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Authors: David Vann

Tags: #Autobiography, #Literary travel

A Mile Down

BOOK: A Mile Down

Praise for
A Mile Down

A Mile Down
would be a cautionary tale for anyone who dreams of the freedom of the high seas—if only it wasn't so damn exciting…' Stewart O'Nan, author of
Last Night at the Lobster

‘At once memoir, confession, travel book and thriller, David Vann's
A Mile Down
is so vivid and intense you will dread to see it end…The book is a testimony of passion and courage in deadly storms and scarier calms, of a man wrestling with his ghosts and gifts in the very shadow of paradise.'
Robert Morgan, author of
Gap Creek

‘It's as if one of the heroes of
The Perfect Storm
had lived to write his memoirs.' Julie Hilden, author of
The Bad Daughter

A Mile Down
is far more than a tale of ruin at sea. It's a story, also, of desire and shame, of the struggle to escape our histories and know our dreams. You have to read this book, even if you care nothing about sailing or the sea. Just read it.'
Lalita Tademy, author of
Cane River

‘Mandatory reading for anyone who's ever flirted with thoughts of a life spent at sea.' A. Manette Ansay, author of
Vinegar Hill

A Mile Down
is superbly crafted. David Vann has created a tale of hubris and endurance that is both exciting and beautifully written.' Keith Scribner, author of
The Oregon Experiment

A Mile Down
is a riveting and truthful account of a good man's attempt to stay afloat on treacherous waters…The fact that Vann lived to tell it is an achievement in itself.'
Tom Barbash, author of
The Last Good Chance

A Mile Down
is pure adrenaline. Vann by all rights should have died at sea, and yet he's lived to tell about it.' Melanie Thernstrom, author of
The Pain Chronicles


Goat Mountain

‘David Vann is at once the most timely and timeless of writers, a literary master of humankind's primal embrace of violence, against others and against ourselves.
Goat Mountain
…will touch you to the depths of our shared, flawed humanity.' Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning
A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

‘For all its unyielding darkness,
Goat Mountain
is, perhaps perversely, an exhilarating experience. It is, first of all, cathartic in the way of all good tragedies. But it is also exhilarating for the least perverse of reasons: the experience of reading a novelist of David Vann's are artistry and vision.'

Goat Mountain
…is muscular, existential, barbaric and dense with allegory.'
Washington Post

‘This story has the power of a bullet fired from a gun.'

Goat Mountain
is courageous in its metaphysical reach and transfixing in its telling.'
Wall Street Journal

‘A provocative novel that explores our most primal urges and beliefs…Vann writes with grace and intensity.'
Daily Telegraph

‘Vann writes into violence; this is no clinical observation. In reading
Goat Mountain
, be prepared to emerge bloody and scarred.'
Melbourne Review

‘Vann is consistently assured in describing the physical landscape…incidents are crisply, concisely, cunningly told.'
Sydney Morning Herald


‘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.'

‘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.'
Washington Post

‘The author does for dirt what King Lear and Oedipus Rex did for sight and what Patrick Süskind did for scent…You can't put this book down once you start it.'
Globe and Mail

‘If you want to feel good about the human condition, go elsewhere. If you want the naked, awful truth, then dive in.'
Independent on Sunday

‘Compelling…Well written and vividly imagined.'
Sydney Morning Herald

‘His language is sharply funny, even as his characters enact a tragedy of Greek proportions.'
New Yorker

‘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.'
New Statesman

‘In the same tradition as Cormac McCarthy's
The Road
is a relentlessly challenging read that is certainly not for the faint-of-heart.'
Herald Sun

Paris Review

Sunday Times

Caribou Island

Caribou Island
gets to places other novels can't touch. By the end, I felt the senseless logic of the dream. Though it wears the clothes of realism—the beautiful exactness of the language, the unerring eye for detail—it takes us someplace darker, older, more powerful than the daylit world.'
New York Times Book Review

‘Vann, who has turned his boyhood pain and confusion into a clear-eyed understanding of the human condition, has broadened his canvas and honoured his promise as one of the most exciting writers at work today.'

‘Vann's people are hurtling irretrievably toward a dark outcome, and while putting the book down might save you from it, you can't stop reading, just as you can't unlearn its truths.'
Los Angeles Times

‘A novel as precise and unflinching as this makes other recently celebrated books seem melodramatic.
Caribou Island
proves that art wrought from personal pain and obsessed with negative emotion can still be profoundly positive.'
Canberra Times

Caribou Island
is a novel of fine artistry and stark emotional truth—full of our darkest currents and faintest sounds.'
The Times

‘A writer to read and reread. A man to watch carefully.'

Caribou Island
is a beautiful, richly atmospheric if unsettling novel, and deserves to consolidate Vann's position among America's literary high flyers.'
Evening Standard

‘Vann is a forceful, potent writer.'

Legend of a Suicide

‘David Vann's extraordinary and inventive set of fictional variations on his father's death will surely become an American classic.'
Times Literary Supplement

‘His legend is at once the truest memoir and the purest fiction…Nothing quite like this book has been written before.'

‘One of the best writers of his generation.'
Le Figaro

‘Vengeful yet sorrowing and empathetic, plausible yet dreamlike, and completely absorbing.'

‘One jaw-droppingly powerful, courageous and original fiction debut…As a tenth work of fiction this would be impressive; as a debut, it is remarkable.'
Sunday Telegraph

‘Quite possibly the finest American debut of the year.'

‘Extraordinary…Vann has written something truly memorable, disturbing and heartbreaking.'
Courier Mail

‘Stunning…Heart-wrenching and gorgeous and its several voices are done indelibly and with unwavering authority.'
Lorrie Moore

‘Vann's prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.'
Financial Times

‘A piece of relentless, heartbreaking brilliance that bears comparison with Cormac McCarthy's
The Road
Weekend Australian

‘The son spins a lethal web of memory and imagination to achieve a darkly disturbing revenge. A deeply affecting and spookily evocative literary debut.'
Sunday Canberra Times


Goat Mountain
Caribou Island
Legend of a Suicide

Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter


David Vann is an internationally bestselling author published in twenty languages. He is the winner of fifteen prizes, including France's Prix Médicis étranger, Spain's Premi Llibreter, and the Grace Paley Prize. His books have appeared on more than seventy Best Books lists in a dozen countries. He is a professor at the University of Warwick in England and lives in New Zealand for half of the year.




The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000

Copyright © 2005 David Vann

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

Originally published in the United States by Thunder's Mouth Press, an imprint of Avalon Publishing Group, New York, 2005
This revised edition published by The Text Publishing Company 2014

Book design by Text
Typeset by J&M Typesetting

National Library of Australia Cataloguing-in-Publication entry

Author: Vann, David, author.

Title: A mile down : the true story of a disastrous career at sea/ by David Vann.

ISBN: 9781922182081 (pbk.)

ISBN: 9781925095081 (ebook)

Subjects: Vann, David.



Business losses—Turkey—Anecdotes.

Dewey number: 623.8203

For my wife Nancy


THERE'S MORE ART in this world than we think. The art of welding, for instance. In the faint green light through the welding mask, the electrode in my right hand sends a funnel of energy shielded by inert gas, a miniature environment of purity, without the contamination of oxygen. At the melting point, the surfaces of the two aluminum plates form a molten crescent moon. With my left hand, I tap the end of an aluminum rod into the center of this moon and a new crescent instantly forms. Superheated, it sucks up into the sides of the plates and tugs at their edges, creating two small rivers and this vortex where I tap again, forming the newest moon. It's as beautiful as writing or love or anything else in this world, and it surprises me. I had imagined welding to be a brute task and nothing more.

The afterlife of ruin had seemed brutish, also. Sleepless nights, a general aching, and disbelief. But there were no recriminations from my wife or her family, and they gave me the room and support to recover, until new dreams arose and opportunities presented themselves. I've come to realize that a life can be like a work of art, constantly melted away and reshaped. This story is of that melting away.

In the summer of 1976, my father's new, sixty-three-foot aluminum commercial fishing boat was launched, and in the eight months of construction beforehand and the nine months of using the boat afterward, he must have experienced many of the very same vexations and dreams I was to experience building my own ninety-foot yacht in Turkey. I have thought more than once that perhaps I embarked on the entire boating enterprise simply to repeat his experience so that I could know him better—perhaps even, in a way, recover him after his death.

My father killed himself when I was thirteen, so my knowledge of him is limited. No one can tell me exactly why he decided to quit his dental practice and build a commercial fishing boat or what he felt when he had to sell the boat and return to dentistry.

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