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3.6 out of 5 stars
Vernon God Little
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Parts of this book reveal genuine originality and even the odd spark of genius; other parts, however, show an author a little too much in love with his own self-conscious quirkiness, jemmying in supposedly killer one-liners on every page. The upshot is that the biting satire on the needy, corrupt insincerity of uncaring aspirational middle-class American society is undermined, as too many potentially brilliant strands and ideas fizzle out and remain undeveloped.

All in all, the book descends into an incoherent series of bitty, albeit well-realised, setpieces which does not quite add up to a consolidated whole.

Vernon's world is classically topsy turvy, with those on the outside looking in having the most profound contribution to make. There is a good deal of prescience in the idea of execution as a TV show, complete with 'phone-in votes, as life is devalued and turns into little more than a glorified gameshow. This will ring bells with anyone who saw the footage of the lead up to Saddam Hussein's execution recently.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on 9 October 2003
Vernon is a typical American teenage boy living in Martirio, Texas. He spends a lot of time fantasizing about the panties of a particular girl. He suffers the abuse of dominant social groups at his high school. He struggles to maintain a sense of normality in his broken home. Only one day his friend Jesus reaches his breaking point and things get out of hand. Suddenly Vernon is caught in a maelstrom of controversy when the nation in its grief points a guilty finger. He must justify his innocence by wading through the media-hype determined to crucify him without the help of his friends and family who are caught up in their own banal problems. Vernon sets out on a surreal escape from America.
Pierre creates a highly original voice in this dark, funny and incredibly clever novel. The structure is somewhere between satire and a dream-like logic where Vernon stumbles upon a number of colorful characters that distract him from his goal. While Vernon himself isn’t especially likeable, his commentary on America with all his clever twists of language is hilarious to read. Vernon and his mother have an uncomfortable but loving relationship. While on death row, Vernon’s mother is more concerned about the delivery of a new almond toned refrigerator. Vernon’s ongoing analysis of the relationship between mother and son is devastating. More than its political commentary, I think this novel makes a powerful statement about familial relations. There has been a lot of attention paid recently to gun control and high school massacres. Pierre manages to make a moving statement about American values using the voice of a decidedly average boy caught in extraordinary circumstances. This isn’t a cynical treatise. For all it’s bitterness, Vernon God Little has a lot of hope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 October 2010
This is a very unusual book for those who like to read things that are a bit different and who are open minded. Open to new 'paradigms' as the main character Vernon talks about.
It is a dark fairy story, a critique of western media obsession, a comedy of caricature, a wonderful mix of colours that blend without ever mixing to a muddy brown!
It's ending perhaps weakened the theme and added a light twist which I wasn't sure I liked, although it would be interesting to invent several very different endings, all of which could work, perhaps a 6th form task!
Overall the characters are very sharply drawn, humorous, clever and give the reader no doubts as to their motivation/mindset. They are at once incredible, though somehow believable in the context of the rather dark dystopian Texan region they are set in.
Dreamy though 'real' in the sense that you 'feel' something big is being said, like a sense of something in the corner of your vision. To me this makes it all the more powerful, and not pretentious and self conscious as some reviewers have mentioned.
A book you can read twice, and get more from it each time, if you allow it to wash over you, rather than search too hard.
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39 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 24 June 2003
This book, without a doubt is in my top 3 books of all time. Most times the narrative is a jumbled mess of stream of consciousness that constantly flips between the average internal dialogue of a 15yr old boy to that of a 40 yr old social psychologist with 2 PhDs in modern societal pressures and methods of alienation - especially when it comes to Vernon's observations of the people around him. Amazingly, the story does not suffer one bit from it. Even with the inconsistency in 1st person narrative, never once does Pierre skip a beat or make the reader feel lost. Even Vernon's vulgar language is welcome throughout - grounding the reader in the reality of whom is speaking. And even if you ignore all the obvious societal/psychological commentary, it's just a damn good story that made me laugh out loud numerous times. It has literally been years since I've connected so much with a character and yearned for him to have the storybook ending and for all the villains to get their comeuppance. It's been so long since I've cheered for the protagonist instead of wishing they'd drown in a vat of their own syrupy induced self-importance, morality, and wisdom. Vernon, plain and simple, is a scared kid who did what most scared kids would do but unfortunately always seemed to do it at the wrong times and with the wrong people watching. Finally (how appropriate), the ending is one of, if not the best, I've ever read. So often authors take you on such a great journey only to leave you lost in the middle of nowhere in the final chapter. Not Pierre. The emotional tug of war he takes the readers through in the final chapters is brilliantly written and emotionally evoking without being tacky or overly sentimental. It also managed to tie up loose ends that you didn't even know existed, or forgot about, in the most marvellous fashion. I'm going to be hard pressed to find a book that moves me as much as VGL did (and still does for that matter). The next author I pick up is going to have a very tough act to follow.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I really enjoyed this novel; there's no question that Pierre took inspiration from 'Catcher in the Rye' (one of my favorite books), but managed to create an entirely original work. Our teenage narrator is a 21st century kid, full of raging hormones, child of an inadequate mother. In the aftermath of a mass shooting at his school in Texas, carried out by his best friend, Vernon finds himself held accountable...
Holden Caulfield dreamed of paradise in a field of rye; Vernon aspires to a beach hut in Mexico (in the company of the gorgeous Taylor Figueroa). Holden derided the phoney adults around him; Vern is well aware of the corruption in the media, everyone out to make a buck. Both characters retain a touching naivety that keeps the reader rooting for them throughout. Brilliant.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
This book should have been titled "When Media goes bad." VERNON GOD LITTLE reads like a combination of some McCrae novel (BARK OF THE DOGWOOD) and a DeLillo fabrication set on paper (UNDERWORLD) only with a dash of Flannery O'Connor. Weird and wonderful, this is the story of Vernon Gregory Little's life in a small Texas town. Complete with the usual Southern weirdos we've all come to know and love (CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES) it rings at once true and also over-blown. But there's a method too the madness in this surreal absurdist but true-to-life tale that could have happened. With our protagonist's life completely no upsidedown because of a school shooting, the media descends vulture-like, on the town and uproots all sense of normalcy. With excellent precision the author shows up the ugly side of human nature, and the uplifting aspect that can occasionally emerge. A tale told by not quite and idiot, this is a fantastic foray into the land of stream of consciousness Texas babble. If you like the novels CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES and BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, then VGL will set perfectly with you. I know it did with me.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 February 2015
I suppose I should have learnt by now to avoid Booker prize winners, as they're almost guaranteed to be disappointing. This was one of the worst, however. The attempts at humour are pathetic, mostly reliant on inventing absurd situations and mocking small-town American ways: mildly amusing at first, but soon becoming tiresome. The same can be said for the attempts at Texan vernacular, which I found unconvincing, perhaps because the author is Australian.
It feels as if he thought, hey, wouldn't it be great to write a novel based round one of those typical US school massacres, and went from there. The blurbs on the back are even more misleading than usual: this book is original, certainly, but originality by itself doesn't make for great literature.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2004
Hats off to the Booker judges - they've got it absolutely spot-on two years in a row now (when was the last time they did that?). Pierre's achievement is not just a quality piece of literature that works on many levels, but a cracking tale and, above all, a comic character that will endure for years to come.
The comparison's to Salinger's Catcher in the Rye are clear. Both Holden Caulfield and Vernon Little share a slacker's mentality and an obvious distaste for adult values and hypocrisy. Even Little's recurring re-use of his middle initial to describe some aspect of himself is a throwback to Holden 'Vitamin' Caulfield.
But Pierre is safe from any criticism of copy-cat characterisation for a number of reasons. Firstly, Caulfield's disaffection is a dark, brooding one. He keeps his motives to himself, keeping the reader at arms' length (perhaps with the same sense of distaste he has for those around him), hinting at something dark and unrevealed. Vernon Little, on the other hand, wears his thoughts and feelings on his sleeve, revealing a naivity in stark contrast to Caulfield's knowing ways.
It is this artlessness that lends the novel not only much of its humour, but also its cutting insight. The black and white nature of his relationships and his world view (or 'powerdime') shine an interrogative spotlight on the people around him - at times exposing hypocrisy and self-serving behaviours, and other times revealing a sympathetic treatment of cast members.
But ultimately, what makes this a very different book from Catcher in the Rye is its scope. It is at once a tragi-comic exploration of a death- and scandal-obsessed media, of a society shaped by that media (complete with 'happy ending' as product), a post-Colombine satire, and an existentialist fable - right down to its self-mocking epilogue.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 17 October 2003
VGL has left me feeling confused.
From one perspective it’s an easy book to hammer into for being predictable, clunky & puerile with a slight whiff of other authors’ off cuts. From another, it’s a strong display of pinpoint imagery, brilliant characterisation, whip crack dialogue, laugh-out-loud comedy and terrible sadness loosely woven around a coming of age disaster fable, with complementary language and sexual abuse. This also mean it’s not one to recommend to Mum unless she has a strong constitution. Bums are also heavily featured. Yep, am confused.
Several reviewers say it’s terribly clever, satirical, deeply ironic. I’m not so sure this isn’t postmodern political correctness and arse covering since I don’t think it broached any new ground in a unique way. Still, I’m glad I read the book. I felt I’d climbed off at an expected destination at the end of a particularly bumpy and memorable train ride when I finished it. Shaken and vaguely stirred. It leaves a strong imprint and a real wish that DBC Pierre could more consistently find his own style since when he’s on song he is great.
Now I’m balanced between wanting to reread Catcher in the Rye or dig out my favourite Hiassen to see how the comedy should really be done.
Maybe, as Vernon says, it really takes a “powerdime” shift to understand. Maybe it’s worth a second read..….or maybe I’m just hedging my bets because I can’t quite understand how this won the Booker. Who knows.
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on 14 December 2010
`The riotous adventures of fifteen-year-old Vernon Gregory Little' begins the blurb. You would be mistaken for believing the pages contain a merry, light-hearted tale of an adolescent boy's stereotypical adventures. In fact, DBC Pierre's debut proves a much subtler, darkly comic affair.

Although the reader does indeed get to witness the protagonist's passing into manhood, Pierre's style is far from the typical `romance of youth' story. Most striking throughout the book is the superb use of language, which happily grasps at the fact that modern day teenagers are not as eloquently spoken as yester generations may wish. Most pages contain a good dose of foul language, executed maturely for the most part.

The vernacular of central Texas, not just foul, is excellently represented. You are immediately thrown into trying to make sense of the strong southern accent Pierre so faithfully writes in; "I'll remind you that, stuss-tistically...", "Don't tell me you weren't close to the Meskin boy.". At first this a little hard to get to grips with, sounding the word out in your mind being the quickest way of grasping certain words or phrases. However by the end of first chapter Pierre has provided the reader with a firm vocabulary base and the faithful language truly adds to the depth and general roundedness of the inhabitants of Martirio, Texas.

We are introduced to the `barbecue sauce capital of central Texas' town by Vernon himself. A fifteen going on sixteen year old boy. The first person narrative stays true to the mind of an adolescent boy throughout the book, with persistent, imaginative off shoots from Vernon's hormone filled brain. Such tangents include all the typical things a young boy is concerned with; drugs, money, Taylor Figueroa's bikini `panties' and the `knife' of humiliation his mother has placed firmly in his back. Not so typical are the haunting memories of his deceased `Meskin' friend Jesus Navarro.

One Tuesday, tragedy strikes Martirio. Jesus Navarro shoots dead sixteen of his classmates before turning the gun on himself. When developments are made into the investigation in the form of an alleged second firearm linked to Vernon, his world spirals. The whole country seems ignorant of his innocence, from his mother and her overweight `Desperate Housewives' wannabe friends, to the sinister reporter who sees the young boy as his ladder to the top, Eulalio Ledesma.

The subsequent plot at first develops fairly slowly. The majority of the book consists of Vernon describing the life and characters of his hometown. Not until the final third of the pages does the story develop into some form of real excitement in Vernon's bid for Mexico and the life of a fugitive on the run. The climax to the story and the interesting summary of events don't take place until too near the end. Overall the reader is left with many ideas undeveloped and a rather rushed ending.

Despite this frustrating plot development, for a debut DBC Pierre should be proud to put his name to such an original piece of storytelling. Tackling difficult issues as death, adolescence and depression, managing to layer it with a good helping of comedy is refreshing and makes for a read well worth a few hours of anybody's time.
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