x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Claustrophobic, but riveting

The killing of an intruder by an 11-year-old boy in a remote hunting area of the United States sends the boy and his relatives into an emotional journey trying to process the shock of the murder

It starts simply enough: an 11-year-old boy, his father, grandfather and Tom, a family friend, arrive at their remote hunting spot somewhere in the western United States.

The father sees a poacher on their land through his telescopic sight and passes the rifle to the boy, so that he might see him too. The boy looks – then, driven by an impulse too strong to resist and too atavistic to name, squeezes the trigger.

David Vann’s claustrophobic Goat Mountain follows the hunters as they process the shock of the murder over the next three days.

Vann’s prose is dense and full of startling metaphors and images – sometimes so dense that the sledding can get very heavy. It’s narrated by the son as an adult in some unspecified future. He’s a remorseless nihilist with a very strange theology, surveying the enormity of his act and what he sees as the inherent violence of human nature. His is a worldview that will continue to trouble you after the surprising yet ineluctable denouement.

* Kevin McCardle