Publisher’s description: The year is 1985, and twenty-two-year-old Galen lives with his emotionally dependent mother in a secluded old house surrounded by a walnut orchard in a suburb of Sacramento. He doesn’t know who his father is, his abusive grandfather is dead, and his grandmother, losing her memory, has been shipped off to a nursing home. Galen and his mother survive on the family’s trust fund—old money that his aunt, Helen, and seventeen-year-old cousin, Jennifer, are determined to get their hands on.
Galen, a New Age believer who considers himself an old soul, yearns for transformation: to free himself from the corporeal, to be as weightless as air, to walk on water. But he’s powerless to stop the manic binges that overtake him, leading him to fixate on forbidden desires. A prisoner of his body, he is obsessed with thoughts of the boldly flirtatious Jennifer and dreams of shedding himself of the clinging mother whose fears and needs weigh him down.
When the family takes a trip to an old cabin in the Sierras, near South Lake Tahoe, tensions crescendo. Caught in a compromising position, Galen will discover the shocking truth of just how far he will go to attain the transcendence he craves.
An exhilarating portrayal of a legacy of violence and madness, Dirt is an entirely feverish read.
Winner, $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize, 2013.
Currently longlisted, 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.
Finalist, Grand prix de Littérature policière (France), 2013.
New Statesman Best Books of the Year 2012. “By far the most intense experience I had as a reader this year was with David Vann’s Dirt. Words and ideas seem almost dangerous in his hands and yet his work is full of heart. For me that’s probably the definition of perfection in fiction.”
Trouw (Netherlands) Best Books of the Year 2012
Que Leer (Spain), Best Books of 2013
Foreign editions: UK and Ireland (and most Commonwealth countries), Australia and New Zealand, French, German, Dutch, Spanish (Castilian), Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Danish, Norwegian, Mandarin (Taiwan, Complex Chinese rights), Turkish.
“It’s a novel about trying to escape the body; about degradation at the hands of age and family and greed and lust. It’s “about” these themes in the same way a day is “about” its own weather, its heat or chill or quality of light, which is to say the story feels suffused with these struggles; they charge and contour its every moment, its every twitch or twist or gesture…Brave and brilliant…DIRT is showing us something unexpected, and unexpectedly stunning.”–San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliant…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
“The last hundred pages of Dirt are as audacious and uncompromising a piece of writing as I’ve read in a long time.” Independent on Sunday
“Vann’s gift – his quest, almost – is a willingness to explore the unimaginable, the unthinkable, on the page. He is the real thing – a mature, risk-taking and fantastically adept fiction writer who dares go to the darkest places, explore their most appalling corners.” The Observer
“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. “Dirt” evokes the pre-modern sense of ancestral sins, the way we are irrevocably shaped by events before our time and beyond our control.”–The Washington Post