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A stunning critique of the middle American psyche that it can be argued has led to the kind of wrong headed thinking of the Tea Party Movement. Never less than fully gripping, as the plot unfolds, this novel ruthlessly lays into the fast food, the lack of imagination or appreciation of context and lust for empty fame that afflicts most of the middle america (I know, I've been there). It is particularly impressive because it does so through the eyes of a teenage boy, in his language and with all the associated lusts and awkwardness. Despite the background of a high school massacre it is actually a darkly funny read, which is also not something you necessarily expect from a booker prize winner. The characters are acutely well described, you yourself feel the protagonist's disgust as he describes the burger barns and the grotesque individuals which inhabit them. Perhaps most striking is the way in which human emotion is lost in such circumstances. There is no sense of love between Vernon and his mother, everything is ruled by material concerns. This is a theme explored in more depth in the also excellent Lights Out In Wonderland by the same author.
Black or dark comedy, (also known as black, dark or morbid humour,) is a genre of comedy in which the subject matter is usually a taboo. A taboo is an issue which sits uncomfortably with the morals or conventions of a society. Abortion, gay couples having the right to adopt, and the death penalty, are all examples of taboos in certain cultures. A person may believe the death penalty is right in principle, but still feel unsettled by the idea of a teenager being executed. Most people do not like talking about taboo topics for this exact reason; it makes them feel uncomfortable. Black comedy forces people to engage with a subject which is at least awkward, and at most tragic, whilst making them laugh. This produces a mixture of emotions, which would never typically occur together in real life. The question is... how dark can it get whilst still being funny?
This question is answered for us by the book, Vernon God Little. It deals with an issue which is not only tragic, but relevant also. Written in the first person, it tells the story of Vernon Gregory Little, a fifteen year old boy who is accused of machine-gunning sixteen of his classmates. Facing the death penalty, Vernon decides to run from his town in the USA, to Mexico. Loaded with irony, Vernon God Little is laugh out loud funny. DBC Pierre incorperates enjoyably familiar teenage dilemas into this horrific situation. All the characters have strong personalities, which provoke unavoidable reactions in the reader, for example, there is a fantastically, despisable villain.
This book is not an easy read, for two reasons. Firstly, it is written entirely in a regional dialect, which works wonderfully, but requires some getting used to. Secondly, the reader does not find out exactly what is going on until quite late on in the book. Very little information is given in the first few chapters. But persevere with it... because the ending is sheer perfection. Upon reaching the end of the book, you realise the plot must have been designed meticulously, because every piece falls into place.
Vernon God Little won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction in 2003 against some stiff competition from Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller, and Brick Lane by Monica Ali, to name a few. Vernon God Little was the rightful winner.
A great novel that sucks you in from the word go. It reminded me of J.D Salinger's Catcher in the Rye in the 'anti-everything' adolescent sense, but more relevant to the present day. The prose is intially quite hard to get your head around, but you soon settle into Vernon's style. It is frank, rude, but incredibly endearing. VGL is misunderstood more than the average teenager and you're soon transported on a journey into his life and beyond as the story unfolds, with him as your guide. All characters initially appear fundamentally flawed, but as the book progresses you begin to equate your life with theirs, realising that we're all flawed in some way and all searching for the same things. As for Vernon, well he's essentially searching for himself and finds a lot more. A great book and a deserving prize winner. Let Vernon into your world, you won't regret it.
I have to admit Im rather cynical when it comes to prize-winning novels, as soon as a book is labelled Booker prize winner something inside me instinctively begins to doubt the actual worth of the book suspecting that the judges have voted for what they consider is the kind of book that should win rather than the best read. It seems that the more glowing reviews a book gets the more suspicious as to its true worth I become. So invariably when this type of book is recommended to me I approach with what is probably an unhealthy dose of literary cynicism. This was my state of thinking when I picked up DBC Pierres 2003 Booker winning and debut novel Vernon God Little.
Our hero is Vernon Little a 15year-old boy living in the small town of Martirio in Texas whose only claim to fame seem to be that it is the barbecue sauce capital of Central Texas! Vernon Little is one step above what some more unkind commentators would describe as white trash. Hes from a single parent family, his abusive father having left when he was younger. His mother obsessed with keeping up appearances beyond their means is struggling to cope and Vernon is no help, failing at school and alienated from almost everyone. When a Columbine style school massacre happens at Vernons high school he is put in the spot light by way of his friendship with the boy behind the massacre Jesus Navarro. Jesus takes his own life after the killing spree however the small community and the sensation seeking media is not happy with the fact that the perpetrator of the crime is dead and they are looking around for someone that they can punish for what has happened. Vernon fits the bill and before he knows what is happening he is accused as an accomplice to the murders. At first this seems ludicrous to Vernon he wasnt even in school at the time the killings happened but through a series of blunders and the medias interest the case against him becomes more convincing. In desperation Vernon turns to an initially friendly news reporter Eulalio Ledesma who looks like ole Ricardo Moltenbomb on Fantasy Island, for help. The reporters simple reading of the situation convinces him that getting his side of the story in the news will help.
Only underdogs and psychos in this world!
Unfortunately this backfires and Ledesma becomes his greatest foe as he begins to turn manipulate the facts and turns the whole of the small community against him. Vernons only option as he sees it is to run away.
Vernon God Little is a modern satire on American life, the nature of justice and the power of the media. It tries to debunk the idea of the modern American dream, which is now only visible to most people in America from what they see portrayed on TV. The community is corrupted by an ambition to become part of that glossy TV world. Some of the characters in the story will gladly demean and prostitute themselves to achieve the ultimate prize working on TV. The fact that the killer name was Jesus and the town Martirio is Spanish for martyrdom is no mistake but symbolic of Vernons plight.
What struck me first about this book is the strength of the main character Vernon Little. His engagement with the reader his portrayal of the world from his viewpoint as a disillusioned teenager was realistic and seemed spoken is accurate language (at least to this 40 something reader who can still vaguely remember something or teenage angst!). Vernon is very witty in a crass way his words punctuated by fucken, goddam and chrissakes. I suppose the comparisons with Catcher In The Rye especially between Vernon and Holden Caulfield the alienated teenager of that earlier novel will be inevitable but are also fair although I would say this is a far more mature book and will be accessible to an older readership that Salingers novel. The prose is peppered with some inventive and sharp turns of phrase mostly out of the mouth of Vernon, which produce a truly funny read. The Narrative is fast moving and slightly Kafkaesque in the way that every attempt of Vernons to extricate himself from his dilemma seems to fall into ruin by fateful events beyond his control.
The story if examined closely is tragic and dealt with some very dark themes yet it remains extremely funny as each episode becomes more farcical than the last. The most telling thing is how the increasingly bleak situation for Vernon although implausible on one level surely the truth would come out on another level is believable as the bureaucracy of the judicial system, the need for the community to achieve proper closure after the murders in the form of punishment and the hunger of the media for an unfolding event rather than yesterdays news. You can almost imagine this happening, which is scary!
We find many of the themes in the book have been drawn from the authors somewhat colourful life. Born in Australia but growing up in Mexico in a privileged English family DBC Pierre (Dirty But Clean a nickname picked up in childhood) real name Peter Warren Finlay initially grew up in an idyllic wealthy surrounding but after a change in government bringing in new finance regulation his family lost most of the money they had and this Pierre claims was the start of his slide into drug abuse and crime including selling a friends house and then using the money to fund his drug habit. It is evident from the section in the book relating to Mexico that Pierre still has a fondness for the country and its people especially the poor working class who still manage to show attitude and dignity even in their lowly position in Mexican society. He describes how a Mexican truck driver he befriends enter roadside cafe
He takes off his hat to slide in to the roadhouse, cool and straight like hes wearing guns
An example of showing self-confidence and pride an attitude Vernon Little quickly tries to adopt. You can also imagine that Pierres experience with drugs and the associated lifestyle in his teens would have informed him of the kind life teenagers like Vernon must live where in such dead end situations they see self gratification and drug taking as being the only worthwhile activities that are open to them.
The novel I populated by wildly colourful side characters from Pam, Vernons aunt who is constantly preoccupied with Vernon being fed properly, invariably meaning a trip to Bar-B-Chew Barn the local fast food retailer. The Gurie clan, a family that seems to populate many of the important jobs in Martirio also provides many comic touches as does Vernons dealings with the airhead beauty Taylor Figueroa his high school wet dream who he imagines running away with him to live in a beach house in Mexico
Like in that ole movie called Against All Odds, where this babe has a beach-house in Mexico.
Some of the best moments in the story are the interplay between Vernons mum and her circle of female friends all engaged in a constant battle of one-upmanship and sly digs ate each other.
Leona Hunt only shows up when she has at least two things to brag about, thats how you know your position in life. She needs about five things to go to the Lechungas, so were junior league. Fetus league, even.
Vernons mum I found to be an irritating character, initially through Vernons eyes being a obstacle to everything he would like to do with his life but as the story unfolds becoming more sympathetic to the reader and finally even to Vernon as he realises how tragic her existence has been up to now. Apart form the quality and skill of the writing overall the plot is well structured and contains enough surprises to keep you page turning.
I was wrong to be cynical of this prize-winning book at least. Vernon God Little is a wonderful debut by a writer that has managed to update the theme of teenage rebellion and alienation for our time. It is an excellent read, witty, colourful and extremely funny to the extent that you almost forget how dark its subject matter really is. At only 288 pages in paperback it is an easy and extremely enjoyable read possibly a classic in the making?
Vernon God Little can be bought at Amazon for £3.99-paperback ISBN-13: 978-0571215164 (+ p&p) at the time this review was written.
If youve read and liked J D Salinger, Kurt Vonnegut or Joseph Heller then try this. Highly Recommended!
© Mauri 2007
'Vernon God Little' was written by DBC (Dirty But Clean) Pierre, and won him the 2003 Booker Prize. The fact that Pierre won this year was somewhat of a shock, as there was a huge amount of media attention placed on some of the other novelsists shortlisted in this year, for example Monica Ali. However, as time went on in the run up to the prize Pierre himself began to receive more media interest, as it was learnt that he owed thousands of pounds to debtors and friends, he had even once sold his friend's house to someone else without telling him! This of course was media gold, and Pierre received a huge amount of attention. When he did win the prize, there was of course immediately debate over whether Pierre deserved to win; whether he was the type of person who should be shown to win the prize, and whether the judges had taken pity on him. Of course, the judges are always going to maintain that it is the novel that is judged and not the novelist, but can this ever really be the case?
Pierre's novel circles round the character of Vernon. A Columbine-esque highschool shooting has taken place at his school, and with the gunman dead, the finger of blame has been pointed at Vernon. The Columbine echoes are present throughout the novel, and this created some controversy with the novel. I studied this novel last term on my Booker Prize course, and some people did feel that Columbine was such a tragic event that it shouldn't have been 'mocked' in such a way. The novel is full of the typical American stereotypes that we often see in the media; however, Pierre is an intelligent writer. I personally felt that the stereotypes in the novel were so strong that Pierre would, of course, have known exactly what it was he was mocking. It is not American life and culture that Pierre is mocking, but the stereotypes of American life and culture. If anybody has seen the Brass Eye Peadophile special then you will kinda understand where I'm coming from with this; it is the over-exaggerated media hype and attention that is being mocked rather than the events themselves. Pierre is trying to show just how ridiculous the media attention surrounding events such as Columbine has become. One character in the novel, Lally, is a broadcaster that has become so caught up in his job that he lies to and tricks everybody he meets in order to have his story.
Strong comparisons can be drawn between Pierre's novel and 'Catcher In The Rye' by JD Salinger. Though, as someone pointed out in our seminar, any novel about a young male who doesn't quite fit in is going to have a comparison made between it and Salinger's novel.
Another issue that was raised in my seminar was that some people were uncomfortable with the over-the-top unbelievable ending. However, I felt that this was an extension of the unbelievable course of events that took place throughout the novel. This is not a realistic novel. So maybe the events in it echo tragedies that we do encounter in this society, but the novel is more about people's reactions to these events rather than the events themselves.
"Folk up and down the street are standing by their screen-doors being devestated. Mom's so-called friend Leona was already devestated last week, when Penney's delivered the wrong colour kitchen drapes."
When this novel was published it received a mixed bag of reviews. Legendary reviewer Michiko Kakutani gave it a particularly scathing review. She felt that Pierre was writing about a society that he knew nothing about - Pierre was born and bred in Australia. She felt that his novel was so full of stereotypes and cliches that it could in no way be seen as an accurate portrayal of American society. She also felt that events such as Columbine were so rare and out of the ordinary that they shouldn't be used to depict America. However, like I stated before, I felt when I was reading the novel that Pierre was aware of the American stereotypes he was using, and in over-using them so such an extent he was showing just how ridiculous they are to exist at all.
I personally really enjoyed this book. If I hadn't studied it I don't know if I would have got as much out of it; but when I was reading it over the Summer before the course began I still enjoyed reading it, wanting to find out what happened next. It created a lot of controversy when it was nominated and then won the Booker; but controversy is a veyr important part of the Booker Prize process, as it relies very heavily on media attention. I would recommend this novel as both a Booker Prize winner, and also as an entertaining novel.
I was a little unsure about reading this book when I first saw the cover as splashed across the top is the banner Winner of The Man Booker Prize 2003. My concern was based upon the fact that winning an award does not always mean that the winner will have mass appeal. You only have to look at those films that have not won an Oscar and dont even get me started on the Turner Prize, if you want to see real art take a look at how my 9-year-old daughter manages to turn her quilt inside out every night in her sleep.
Set in the BBQ sauce capital of Martirio, Texas the story is told through the eyes of 15-year-old Vernon God Little. Martirio has been the scene of an awful tragedy with the shooting of 17 of Vernons classmates by another student. Vernons best friend Jesus who had reacted to the constant slurs about his sexuality carried out the shooting. By association Vernon had always been included in that playground taunting but more worrying for Vernon is that after Jesus has taken his own life he is also associated with the actual killing itself as he is unable to explain the reason for his own absence in the class on the day in question.
In their need for someone living to be held accountable for the shootings the police focus on the awkward fatherless teenager Vernon. What follows is a darkly comic journey through the mind of a tortured 15 year old who has an unhealthy dislike of his mother and a fascination with girls pants and the contents within.
The only person confident of his innocence is Vernon, even his own mother who revels in the tag of victim doubts her son.
At times I found this book difficult to enjoy, as it is written through the eyes of a teenager it is often rambling in nature and at times I almost felt frustrated that Vernon was so slow to tell the truth and instead tended to take flights of fancy aimed at the object of his desire Taylor an older former student of his school. However the important thing is to stick with this book because it really comes up trumps in the end and has a wonderful way or drawing you into the story with the build up to a great climax. By the end of the book I could not turn the pages fast enough to get to the end.
There are some wonderful characters within the story, in particular the friends of Vernons mom with their constant reference to the latest diets and attempts to outdo each other in the bragging stakes. There is also the conman Lalo posing as a TV reporter who manages to make the whole event surrounding the tragedy a media orgy and a farce at the same time.
While the book does cover the issues of gun crime and trial by media it does not preach on these issues, instead it makes the situations more and more absurd and also paints a picture that could become reality in the future. Indeed parallels can be drawn with events in Columbine where there was a similar hunt for other accomplices by association with the two people responsible for the killing on that fateful day.
This was the first novel by the author DBC Pierre who is a British citizen but has lived a significant part of his life in Mexico. For a first novel this is cracker and well worth looking into.
While you do have the stick with it the effort is well worth it. There is a lot of swearing and numerous sexual references so if this offends look elsewhere.
Published by Faber the rrp is £7.99 however you can get it for a bargain £3.99 on Amazon new and a lot less used.
I have literally, just this moment finished reading the 2003 Man Booker Prize winner Vernon God Little. Was it a worthy winner? You'll just have to wait to find out...
After reading the first ever review on Vernon God Little I made my mind up that I wasn't going to read it. I don't tend to go for comedy, and although everyone praised it to the hills I just could not be bothered with reading it. When it came out in paperback I pondered over reading it once again. At first I (again!) decided against it, but whilst looking in Tesco and seeing it for just under £4 I picked it up, put all my doubt to the back of my mind and went home and began to read it.
Within the first few pages I laughed. I don't usually laugh whilst reading a book. Even if it is a comedy. I may giggle, perhaps, give a little titter, but I'm definitely not a rolling-on-the-floor laughing kind of guy. But, Vernon God Little, I must admit did have me on the floor laughing. DBC Pierre's witty writing and one-liners were both so true and amusing. Within a couple of pages I got hooked on Vernon's story, and I carried on reading.
So, what was the story that put me off, then? Well, Vernon Little lives in a little town called Martirio in Texas. It's not a very popular town, but when Vernon's friend Jesus shoots 17 of his fellow students, the town is swarming with the media. Then, the finger points to Vernon Little. As the police begin to investigate the crime, they are lead to believe that Vernon Little is, in actual fact, the murderer of the 17 students and his friend Jesus. So, what do you do when you are accused of a murder you didn't commit? I think we all know the answer to that question; and that's just what Vernon does.
It doesn't sound too good like that, does it? To be honest, the plot isn't too good. It's probably the weakest part of the book, but there are parts that will leave you pretty amused. Vernon God Little has been described as a man's book. I'd probably agree with that statement, as well. It's a book that most adolescent boys can probably relate to. Relate to Vernon in the way he feels, but still, it does rather class boys of that age in a certain way. I could relate to some things he said, but they didn't necessarily have anything to do with me being a man. I hate people who try and say that certain books are aimed at certain people. It's not always true. Different novels appeal to different people. Is it a man's book? Yes. Can women enjoy it as well? Most definitely! There are references to things that men and women can enjoy, laugh and relate to, so just because you're a woman don't think you won't enjoy it.
Of course, if you're easily offended by swearing, do not read Vernon God Little. He uses the word "fucken" about three times a page (if not more). Some people have said that they find the swearing "irrelevant" and they'd have enjoyed the book that bit more if there hadn't have been so much swearing. 50 pages into the book the swearing does becomes very tedious, but it's totally necessary. We have to remember that Vernon is our narrator. This is how he talks. This is his way. If there wasn't any swearing, then it wouldn't be as realistic. Something I really did like about Vernon God Little was the way that Pierre made Vernon 100% believable as a character. Ok, the plot might not have been believable, but Vernon's expressions, ways and use of words was - you could tell - wonderfully thought out and Pierre has a talent for creating the greatest of characters. Vernon's grumpy teenager who develops as the story goes on; Pierre handles his character with great care and deals with him so well and just shows DBC Pierre's talent clearly to his readers.
You really do love his characters. Even if they're horrible ones. Why? Well, because they're so believable that you just can't help but love them, because you know so many people like that. If I lived in Texas I think I'd love them even more than I do, because you can tell that what Pierre is saying is obviously so true and realistic for people who live in Texas. He delves into their lives and you can imagine absolutely everything he describes. I'm not that familiar with Texas, but after reading Vernon God Little I do feel that I've visited there. Pierre does have a way of pulling you into Vernon God Little. At some points I couldn't put it down. I read about 150 pages in one sitting not because I loved the plot, but the writing. To be honest, I didn't really carry on reading it because I wanted to know what happened, but I wanted to see what excellent, witty one liner Pierre would come up with next. And that is what kept me hooked. I was often hooked, which I can't always say after reading a book.
But, even with all these good things I still didn't enjoy it. I found the story too tiresome. At the beginning it was a tad unbelievable but that was ok because with it's witty writing it somehow worked. You could put up with it because it sort of fitted. But, after a while, as Pierre started to write less witty and more seriously, the story got too much. As I neared the end, I wasn't laughing at the one-liners anymore but the plot. I don't know if this is what Pierre intended and he turned it all around just to show us how clever he is, but for me it just didn't work any way it was intended. It left me feeling disappointed and cheated because I wasn't that satisfied with the ending.
Something else I really didn't like - and I found irritating whilst reading - was, as I've already mentioned, the plot. It turned into something completely unrealistic and pathetic, I found. Was it supposed to be funny? Amusing? Well, if it was, I'm afraid I missed out. Without DBC Pierre's fresh writing I don't think Vernon God Little would have been a success at all. Its plot was boring and really, I was right in feeling put off at first. There were many ways DBC Pierre could have gone, but he insisted on going the other, pathetic, way instead. It left me disappointed and rather angered, because I know that Vernon God Little could have been good. It had potential. But to me, it just seemed that Pierre fell off the track big time in the end and instead of making Vernon God Little an outrageous tale, for me he just made it outrageous.
So, was it a worthy winner? I think you know the answer to that by now! Whilst reading I compared Vernon God Little to other nominations such as Notes On A Scandal and Brick Lane and there was just no competition at all. Brick Lane was much more emotionally fired with love and passion, in both it's writing and it's story, as was Notes On A Scandal. Vernon God Little has wonderful writing it just lacks in the plot department.
Vernon God Little does hold something though - the beginnings of a fresh new writer. I will most definitely read his next work, because I really do think that DBC Pierre is an exciting new novelist who'll go down as one of the greats. Will Vernon God Little go down as one of the greats? Perhaps the greatest mistake for the man booker prizewinner!
So, will you enjoy it? I didn't, but I do recommend it just for DBC Pierre's writing style. It's fresh, new and filled with witty comments. I may not have fallen in love with Vernon, but I did with DBC Pierre. Read it, but try to get through it pretty quickly because it's not worth a load of your time.
© Matt Roberts 2004.
Shit happened" and it?s only the first two words in the book; an exclamation signalling chapter one. ?It?s hot as hell in Martirio, but the papers on the porch are icy with the news. Don?t even try and guess who stood all Tuesday night in the road. Clue: snotty ole Mrs Lechugna.? And so it starts, a road trip of OJ Simpson proportions set along the route from Martirio, Texas right through to Mexico. Vernon Gregory Little, a 15-year-old, Texan boy stands accused of complicity in a mass murder at school. Details of the tragedy are sketchy but that's not gonna stop the prosecution system trying to finger the blame on our hero. Hounded by a crooked media reporter cum TV repair man, Eulalio Ledesma (Lally) looking for a story to make his mark and launch his career, Vern?s life becomes unbearable under the strain of a weak, single momma struggling to make ends meet - Doris Little - and an indifferent community more wrapped up in the mundane goings on in their own lives to pay attention to much else. Vern is a poet or so he thinks. He has a view on everything including his own undenied innocence. ??Brad Pritchard appears at my window?finger pointed to his shoes. ?Air Maxes,? he states. ?New?. I lift my leg to the window. ?Jordan New Jacks? He squints momentarily before pointing at my Nikes. ?Old? he explains patiently. The he points at his. ?NEW.? I point at his, ?Price of a Barbie Camper.? Then at mine, ?Price of a medium-range corporate jet.?? Lally is the villain of the piece. Having shamefully defrauded his mother of all of her life savings, he is the archetypal crook who lurches from one lie to the next. Sashaying from woman to woman, he captures the heart of Vernon?s mom only to be rumbled through a mis-placed busine
ss card by the astute Vernon. By trying to reveal Lally?s shameful secrets at a showdown at his ma?s house, Vernon only succeeds in making matters worse for himself. Lally spins a whole, new, sinister web of lies to cover up his insidious past and sets out to seal Vernon?s fate by implying his guilt on camera through a variety of underhand ruses. Already remanded to psychiatric care following a preliminary court hearing, the only option for Vernon appears to be to run for it across the border and hole up with those Meescans (Mexicans) or face a future of unsavoury court-ordered sessions with the anally fixated pervert doctor Goosens. It?s at this point that I?ll let those that decide to undertake the Greyhound Bus ride to follow the joint smoking, finger flicking cuss-meister that is Vernon G Little on his flight from justice or is it from a loaded penal system intent on swallowing up another innocent victim in the name of publicity? I stumbled across this book courtesy of a review I was picking through in the Sunday Times. Drawn by it's apparent irreverence, the book has won a string of awards including Whitbread Best First Novel Award 2003, Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for Comic Writing 2003 and was the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2003. DBC Pierre is a new writer on me but then he would be as it?s his debut novel. Born in Australia, the notes at the front of the book tell you that his upbringing was in Mexico although he is now a British citizen living half way up a small mountain in Ireland (strange cat). With a pedigree like that, you?d have thought it difficult to criticise but then nobody?s perfect. I did find the first few chapters hard going. Don?t get me wrong now, the story flowed and moved at break neck speed but
that in itself was the problem initially. The supporting characters didn?t really get any kind of pen picture drawn so I found it hard to relate to what was going on at times. Sure, I revelled in the hip shenanigans of the central dude but I just couldn?t hang my metaphorical hat on any of the supporting cast as their names flew by my eyes with little in the way of physical description or background. Notwithstanding, there is a huge amount to crow about for the author. A turn of expression so sharp it could slice bread, his is a tumbling, dancing concoction of words and phrases that, at times, sing out in an urban cry of colloquialism. You can?t help but adore the main character. It?s Vernon against the world and his is one of constant cussing, dry comic observation and dead pan timing. I just cried with laughter when he finally made it to the hole-in-the-wall with Nana?s ATM card. Having waited a comically exaggerated 9 years, the balance was returned as $2.41 and our protagonist was back to square one. The underlying theme of the book is a satirical take on the justice system in the States and trial by media. Quite how this teenage boy ends up in court charged with a string of murders including many more after the school tragedy is just about anyone?s guess but Pierre builds the story with a skilful progression on each chapter as Vernon?s fate becomes increasingly dire. So in many ways the tale is polemic; a present tense triumph of tongue-in-cheek over modern-times cynicism. You could almost detect a Michael Moore influence with the strident dismantling of the apparent trial by media prevalent in a judicious country bedevilled by law suits and obsessed with making media from just about anything that moves. Such is the overblown preposterousness towards the closing chapters that the reader is in danger of being bemused as to just how the situa
tion has come about in short a ridiculously short period of time. By way of comparison, I did struggle for any close associations such was the uniqueness of the author?s style. I thought of the Grant/Naylor combination and the Red Dwarf franchise but whilst the sense of timing and irreverence was there in spades, the use of simile didn?t compare in frequency. I guess this is more in the territory of Tom Sharpe or maybe Stephen Fry but I hasten to say again that Pierre?s is a writing methodology all of his own. Just to add yet more fuel to the fire, even the clever change in the middle name throughout inferred an adaptability that becomes synonymous with the character e.g. everything from Vernon ?genius? Little to the ultimately ubiquitous Vernon ?God? Little. Curious upon curious, there even seems to be the gentlest of religious undertones with occasional references to Jesus on the cross and the like. I?m not sure of the author?s own religious motives but that gentle drift away from secularism does influence the latter stages of the book as the tone changes somewhat from what has gone before. (There is a distinct link involving Jesus at the finale that neatly joins up with the cloudy events of the tragedy but I'll let you discover that for yourself) As a recommendation then this book is very readable. I?ll knock one star off for the tale not gripping me from the first page and I may well appear mean but I?m sure you?ll understand. This is one for those looking for a witty, punchy read with a serious message underneath. Clearly an adult book, some of the images and language used are crude and may put a few folks off but for me this reflects the unsanitised world we live in and should be welcomed accordingly. A cracking read and very, very funny. Thanks for reading Marandina I bought this from Tesco for £3.73. Of course, it will be available at all good online retailers such as Amazon.com. This is the paperback version with 277 pages, ISBN 0-571-21516-5
This debut novel by DBC Pierre is a strange book. A strange book that took me ages to read. The prose flows adequately for the most part, and the story is unique in it?s irreverent approach to a potentially taboo subject matter, which may account for it?s unlikely scooping of the 2003 Booker Prize. The story is told by Vernon Little, prime suspect in the aftermath of a high school shooting in Martirio, Texan backwater and home of bar-b-q sauce. We meet Vernon in the wake of the bloodshed, his classmates and his best friend are dead, and he sits in his underpants in the police station, preoccupied with his footwear, thinking about Jesus, and very soon introducing us to the emotionally taut relationship he has with his mother, who ?has a knife in his back?. Vernon?s teenage narrative is peppered with repetitive expletives and a critical observation of his fellow townsfolk, a hoard of gossiping, dieting, frankly hideous people, the worst of which is possibly his mother. He is a typical teenage boy, obsessed with girls, notably Taylor Figeuro, and with a particular penchant for panties. But does his occasional use of recreational drugs, and his fondness for lingerie catalogues make him a killer? Meanwhile his mother is obsessed only with material possessions, and her lack of them, and makes no effort to help her son, her concerns remain the concealment of ?family secrets? and maintaining an appearance of wealth. At the BBQ smeared hands of Vaine Gurie, the local police officer with a badge at stake, Vernon finds himself at the centre of a media frenzy. His guilt is assumed by all without allowing him any voice, and amidst his brittle, hard man narrative, we see his vulnerability, Vernon is still a confused child. As Martirio revels in it?s fifteen minutes of blood soaked fame, Vernon is thrown into the path of Eulalio ?Lally? Ledesma, a conman hack who sees the opportunity to make his name at our protagonists expense. As the series of events g
ets more bizarre, and the window for declaring his innocence gets smaller, Lally sets to banging the final nails into Vernon?s coffin, having wormed his way into Mrs Little?s affections. With no support, and presumed guilty, Vernon hits upon a plan to make some fast money with the help of gawky Ella, and flees to Mexico, a place that to him speaks of beach houses and the salty smell of Taylor. And as he moves away from Martirio, I still wasn't sure what to believe, whether Vernon was lying to himself as well as me. And I won?t give you any more plot that that, otherwise you won?t need to read the book. The first part of the story I found very hard to get into, there are a lot of characters thrown at you initially, but eventually I just let them wash over me and stopped trying to distinguish between a lot of them. Vernon?s language can be annoying, but equally can be darkly amusing, drawing comedy out of the blackest of events. About a half to two thirds of the way through it gets a lot easier to read. This coincides with the dropping of ?fucken? every other word, and the point where Vernon seems to have grown up somewhat, and the final third pulls you through at breakneck speed as you rush to find out what happens, and if the ending can be as unjustified as is darkly hinted at by the appearance of the media controlled death row. The dialogue is funny in itself, a well studied drawl is indicated in the text, but more than that I found myself smirking at the story proper, the little twists and turns of the satire. Some of the characters nestling in these pages are priceless. Pierre has been ruthless in his portraits of the dangerously stupid, the criminal and the ignorant, not least his clear views on the miscarriages caused by ?trial by media?. Stereotypes are held up and ridiculed, and Pierre makes no apology in using taboo subjects for his fiction. The high school shooting aside, he tells of child abuse, the kind of emotional abuse that V
ernon?s mother inflicts, plus the homosexual paeodophila of responsible members of the society. The whole book is deliciously cynical, streaked with a dirty, sleazy humour, making you feel awful everytime you laugh. Eventually, at the last possible minute, the whole blood stained story unfolds, laying the blame at the feet of the guilty parties. But what induced the massacre? Is our narrator a murderer? You?ll have to read to find out? It's worth the time, but a niggling part of me debates whether it deserved the Booker, clever and funny it might be, but it was hard work in places not to give up on it, which is a very unusual way for me to feel about a book. I think any other year it would have been hard pushed to even make the short list, but even with that unkind nugget aired, Vernon God Little is a unique satire, and a well penned first novel. 'Vernon God Little: A 21st Century Comedy in the Presence of Death' by DBC Pierre My copy was £10.99, but you can pick up a paperback version on amazon at the mo for £5.49
I picked up this book a couple of weeks ago when at my boyfriend's. It was lying in a cupboard unread as it was an unwanted Christmas present and he said it didn't seem like his sort of thing. However, since I will read almost anything (with the exception of John Grisham books but that's another story!), I decided to give it a go, and I came away fairly impressed with it. Plot The book has had much hype in bookshops, especially as it seems to have been displayed in my local Otakers window for ages, and was the winner of the 'Man Booker Prize' in 2003. it claims to be 'A twenty-first century comedy in the presence of death', and I think this is a pretty apt way of describing it. Classed as what could be called a black comedy, it centres around the tale of a teenage boy called Vernon God Little, living in a small town in Texas. The story picks up immediately in the middle of the aftermath of a high-school masacre, and even though the perpetrator of the tradgedy is found dead, Vernon still finds himself under suspicion due to a series of unlucky consequences. There follows many attempts by Vernon to clear his name whilst all around him see him as guilty and are unable to see get past their small-town mindsets. Characters Vernon is the main character who narrates the novel, and we get to see the world through the eyes of a naive teenage boy. We see him wise up towards the end of the book however, and become more cynical and less trusting of people. There are many supporting characters, far too many to go into in detail here, and they all share one common factor - they have a small-town mindset and are unable to think about the world as a whole. Indeed, they see the town of Martirio as the be all and end all of life. They are all also unable to see that Vernon is only a child and they think that he is guilty unless he can be proven inocent. Themes Life in a small town is portrayed in
the book as one which is very close-minded and where everyone knows everyone elses business. They have no ambitions to get out of the town and see no reason to. The narrative is told in a fairly cheerful but humerous way and it is this narrative which gives the book its comedic tone. Even in seemingly hopeless situations, Vernon gives a teenage slant on the matter and it is this tone and southern dialect that the book is written in which stops it from becoming too bogged down in serious matters. The book could perhaps be mostly seen to be a comment on teenage thoughts and how, as many typical teenagers think (I know I did a few years ago) that the whole world is against them. However, it shows that the views of young people should not just be dismissed and ignored and that they have relevant views. My opinion I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even though I did not expect to. The way that the writer, DBC Pierre, has managed to turn what is a very serious and solomn situation into a brighter, more hopeful one through a clever use of language and comedy is a good way of dramatising the event and one which many writers could not pull off. I did find though that initially, the dialect did iritate me and it took me a while to get used to. Some events also become farcical at times and although this was necessary to keep the tone light, I found it did make what was a serious, real event like a high-school masacre, seem rather unreal and trivial. All in all, a good, light-hearted read, but with a serious subject at the centre of it.