Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 277 pages, 2003

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: Winner of the 2003 Booker Prize, my personal favourite literary award.

Synopsis: Vernon, a 15-year-old Texan, finds himself the town’s scapegoat after his friend Jesus carries out a Columbine-style shooting, leaving himself and sixteen students dead. Vernon refuses to give details on what he was doing that fateful day, and as trouble mounts, both legally and at home, Vernon has a rising urge to flee.

Why you should read this book: The reason this book works so well is that while most of the characters and the situations in the book may be satirical of our society, Vernon himself is a three-dimensional character, floundering because he doesn’t share the mentality of the (incredibly shallow) mob. Vernon’s smart-mouth attitude provides much of the black humour in the story. He’s funny because his insights cut to the bone in a town where women are more concerned about leaving bags and boxes of trash at the curb days before pick-up to show off all the things they’ve purchased, than the fact that seventeen children have just died. Subtly, Pierre builds up empathy for a kid that may or may not deserve it.

Why you should avoid this book: Be warned that Vernon rarely makes it through a paragraph without swearing like a fifteen-year-old boy who’s listened to too much Eminem. Having a dark sense of humour is highly recommended for fully appreciating the book.

Opening paragraph:

It’s hot as hell in Martirio, but the papers on the porch are icy with the news. Don’t even try to guess who stood all Tuesday night in the road. Clue: snotty ole Mrs Lechuga. Hard to tell if she quivered, or if moths and porchlight through the willows ruffled her skin like funeral satin in a gale. Either way, dawn showed a puddle between her feet. It tells you normal times just ran howling from town. Probably forever. God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be; but after all that’s happened, the inkles ain’t easy anymore. I mean – what kind of fucken life is this?

Fabulous quotes:

Fate suddenly plays its regular card. Leona’s Eldorado sashays past the pumpjack, full of musty, dry wombs and deep, bitter wants. Mom withers. The fucken timing of these ladies is astounding, I have to say, like they have scandal radar or something. They foam out of the car like suds from a sitcom washing machine, except for Brad, who stays in back. He’s eating a booger, you can tell. Betty Pritchard gets out and starts to strut around the lawn like a fucken chicken

I got me some learnings in court, I have to say. The way everybody acts, court is like watching TV-trailers; a shade of this movie, a bite of that show. The one where the kid gets cancer, and everybody speaks haltingly. The one where the rookie cop decides whether to be a bag-man for bribes, or to blow his crusty partner’s cover. I personally wouldn’t recommend playing that one, though; everybody ends up being on the take, like even with the mayor. And don’t fucken ask what show I got stuck with. ‘America’s Dumbest Assholes’ or something. ‘Ally McBowel.’

Also Recommended: What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal] by Zoe Heller; Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland.

Also by this author: Ludmila’s Broken English.

Awards: Man Booker Prize: Winner, 2003; Whitbread First Novel Award: Winner, 2003; Guardian First Book Award: shortlist, 2003.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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