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Through a story, darkly

David Vann’s violent treatment of his father’s suicide moves novelist Julie Myerson to rethink her own father’s death and the dangerous borderlands that lie between fiction and memoir

By Julie Myerson   November 2009

ABOVE: The Suicide of Lucretia (1538) by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Legend of a Suicide By David Vann (Penguin, £7.99)  

A friend passes me a book. It’s by a young American writer called David Vann—five short stories and a novella which burst like fireworks from one single terrible fact: the suicide of a father. A real father. His father. The stories and the novella are billed as works of fiction, but the writer’s father—we know this from the author’s acknowledgements—did in fact kill himself when the writer was a teenager.

With this in mind, I can’t help but…

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