Vernon Subutex One: English edition Paperback – 29 Jun 2017
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Part social epic, part punk rock thriller, Vernon Subutex is a remarkable portrait of contemporary society... written with a fury that hits right to the bone (Christine Ferniot Télérama)
Bold and sophisticated, this thrilling, magnificently audacious picaresque is about France and is also about all of us; how loudly we shout, how badly we hurt. It is the story of now. (Eileen Battersby Irish Times)
Vernon Subutex is a great novel because, quite simply, it disturbs you. Despentes is an extraordinary writer (François Busnel Express)
Sex, drugs and 90s punk rock: Vernon Subutex is the Comédie Humaine for our time, produced by the furious talent of Virginie Despentes (Laurence Houot Culturebox)
A masterful blending of characters, voices and plots with an undeniable sense of changing rhythms. This is not just a novel, it's an electrocardiogram (Etienne de Montety Figaro)
A mind-blowing portrait of contemporary French society (Nelly Kaprièlian Les Inrocks)
A vast mural of the world today. We all knew Despentes could write, but we were not expecting this (Frédéric Beigbeder Figaro magazine)
An energetic, diverting romp . . . Brimming with sex, violence and deviant behaviour . . . [and] a multitude of sharply delineated characters . . . Often surprises us with its psychological acuity. (David Mills Sunday Times.)
An enthralling read. The story of one man, one city, it speaks of our entire world. A compelling, vital read, beautifully and vibrantly translated. (Nell Leyshon)
Disturbing and compelling . . . I loved and hated Vernon but I couldn't leave him alone . . . Relentlessly brilliant. Reading it was like being on a runaway train - you know it will probably end in disaster but you might as well enjoy the thrill of the ride - it's unputdownable. (Victoria Hislop)
The cult French social satire that has taken Europe by storm, and cast a penetrating light on the dark underbelly of modern urban life.See all Product description
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Vernon is supposed to be an everyman, but he's pretty unlikeable himself, his attitude towards women, he steals from a woman who put him up in her flat and who slept with him. It's fairly bleak despite the easy access to money and drugs. Sometimes he disappears from the action as another new character is introduced & we learn their back story and how they've ended up as washed out. The link is he possesses his dead benefactor's last audio tapes and lots of people are very inetersted in those, sniffing money.
It is deeply misogynistic, but remember this is written by a woman. Can't help thinking she's paying off some personal scores here.
It's well written, mildly entertaining but you have to be in the mood for it.
It's a strange novel. Virginie Despentes can certainly write and at times this book really takes off.
Billed as the first of three novels, in this, the first, there is little or no narrative drive. Rather a collection of occasionally brilliantly written character sketches/scenarios. The fact they are all caricutures is maybe designed to highlight the edginess and grim reality.
Perhaps it was designed in such an episodec way in the hope it would be possible to sell it as a film or TV series.
It really felt curiously dated and nihilistic. Insightful - no. The usual tropes- yes. Really feels like an 80's hang over, but maybe, a a new generation they will see it as original and different.
That`s pretty much what I got from this.
Vernon is a reasonably popular and apparently well-connected former owner of a record shop which was favoured by musicians and their creative crowd in it's heyday; since it's closure, Vernon has survived through the financial support of a celebrity friend – Alex Bleach – plus his savings and state benefits; when Bleach dies suddenly, he finds himself evicted; thus begins his desperate slip into homelessness, with only one asset left to sell – video recordings made by Bleach in his last weeks. When word of their existence get around, a discreet hunt is on for Vernon, who has already sunk from sight as he moves from friend-to-friend`s apartments, gradually on his way down to living on the streets...
The style of the novel is pretty blunt; the narrative passes back and forward between Vernon to the other characters of his friends, the people who are looking for him and others connected with the central thread of the storyline; there is a stream-of-consciousness approach adopted to relay individuals` thoughts and the juxtaposition of their points of view can be darkly amusing, though on the whole most of the people we encounter are shallow, or hold fairly ugly opinions – depending on one`s own point of view. It made interesting reading as coincidentally the first stage of the French general election was under way while I was engrossed in this; Despentes manages to convey a broad range of current French/Parisian social and political opinion as the reader encounters characters from each strata of society.
The language is frank and contemporary issues like drug-taking and sexual mores are woven into the fabric of the story – just in case you are easily offended.
I found the novel pretty engaging, entertaining and well-observed; it does rather leave the reader hanging on the last scene, but as this is clearly titled as vol. 1, I look forward to the story's continuance in the next volume.