn’t want the quick tour. She wanted the full five-hour tour with glaciers, Prince William Sound, a lunch stop in Seward, on to Homer, the entire peninsula. They climbed into a sleek black helicopter and donned helmets.
Monique leaned close and grabbed his arm. Thanks, Jim, she said in the headset. This is going to be fun. And as the motor whirred up, he felt his spirits rising, too. Maybe this would work out.
The pilot eased them into the air and started saying dumb things about Alaska. We’re almost the size of the Alaska State Bird, and do you know what that is, folks?
The mosquito, Jim said in an unenthusiastic voice.
The pilot paused a minute, thrown off. That’s right, he said.
Are you from here?
OK. I’ll just point out a few sights when we get out farther. Enjoy the ride, folks. Let me know if you have any questions.
They rose up quick and banked off to the east. Forest and then Skilak Lake, which the pilot announced. Jim peered out the window and tried to find Rhoda’s parents’ house, or Mark’s house, but they were buried somewhere in the trees. The lake a deep jade green today in sunlight, ripples on the surface visible even from high up. A river zigging northeast from the head of the lake.
Beginning of Skilak Glacier, folks, the pilot said. This feeds into Skilak Lake. We’ll follow it up into the mountains.
The pilot skimmed lower over the ice, the helicopter a tiny thing in a vast expanse of white, the glacier a wide chute with steep…