DBC Pierre: Vernon God Little

DBC Pierre: Vernon God Little


Vernon God Little

Author: DBC Pierre
Publisher: Canongate

When Vernon God Little, the debut novel of pseudonymous author DBC Pierre, won England's prestigious Booker Prize in October, committee chairman John Carey issued a telling statement, praising the book's black comedy for "reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with modern America." If future historians are looking for a barometer of just how much contempt the international community felt toward George W. Bush's America, they'd do well to seek out this dreadful "prize-winner" in dusty archives and cut-out bins. When else in history would a high-minded Jeff Foxworthy routine, clogged with Jerry Springer Show-ready stereotypes and other redneck grotesquerie, draw comparisons to The Catcher In The Rye, A Confederacy Of Dunces, and The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn? Through the story of a 15-year-old Texan persecuted for his best friend's school-shooting rampage, Pierre means to comment on the ugly phenomena that swirl around the American cultural landscape, specifically in a state where frontier justice still reigns supreme. But Pierre's broad, garbled hick prose doesn't illuminate the culture so much as mock it with juvenile taunts, swiping at a uniformly obese and ignorant populace that lusts for vengeance, reality television, and greasy bags of junk food. Amid this gaggle of idiots emerges the book's lone sympathetic character: first-person narrator Vernon Little, a sour outcast who becomes an unwitting lightning rod for community outrage. Set in the small town of Martirio–which, in an example of Pierre's smug brand of humor, dubs itself "the barbecue sauce capital of Central Texas"–the book opens in the aftermath of a school shooting that leaves 16 students dead. As media scalawags descend upon the scene, young Vernon gets fingered as the prime "skate-goat," and is jailed on trumped-up charges of acting as an accomplice to his alienated friend Jesus, who turned a gun on himself after the rampage. Among the many opportunists looking to exploit the tragedy, the most diabolical is Eulalio Ledesma, a TV repairman who poses as a CNN reporter and infiltrates the Little household by seducing Vernon's witless mother, then plots the boy's demise from the inside. With a balance of slightly more than $2 in his bank account, Vernon tries to flee to the beaches of Mexico, but his roundabout journey can't shake the circus caravan that stays on his tail. Sub-literate, profane, and tickled by all things scatological, Vernon represents Pierre's less-than-generous idea of an American hero, someone who at least comes about his cynicism honestly. The other characters are treated with toxic quantities of condescension and contempt, and lumped into a culture that stares raptly at reality-TV shows like Young Millionaires, gobbles vein-cloggers from the Bar-B-Chew Barn, and sells T-shirts that read "I went to Martirio and all I got was this lousy exit wound." After the book was longlisted for the Booker Prize, Pierre was revealed to be Peter Finlay, a 42-year-old former gambler and drug addict who had bilked friends out of hundreds of thousands in order to feed his habits. In every way, Vernon God Little shows the moral vision of a con artist.

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