Most helpful positive review
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
like being tickled with a cheese grater
on 28 August 2005
God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious...
...but Vernon Little's small-town dreams are literally shot to pieces when his confused best friend massacres the teenagers who cruelly persecuted him, before turning the gun on himself and taking the truth with him. Vernon has an alibi, but it's just not good enough for a nation desensitized by the drama of CNN, and begins to realise that the American public need a bit of relish with their truth to stop it sticking in their throats. It ain't what you say, it's whether it comes with flashing neon and a free gift.
DBC Pierre's biting satire is of Big Mac proportions, spanning such diverse issues as justice, the ever-increasing power of the media, and the sordid secrets of humanity that so-called Western civilisation cannot bury, with an irreverence that belies the sharp insights. Pierre sculpted the ideal character for us to follow through these troubled times; Vernon Little may not be the cleverest person around, but he stumbles on 'learnings' that come closer to the truth about what makes us humans behave in the loving, violent way we do, than anything you can find in a textbook. Vernon is a character we as young adults can all identify with; he still carries an almost naive belief that people are essentially good, but cannot quite reconcile that belief with the events happening around him.
The rest of the cast in this 'reality-documentary' are surreal. Believe they are caricatures if you want, but I can see these people around us every day. Vernon's mother is a clingy, disillusioned woman, sliding hysterically into middle-age without having achieved anything in her life. She tries to make up for this by boasting to her friends about her new fridge while hiding the mounting electricity bills, and dieting between trips to Bar-B-Chew Barn. Eulalio Ledesma is the sleazy reporter who worms his way into the family only to wrench it apart with his 'exclusives', but has a hidden past of his own. Then there's the creepy psychiatrist with steel salad tongs, the divine Taylor Figueroa and others from the slightly warped imagination of DBC Pierre.
The author, it seems, can dig up both the crass and the charming within people, and is not afraid to plunge in and find it, then come back and tell it to us straight. The book is fantastically well-constructed, with plot twists that will knock you over then jump up and down on you. The story never takes back seat to any message that Pierre is trying to send us, which means you can read it on many levels. Much of what he finds will shatter your faith in humanity, but hold on - it emerges triumphant! We track Vernon as he moves from being a boy that things happen to, a victim of his own circumstances, through being a criminal on the run, and finally as he becomes Vernon God Little, who knows the secret of life...
All in all, this is an astounding first novel, and fully deserved to win the Man BOOKER Prize, the Whitbread Best First Novel Award, and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Award for Comic Writing, all in 2003, despite it being a rather irregular choice. Take note all - this could be the handle of a mop..