These days no one really buys into the cartoonish stereotype of the American grain belt as a laid-back, friendly cowpoke's paradise. And yet what people suppose to be the "dark side" of Texas - church-burnings, Ewingesque oil tycoons - is equally silly and theatrical. The true darkness in the Lone Star state is found at the edge of the smallest, filthiest towns, where poverty and greed ensure that life ain't ever gonna be fair. But enough of all that miserable stuff. Vernon God Little , a startling and excellent debut, is billed as a comedy: "A 21st-century comedy in the presence of death". And doggone it, is it funny.
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The book is an absurdly humorous look at the misadventures of a Texas teen named Vernon Little whose best friend in the world has just killed sixteen of their classmates and himself. In the wake of the tragedy, the townspeople seek both answers and vengeance; because Vernon was the killer's closest friend, he becomes the focus of their fury.
The book tackles many aspects of modern American society, including mindless consumer culture, the death penalty for minors, news reporters casting tragedy as entertainment, and average citizens who crave fame. The book is narrated by Vernon, described by Sam Sifton of the New York Times Book Review as "a deceptively simple boy who narrates this tale in the manner of a character created by Mark Twain and remixed by Dr.
The novel, published in the United States by Harvest Books, has proven especially successful in Great Britain , where it was first published. Some critics have suggested that its scathing negative portrayal of American society is too off-putting for readers in the United States , where it has been less successful; others have suggested that its over-the-top absurdity is a frighteningly accurate assessment of how foreigners view the United States and its citizens.
In any case, Vernon God Little has been awarded both the Man Booker Prize and the Whitbread Award for Best First Novel, and it remains one of only a handful of high-profile literary works to tackle the subject of school shootings in America.
In an interview with the Guardian U. I grew up with a real sense of cultural homelessness…. I haven't been successful in fitting in anywhere. I clearly wasn't Mexican, although I could move in that culture as easily as anywhere.
I'm a British national but wasn't quite from here; and I went to school with a lot of expat Americans…. There's nothing I love more than to just be part of something, for someone to pay you a hello.
After his father died of a brain tumor when Pierre was nineteen, Pierre—as the default male head of his household—began to accrue both mounting debts and an increasingly destructive cocaine habit. He spent the following decade recovering from both, and he eventually found a job as a graphic designer. In , Pierre moved to Ireland where, in an attempt to finally recover from his debts, he undertook what he calls "a big and bold stroke"—the writing of his first novel, Vernon God Little.
Pierre published a follow-up novel, Ludmila's Broken English , in In a statement posted on the British website Contemporary Writers, Pierre reveals, "I write because it is the most bright and intimate relationship I will ever have with other minds.
The book opens on a Friday—three days after one of Vernon's friends, Jesus, went on a shooting spree at the local high school before killing himself. Vernon is brought in to the police station for questioning about the shooting; as he describes it, "I sit waiting between shafts of light from a row of doorways, naked except for my shoes and Thursday's underwear.
The Guries are a large, prominent family in town. Vernon tells her he does not know anything—in fact, he was not even in class when it happened. Gurie, knowing Vernon was a close friend of Jesus, does not believe him. Sheriff Porkorney does not seem to believe Vernon either, and he suggests that he might have been Jesus's gay lover.
Vernon's mother, Doris, sends her best friend, Palmyra—known as Pam—to the police station to pick up Vernon and bring him home, because Doris is waiting for her new side-by-side refrigerator to be delivered. According to Vernon, Pam is "fatter than Mom, so Mom feels good around her.
Mom's other friends are slimmer. They're not her best friends. She accuses him of fleeing from his interview, and just as she prepares to take him back to the station, Doris's gossipy friends—Leona Dunt, Georgette Porkorney, and Betty Pritchard, as well as Betty's ten-year-old son Brad—pull up to the house. In the midst of the commotion, a reporter named Eulalio Ledesma approaches Gurie with a camera and begins to interview her.
Ledesma scares Gurie away with his questions, and the reporter tells Vernon that he owes him a story for the favor. Doris asks Vernon to invite Ledesma inside the house for a drink, and he accepts. On the way to the house, Ledesma tells Vernon that he needs to tell his story to the world to show his innocence.
Inside the house, Ledesma, who prefers to go by the nickname Lally, tells the gathering of women that drug-sniffing dogs are being brought in to investigate a drug connection to the shootings. Hearing this, Vernon secretly pockets some marijuana and LSD from his closet. Though the drugs belong to an older girl named Taylor Figueroa who is away at college, Vernon decides he must ditch them to protect himself.
The next morning, after getting his hair cut, Vernon accidentally reveals the marijuana to Lally during the drive home in Lally's van. Lally takes the marijuana and stashes it in his seat. Vernon dissolves the LSD in a ginseng energy drink and hides it in his room.
Soon after, Vaine Gurie arrives to arrest Vernon; she tells him that they found his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. As he is taken away, Vernon asks Lally to tell the world the truth about his innocence. In jail, Vernon imagines that he will escape to Mexico and live in a beach house with the girl of his dreams, Taylor Figueroa.
Several years older than Vernon, she is attending college in Houston. Vernon recalls with some regret how he helped a drunken Taylor into a car one night before she graduated, and though he had an opportunity to take advantage of her, he instead located one of her friends to watch over her.
The next day, Vernon meets his court-appointed lawyer, Mr. While on recess during his first court proceeding, he sees Lally's news story about him. Lally has betrayed him and deliberately makes Vernon look guilty.
Back in court, the judge orders Vernon to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Vernon sits in jail awaiting his evaluation, nervous because the police are looking for a second weapon to tie him to the crime, and he knows his father's gun—covered with his fingerprints—is out there, just waiting to be found. Vernon is taken to see Dr. Oliver Goosens, the same psychiatrist who had treated Jesus before he went on his rampage. Vernon opens up and explains his situation to the doctor:.
See, first everybody dissed me because my buddy was Mexican, then because he was weird, but I stood by him, I thought friendship was a sacred thing—then it all went to hell, and now I'm being punished for it, they're twisting every regular little fact to fit my guilt.
Vernon tells Goosens his alibi for the shootings: He was away from school on an errand and stopped to use the bathroom—a slave to his unpredictable bowels. Goosens then asks Vernon to undress, and he begins to touch Vernon inappropriately. Vernon leaps up in protest, and as he leaves, Goosens threatens to file an unfavorable report about his mental state.
Back in jail, Vernon notes: "I sense a learning: that much dumber people than you end up in charge. The judge also suggests that Vernon and his lawyer try to confirm his alibi. Vernon is not about to do that, because he happened to defecate right next to a gun covered with his fingerprints. Back home, Vernon finds that Lally has infiltrated his house and has begun an affair with his mother, Doris. Unwilling to return to Goosens, Vernon decides to enact his plan to flee to Mexico.
He walks to the Greyhound bus station, but just before he can buy a ticket, Pam shows up and drags him back home. The next day, the community holds a Tragedy Sale to display its spirit in the wake of the shootings. Vernon is forced to work one of the booths wearing a choir gown.
While at the booth, Vernon learns that a posse is being formed to search for the second weapon, and that they will be searching near Keeter's property—which is where the gun with his prints is located. Vernon offers to pay a boy to watch his booth for an hour, though he does not plan on returning. He plans to find the gun, wipe off his prints, and head to Mexico until things cool down. On the way, he is stopped by one of Lally's old associates, and he learns that Lally is not really a reporter from CNN as he has claimed but is simply a television repairman from Nacogdoches looking for his shot at fame.
Vernon rides out to Keeter's, or as he calls it, "The edge of the universe of town. On the way there, Vernon is stopped by Tyrie Lasseen, the man who runs the junkyard.
Lasseen tells Vernon to leave the area, and Vernon is soon spotted by both Ella Bouchard, a tactless girl who has a crush on him, as well as the search party looking for the gun. He rides off, heading home to grab some items to sell or pawn for his escape. Vernon finds himself trapped at home with his mother and her friends.
Lally's true identity is revealed when his disabled mother calls the Little house, though no one believes it except for Vernon.
Lally decides to move in with Leona to keep his past at bay, which breaks Doris's heart. Early the next morning, while Doris is away visiting Vernon's grandmother, Vernon gathers some items to pawn and leaves the house. Instead of fleeing, he gets drunk and high, and then he returns home later in the day to check on his mother. Back at home, Vernon promises his mother that he will somehow get sixty dollars to keep their power from being shut off.
He also catches a glimpse of a news story from California about another school shooting. Vernon decides what he must do: "I have to learn how to turn slime into legitimate business, the way it's my right to do in this free world.
Deutschman, a former school principal who is rumored to lust after young girls. Ella agrees to seduce Mr. Deutschman so Vernon can take an incriminating photo and extort some cash from the man.
Then she gives Vernon her share of the money and kisses him on the cheek, professing her love for him before she disappears. A few miles outside of Martirio, Vernon flags down a bus bound for San Antonio and convinces the driver to let him board. At first she does not remember him, and when she does, she still seems uninterested; after Vernon reveals that he is on the run from the law, however, Taylor agrees to meet him at a mall in Houston later that afternoon.
But see what happens now I'm in trouble. See the awesome power of trouble. Vernon buys a ticket to Houston, and when he arrives, he sells some of his things at a pawn shop to add to his bankroll. He meets Taylor at the mall. As they drink juice together, Taylor reveals her desire to be on television, as well as her relationship with an older, wealthy man.
The conversation is interrupted when Leona, who happens to be Taylor's cousin, shows up. Vernon flees before he can be spotted and takes a bus to McAllen, a town on the Texas-Mexico border. On a television in the bus station, he learns that Officer Barry Gurie has been killed in Martitio, and that Lally is touting a connection between that incident and the school shootings. Vernon walks to the bridge that marks the border between the United States and Mexico.
He is pulled aside by a Mexican police officer who asks to see his identification. Vernon has none, and at first the officer refuses to let him enter Mexico; however, a twenty-dollar bribe helps change the officer's mind. He makes his way on foot toward Monterrey, stopping in a bar the following night.
He has no money, but he trades some music CDs for alcohol, and drinks all night long.
Vernon God Little
Looking at a greetings card on his mum's breakfast bar — a cartoon baby trying to say "love" — the hapless year-old hero of Vernon God Little reflects on his upbringing as "a gumbo of lies, cellulite and fucken 'Wuv'. Things are pretty jumpy. Three days earlier, 16 high-school kids were massacred by Jesus, their Mexican classmate. Jesus and Vernon were friends, but then Jesus took to wearing silk panties and keeping secrets. Vernon, with problems of his own disappearing dad, flaky mother , has a talent for being in the right place at the wrong time.
Observer review: Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
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The book is an absurdly humorous look at the misadventures of a Texas teen named Vernon Little whose best friend in the world has just killed sixteen of their classmates and himself. In the wake of the tragedy, the townspeople seek both answers and vengeance; because Vernon was the killer's closest friend, he becomes the focus of their fury. The book tackles many aspects of modern American society, including mindless consumer culture, the death penalty for minors, news reporters casting tragedy as entertainment, and average citizens who crave fame. The book is narrated by Vernon, described by Sam Sifton of the New York Times Book Review as "a deceptively simple boy who narrates this tale in the manner of a character created by Mark Twain and remixed by Dr. The novel, published in the United States by Harvest Books, has proven especially successful in Great Britain , where it was first published. Some critics have suggested that its scathing negative portrayal of American society is too off-putting for readers in the United States , where it has been less successful; others have suggested that its over-the-top absurdity is a frighteningly accurate assessment of how foreigners view the United States and its citizens.