107. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre
Publication: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (June 15, 2004), Paperback, 300pp / ISBN 0156029987
Rating: 3.5 birds
Read: April 26, 2010
Summary from Amazon:
When sixteen kids are shot on high school grounds, everyone looks for someone to blame. Meet Vernon Little, under arrest at the sheriff’s office, a teenager wearing nothing but yesterday’s underwear and his prized logo sneakers. Moments after the shooter, his best buddy, turns the gun on himself, Vernon is pinned as an accomplice. Out for revenge are the townspeople, the cable news networks, and Deputy Vaine Gurie, a woman whose zeal for the Pritikin diet is eclipsed only by her appetite for barbecued ribs from the Bar-B-Chew Barn. So Vernon does what any red-blooded American teenager would do; he takes off for Mexico.
Vernon God Little is a provocatively satirical, riotously funny look at violence, materialism, and the American media.
Vernon God Little is a tough book to review, especially since I don’t particularly feel like writing an essay about all the intricate little details in it. It’d be too easy to get bogged down in those details, so I’ll try to keep this short without half-assing it. How’s that?
Vernon God Little‘s a sort of spoof of how America is portrayed in modern media, where everyone is out only for themselves, wants to be on TV (especially starring in their own reality show). People aren’t portrayed realistically in VGL, but there are shades of reality to the characters that make reading VGL kinda scary. Because people do go nuts over the possibility of television fame (see: balloon boy and family), and Vernon’s story is, well…kind of possible.
Of course, the whole thing has a tinge of black comedy/drug-induced hallucinations to it, so it didn’t ever get so scary or serious I wanted to stop reading. And by the middle of the book the fact that everyone is so messed up was actually a little bit funny, so I didn’t mind so much that it was hard to read about my own culture portrayed in such a negative light. Unfortunately by the end I was tired of it all and wanted everyone to die, and I was sure they were going to– but then DBC Pierre pulled a fast one and everyone got happy endings instead. Oh well.
And that ending? Kinda boring. Honestly, by the time Vernon got to jail I just wanted the thing to be over with. It’s exhausting, reading about horrible people and their selfish ambitions. Even Vernon wasn’t immune to the insanity, and it was really tiring. And the thing with the death row reality TV show was just a little bit too off the wall for me, because while I might believe that people are more interested in being on TV than in justice, I don’t think we’d ever go so far as to have a show where people vote for who they want killed off first. Not unless we slip into a dystopian state first!
Vernon God Little isn’t my favorite book ever, and I doubt I’ll ever read it again. But I understand the usefulness of it: I may not have liked to read about Americans being selfish assholes, but ignoring the symptoms of a problem won’t make that problem go away. I think it’s important that I read more books like VGL that analyze modern American culture and where it’s going, although of course I won’t believe that those books are 100% right. Do I think Americans are like the characters in VGL? Of course not. But I do have to admit that there are elements of them in our cultural psyche, especially the one of wanting to be a little bit famous. Otherwise why would so many people start a blog? 😉
Other reviews: Reading Matters
I found this interesting tidbit on Wikipedia about VGL and DBC Pierre, which I think sheds some light on why VGL is the way it is:
Formerly an artist, cartoonist, photographer and filmmaker, and later accused of being a conman and thief following the wild, drug-fuelled international rampage of his twenties, Pierre wrote the novel in London after a period of therapy, personal reconstruction and unemployment. He states the novel was a reaction to the culture around him, which after his own reorientation in life seemed to be full of the same delusional behaviours and self-entitlements which brought his own earlier downfall.