“Vernon God Little” by DBC Pierre (2003)
“A 21st century comedy in the presence of death.”
I started reading this novel a little over two weeks before I was due to go and see a stage play adaptation of it at the New Theatre. As it turned out, I was not quite half way through the novel when the play date rolled around. I wasn’t sure how to feel about this. Maybe I would never go back for the rest of the book? Maybe the mood created by what I had already read was going to be spoilt by the stage play? Maybe the story was just too damned weird to translate to the stage?
“Vernon God Little” is the story of 15 year old Vernon Gregory Little, whose best friend, Jesus (it’s Hey-zeus, dammit, not Jesus), has just gone crazy with a gun at school and killed 16 people. Vernon is accused of being an accessory. He wasn’t… but in the typical hysteria that follows such a tragedy, the slightest hint of a suggestion of a maybe that he even thought about seeing if Jesus needed a hand has him hung, drawn and quartered by lunchtime.
It is also a story about the oddballs that surround Vernon, from the crazy-sound-making Deputy to the creepy-sleezy news guy stalking him for a story, right on through to his fridge-obsessed mother and the foul-mouthed, wild-child, Ella who just might actually be adorable. Together with a whole collection of other loopy, demented and down-right nutty characters, “Vernon God Little” takes the reader on a journey that is both tragic and hilarious, sickening and heart-warming. Hailed as an exploration of modern American suburbia, it is actually a lot closer to the truth of the world we live in than even I am willing to admit.
I don’t think there is any real way to invite you in to “Vernon God Little”. It’s the kind of book some will love and others will give up on after the first chapter or two. It ended up taking me right through from two weeks before the play, past the play date, right on through another week, when we went back to see the play again (yes, it was that good) and then almost another week after that. It’s a beautiful book, with a very satisfying ending. I liked it most because it was so unlike anything else I’ve read. Let me share a bit with you:
That’s the kind of life I want, the life we were fucken promised. A fuzzy ole show with some flashes of panty and a happy ending. One of those shows where the kid’s baseball coach takes him camping, and teaches him self-respect, you’ve seen that show, with electric piano notes tinkling in the background, soft as ovaries hitting oatmeal. When you hear that piano it means somebody’s hugging, or a woman is crumpling her lips with overwhelming joy, down by a lake. Boy, the life I could live with the right music behind me…
Vernon has moved into my heart, along with Jacob from “Water for Elephants”, Ed from “The Messenger” and Quick Lamb from “Cloudstreet”. He will stay with me, of that I am sure. I encourage you to invite him over and see if you like him too.