Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Vernon God Little – DBC Pierre

I was suspicious of DBC Pierre. Every other newspaper was telling me that DBC stands for ?dirty but clean? and filling me in with the grimy details of his colourful past. Could it be that all this back story was compensating for a lack of front story? He was, after all, sharing the bestseller shelves with Cecilia Ahern, whose story is that her Daddy runs the country. All very unfair, but publicity departments have done their jobs too well. Photogenic novelists, feckless novelists, novelists famous before their first novel ? all have taken their toll on the open mind. As have ballyhooed literary prizes, and Pierre won prizes sponsored by Man, Whitbread and Bollinger with this, his first novel.

But a few sentences of Vernon God Little should be enough to convince anyone that this is a not just a PR snow job. With a minimum of exposition, Pierre gets down to establishing a narrative voice which is at once naﶥ and knowing, crude and poetic but always convincing and very, very funny. Opening it at random I find the following: ?He takes off his hat to slide into the roadhouse, cool and straight, like he?s wearing guns. Then, when he?s nearly inside, he gives his balls a squeeze? I shuffle into the building without touching my balls. Nobody seems to mind? (173-174). It?s ambiguous but I like to think that nobody minded that the narrator went into the roadhouse without touching his balls. The language is colloquial and often vulgar, but never dull ? not even when the speaker is Taylor Figueroa: ?Like, my best friend turned up, from inside the party or whatever, and this guy went away? (217). I don?t know if Americans really talk like this but Pierre certainly makes it easy to believe they do.

Vernon God Little is the story of the aftermath of a high school massacre and the accompanying judicial shambles and media circus. Small-town depravity, pettiness, gullibility and greed are dragged out into the open in a plot that is bound together (if that?s the right word) by faecal matter. The teenage narrator, Vernon Little, though frequently naﶥ and often outsmarted, appears wiser than his years because of the idiocy of the adult world around him. He is judged and damned by the media and his community because, among other things, he is too impassive. Though Glen Campbell?s ?Galveston? has an effect on him, he is not as susceptible to kitsch as his elders and betters: ?I stare at the painting beside the laundry door. A clown holds up a fucken umbrella, and bawls one big tear underneath. Mom calls it art. [?] I look inside the card and see a love poem?. There ain?t puke enough in the world for today? (78). Mass-produced emotion (?It?s Wuv!?) might make him puke, but small acts of personal kindness get to him: when an ?ole lady? asks him if he?s alright and brings her hand to his face he meets it ?like it was the hand of God? (150).

The book is an attack on the sensationalism and shallow emotionalism that titillate Jerry Springer?s audiences. It seems almost superfluous to say it is a satire of American pop culture ? what serious novel celebrates sensationalism and cheap emotion? ? but this is a particularly effective one, perhaps because the focus remains on the narrator rather than the publicity and controversy around him. About the only representative of the big bad media we meet is just a small-time hustler. There is no insider?s exposé ¯f the workings of NBC, CNN or Fox News. The reader only gradually and dimly become aware of the media hoo-ha surrounding Vernon Little, an honourable addition to the line of disaffected child commentators on the adult world.

Pierre gave a talk in Dublin in November entitled ?the Death of Satire? but judging by Vernon God Little satire is alive and enjoying rude good health. Never mind the prizes, the indulgent treatment from BBC 2, the Mark Twain and JD Salinger comparisons and the rave reviews (we?re all in this together); just read this book.

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