David Vann


David Vann (1966) is een Amerikaanse schrijver en professor creative writing aan de universiteit van Warwick in Engeland. Hij schrijft zowel fictie als non-fictie en publiceert teksten in tijdschriften als The Atlantic en Esquire. Zijn werk wordt in het Nederlands uitgegeven bij De Bezige Bij.

Vann werd geboren in Alaska en kende daar een moeilijke jeugd. De perikelen van zijn familiegeschiedenis liggen aan de basis van zijn werk Legend of a Suicide (Legende van een zelfmoord, 2008), een semi-autobiografische verhalenbundel. Het duurde twaalf jaar voor hij er een uitgever voor vond. In tussentijd werkte hij op een zeilschip, waarover hij A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea (2005) schreef.

In 2011 verscheen Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter, een non-fictie werk waarin Vann onderzoekt wat een modelstudent drijft tot het plegen van een school raid. Later publiceerde hij de romans Caribou Island (Caribou Island, 2011) en Dirt (Aarde, 2012). Goat Mountain (Goat Mountain, 2013) is een prikkelend verhaal over de meest primitieve instincten, over de banden die ons samenbrengen en over de gevolgen van onze handelingen. Vanns meest recente werk is de roman Aquarium (Ndl. vertaling bij De Bezige Bij, 2015).

Vanns werk werd veelvuldig bekroond, onder andere met de Prix Médicis Étranger, de Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction en de lezersprijs van L'Express. Het is vertaald naar meer dan twintig talen, waaronder het Nederlands, Frans, Spaans, Deens, Chinees en Koreaans. 


Foto © Diana Matar



Dear Cormac,

I've met hundreds of writers around the world, but I know I'm never going to meet you. Very sad, because I think Blood Meridian is the greatest American work ever written. I've read it six times, and all your other works, and I have questions. One is how you went from that earlier draft that the Texas archives have now to the final version. Such an enormous difference. The early draft is something I almost could have written, or at least I can see those sentences are possible. The final is far beyond my reach as a writer and, in the first read, was beyond my reach even as a reader. I wondered about fakery and had to read several more times to be convinced. I ask because I'm not able to revise. My novel Goat Mountain is published the same as the first draft, with only a few line edits, and I wonder if I'm missing some way to turn each work into something better.
I teach Blood Meridian to my students, and I wonder whether you would think that what I say is bullshit. I tell them you're not a dramatist, not writing from a dramatic tradition, and that you can't do the inside lives of characters, or women, or believable dramatic interaction. But I tell them Blood Meridian does something very unusual, skipping the dramatic plane and going directly into theme, through landscape description that extends into figurative landscapes, as when you write about mountains "whose true geology was not stone but fear." This development of theme through extension of landscape is a long American literary tradition, rural and regional, the greatest and most important America literary tradition despite what New York thinks, and I imagine you've felt frustrated by New York and by seeing idiocies such as Franzen on the cover of Time as the great American novelist while you're still alive. Frustrating also to have everyone read The Road instead of Blood Meridian.

But I want to know your response, not just what I imagine. I want to know what it's like to have written your greatest work more than 30 years ago. What does that make writing for you now? And what was it like to have no competitor, to be so much better than any other writer at that time, despite Morrison's Beloved being voted above Blood Meridian? And would you agree that The Road is thin and offers only melodrama, not drama, and relies unbelievably on coincidence at the end, when they find the ones who might be the good people just as he's dying? Would you agree that No Country For Old Men makes a great movie but fails as a novel because you can't do stream of consciousness? Would you agree All The Pretty Horses is wounded by the young woman not being so believable? I ask because I do believe you're the greatest and I want to also see your limitations clearly and I wonder how you think of them.

I do believe the writing you've given us is the greatest gift and teacher possible, and that no conversation or even longer association could provide anything as important, but it's just that you've said so little in interviews and left such a void. It drives me crazy that you're still alive but so unreachable. You'll be dead soon and it'll be too late. I hope you'll at least consider writing more about your work before you leave. It would be nice to know what you thought.



De Standaard der Letteren publiceerde op 29 januari 2016 de brief die David Vann aan zijn collega Cormac McCarthy schreef.

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