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Vernon God Little: a 21st century comedy in the presence of death

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Fiction, particularly sharp-eyed satire, can puncture the membrane of self-satisfaction that keeps us from seeing our own flaws and pathologies, but the Booker judges have erred if they hoped to convey that message. As Vern observes, "Where TV lets you down, I'm discovering, is by not convincing you how things really work in the world." The same might be said for some award-winning novels. So after I that I watched "Elephant" which may not be such a masterpiece itself but it's better'n this bad book. If you see lots of movies, you know this is the way people speak in real life. And Vernon has seen many, many movies. Come to think of it, his constant allusions to cinema and television sound far more like those of a 42-year-old author than a 15-year-old pothead, but who gives a ****? It's the same annoying inconsistency that has Vernon usually saying things like, "There ain't puke enough in the world for today," while sometimes observing, "We play into an anesthetic sleep, just conscious of life collapsing around us in grainy pieces." Cool.

VERNON GOD LITTLE | Kirkus Reviews VERNON GOD LITTLE | Kirkus Reviews

What's more disappointing, though, is the way "Vernon God Little" ultimately descends to the same simplistic level it rails against in American culture. Psychologists, religious leaders, law enforcement officers, educators, and parents have sweat blood trying to fathom the dark forces that motivate these rare but terrifying acts of school violence. But here, we learn that it's all perfectly simple: The murderer was publicly humiliated as the victim of a gay porn ring. Ah hah! This is the sort of psychological depth we might expect from one of Vern's favorite made-for-TV-movies, but not from the British Commonwealth's best novel of the year. That mini-twist is typical of DBC Pierre. Born in Australia and raised in Mexico, he has a fiendish sense of humour, never turning down an opportunity to wrongfoot us. Vernon God Little is a treacherous book, always shifting under your feet. Like the best satires, it makes you feel faintly guilty for laughing, which intensifies the pleasure of reading. It also keeps you hooked: you can never quite be sure whether Vernon is lying to his readers as well as to the police, his mother and nearly everyone else he meets. If you are not got acquainted with American slank, you will feel a little bit annoyed by the excessive use of American teenagers lingo. Obviously, this is a novel that can be included in the Guinnes Book of Records as the novel with most f-word (in all of its forms). I had estimated that at least there would be some 800 f-words in this novel (of course I am using sampling techniques). But, amazingly, seemed that Mr. Dirty But Clean Pierre could read his reader's mind. Unexpectedly, the f-word vanished in the last one-third part of the novel (so I wrong, because I assumed that the population of f-word in this novel is homogenous). I won't tell you why this drastic change happened. You should read it by yourself. It's just amazing, how a little, unimportant thing of using or not using f-word can give impact on the interpretation (yeah, at least for me) of the whole story.His name is Vernon Gregory Little, actually, with the middle (and occasionally the first) name mutating as the situation (or those confronting him) dictate. Fifteen-year-old Vernon God Little finds himself convicted of murder in the eyes of his community, Martirio, Texas, looooooong before any investigation begins. Sixteen kids are shot dead by Vernon’s best friend Jesus on a schoolyard. Everybody knew Vernon and Jesus hung out together. Vernon inadvertently piles wood on the fire because of some statements he makes and a guilty demeanor. At least, that is how his actions seem to the neighbors, the authorities, his mother and her friends, and a TV repairman, Eulalio (Lally) Ledesma (TV repairman - symbolic, yes?). Lally masquerades as a cable news journalist and intensifies the town’s reactions through slanted reporting. This makes him a star reporter courted by CNN! Lilly’s video footage elevates the town’s suspicions of Vernon as a co-killer with Jesus. Es ist geradezu ein Sodom und Gomorrha, das DBC Pierre heraufbeschwört, und sogar fürs Genre der Satire wird das allmählich ein wenig zu viel des Verworfenen. (...) Nicht zu bestreiten ist jedenfalls, dass sich in DBC Pierres Roman ein starkes Sprachtalent zeigt." - Uwe Pralle, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

BBC World Service - World Book Club, DBC Pierre - Vernon God BBC World Service - World Book Club, DBC Pierre - Vernon God

Her lips tighten. She pulls her phone from a holster on her belt, and suspends one finger over a key, eyeing me all the while. Then she jabs the key. The theme from Mission: Impossible chirps on a phone up the hall. 'Sheriff?' she says. 'You might want to attend the interview room.' Most things about this violently satirical debut novel are remarkable and some are just inimitable. (...) Unfortunately, most of Pierre's characters are, at best, two-dimensional and it's not always clear whose side he's on, who is being satirised and for which sins. (...) Pierre could write Proulx into the ground: fierce, crazed and passionate, his first novel may not be the most balanced book to emerge out of America this year, but it must be one of the most driven." - Jonathan Heawood, The Observer Vernon’s best friend has just massacred his school class before lunch and then shot himself. Everyone is looking for someone to blame – and they’re pointing the finger at Vernon! Vernon Little's best friend, Jesus Navarro, has just shot 16 of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. Although the case is open and shut, the town needs a living scapegoat and they turn to Vernon - lumbering, withdrawn and too embarrassed to defend himself because, at the time of the massacre, he was, quite literally, shitting himself.

How does Vernon change and mature over the course of the novel? How does your attitude toward him change? Did you ever think that he had been part of the shooting?

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