Goat Mountain: A Novel
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In David Vann’s searing novel Goat Mountain, an 11-year-old boy at his family’s annual deer hunt is eager to make his first kill. His father discovers a poacher on the land, a 640-acre ranch in Northern California, and shows him to the boy through the scope of his rifle. With this simple gesture, tragedy erupts, shattering lives irrevocably.
In prose devastating and beautiful in its precision, David Vann creates a haunting and provocative novel that explores our most primal urges and beliefs, the bonds of blood and religion that define and secure us, and the consequences of our actions—what we owe for what we’ve done.
David Vann is the award-winning author of Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, A Mile Down, and Last Day on Earth.
to mark movement, great splashes and sprays in the shadow now of the tree but carrying light anyway, a faint blue to it even when lofted, and I was standing now at the water’s edge, and holding my rifle in both hands, and my father labored for me. He was crying. I could hear that. He was weeping as he pummeled my grandfather and was pummeled back, slapping sounds flat and unconnected. Tumbling into light again, farther downstream, and I saw my grandfather’s mouth open, great dark hole inhaling,
my rifle and pull at those horns, before he could grow together again or root his upper half. Lighter now, half his weight gone, dragging again over the earth. Still heavy enough I had to pull with both hands, stepping backward, my rifle wedged between his antlers. Veering into brush, scraped along my side, angling back again, my heels digging, the sound of him like canvas, that hide thick. Dragging and dragging in darkness, and the sound of this dragging became everything. Never continuous but
any of us have to hide except the beast? Hooves and antlers and the world returned, a landscape animate. Jesus as aurochs, the bull, thick dark horns, shaggy hanging head thundering across desert stone. Or gone down lower onto his belly, thick toes ending in points, tongue flicked outward to smell, platelets all along his back, eyes like beads. Scent of the buck on me. Smell also of blood. Bent over to face the earth invisible below, stepping into that darkness. The spine in us comes from fish,
was using. I could not hear his movement, only the stream, endless. A sound growing as I neared, taking over until I could no longer hear even my own blood and breath. Trees rotating on their bases across the ground, as if all were held on a great dial. Some low sound to that, deep tumblers of stone, but it could have been only the water, a heavier fall into a deeper pool. His chin ducked close against his chest, the tops of the trees his references, and he slid among them at will. This was the
would travel endlessly inside him and never find a target. It would travel for thousands of years and hit nothing because it would have a shadow somewhere immovable. Those thousands of years become less than an instant and the bullet vanished and winking into being and gone. Dark sky above me swaying in place, and some vent had been opened. I heard his lung collapse, heard the breath of it come out through his side, and it seemed almost that he could be a man. My own head swimming, riding waves