“Watching the dark shadow moving before him, it seemed as if this were what he had felt for a long time, that his father was something insubstantial before him and that if he were to look away for an instant or forget or not follow fast enough and will him to be there, he might vanish, as if it were only Roy’s will that kept him there.”
(Kindle Locations 1470-1472)
Legend of a Suicide by David Vann is a story based on the authors real life experience. I believe one aspect of writing the story could be to fill a desire in Vann to have a kind of independent reality to his father – a father who committed suicide when Vann was a child.
Vann is an educated writer and seems conscious of his complexes. By investigating and expanding his complexes through creative writing, he is able to create new behavior patterns for himself. It is through creative activities, like writing, that a person can become aware of unconscious patterns and complexes. With awareness we can make conscious decisions, imagine other possibilities, and be individuals and change. In the creative act Vann is able to fill a need to connect to his father as a man and detach from a set of unconscious shadow parental/suicide complexes by symbolically through the child character, Roy.
What strikes me as really interesting is how the trauma or how the emotion around the complex can lead us to the numinous or to our life’s purpose or whatever you want to call it. I’m reminded of a radio podcast from The Moth on children who’s parents have committed suicide. Great story and “candy bar” is the name: http://www.wnyc.org/story/the-moth-radio-hour-a-bust-a-candy-bar-and-chad-everett/ I recognize a similarity in these two stories –regarding the death of a parent – they both have secret belirf with the potential to crush the individual or set them free.
Can a creative act puts an end to a family cycle (secret repetition of trauma) as well, not just the individual? I was discussing this genetic inheritance concept with someone regarding children. Can we clear up complexes regarding inherited family trauma/fear before one we have children so as not to pass on the behavior? Perhaps it’s far fetched idea to think that Vann is saving his children from a similar fate – by symbolically changing a family behavior pattern with his creative story.
“When something did hit, it was a small Dolly Varden, a white flash and tug. He pulled it up easily onto the smooth rocks, where it gasped and bled and he removed the hook and smashed its head and it died.” (Kindle Locations 677-678).
I noticed a fishing theme in the stories. I interpreted it as a metaphor for catching unconscious behavior patterns and killing them. I recently painted a dead fish and feel is represents death of unconscious patterns.
Popular Quotes from Legend of a Suicide
“Unlike my mother, he had neither eyes nor ears for matters below the surface.” (Kindle Location 50).
“In California he had thought all the time of Ketchikan and rain forest and had formed an image in his imaginings and in his boastings to his friends of a wild and mysterious place. But put back into it, the air was colder and the plants were lush but still only plants and he wondered how they would pass the time. Everything was sharply itself and nothing else.” (Kindle Locations 526-528).
“Though Roy had memory, it seemed nonetheless that whatever father he was with at the time was the only father that could be, as if each in its time could burn away the others completely.”(Kindle Locations 1227-1228).
“And he understood this about his father, that he was often gone into his own thoughts and couldn’t be reached, and that none of this time spent alone thinking was good for him, that he always sank lower when he went in there.” (Kindle Locations 1246-1248).
“Listen, his father said. Man is only an appendage to woman. Woman is whole by herself and doesn’t need man. But man needs her. So she gets to call the shots. That’s why the rules don’t make any sense, and why they keep changing. They’re not being decided on by both sides.” (Kindle Locations 1564-1566)
“What was it about the frontier that made him feel nothing else was really living? It made no sense, because he didn’t like to be uncomfortable and couldn’t stand to be alone. Every moment of every day now he wanted to see someone. He wanted a woman, any woman. Landscape meant nothing to him if he had to see it alone.” (Kindle Locations 1955-1957).
“It seems to me that one life is actually many lives, and that they add up to something surprisingly long.” (Kindle Location 2143).
“He had cut himself off from everyone and had nursed what he thought was love but was only longing, a kind of sickness inside him that had nothing to do with Rhoda at all.” (Kindle Locations 2284-2285).
“Roy had killed himself instead, in a clear trade , and this was why Jim was responsible for killing Roy.” (Kindle Locations 2497-2498).
Vann, David (2010-02-27). Legend of a Suicide. HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.