International Writers Magazine: Review
God Little By D B C Pierre
serious tale of a dystopic now, comedic only for the novels
personal voice which comes from an oppressed fifteen year old
called Vernon Little. Vernon discovers how difficult life can
become for a manufactured scapegoat, dreamed up by the elite few
which Edward Bernays loved to talk about when he was able to sell
cigarettes to women for the first time, on account of them being
healthy, according to doctors.
Dirty But Clean
Pierres satiric Vernon God Little tells the story of an unfortunate
young man who finds himself knee deep in societies anal discharge, (which
is usually referred to as every day life) when his best friend, Jesus
Navarro commits a crime resembling Columbine; shooting himself and 16
other students dead at their school in Martirio, Texas. Nearly literate
Vernon is forced to run to Mexico in a desperate bid to put all the
grief behind him. However, he soon finds out its not so easy to
escape the grasp of police deputy, Vaine Gurie, (whose job hangs in
the balance as she has not recently made enough successful arrests)
in combination with Lally, a manipulating TV reporter trying to make
his fortune from documenting the reaction to this series of tragic events.
The innocent Vernon only succeeds in digging himself a bigger hole.
Lally, who at first we suppose may be able to help Vernon prove his
innocence, instead focuses the power of mass media which he has harnessed,
against him, whilst living with Verns own mother. Vernon is enraged
by his confused but loving mother who as well as siding with Lally,
the man who appears to be replacing Vernons missing father; assumed
dead by everyone but the insurance company, she continues to turn the
knife in his back which has been there since he was a youngster.
Ill tell you a learning: knife-turners like my ole lady
actually spend their waking hours connecting shit into a humongous web,
just like spiders. Its true. They take every word in the fucken
universe, and index it back to your knife. In the end it doesnt
matter what words you say, you feel it on your blade. Like, Wow,
see that car? Well its the same blue as that
jacket you threw up on at the Christmas show, remember? What I
learned is that parents succeed by managing the database of your dumbness
and your slime, ready for combat. Theyll cut you down in a split
fucken second, make no mistake; much quicker than youd use the
artillery you dream about.
There are many learnings in the text, one of which being
the respect for unconditional love, the kind given by his mother which
should be respected despite all of her shortcomings. These involve her
telling people at every opportunity that he shits himself, saying that
he should really empathise with an issue her friend is having, on the
very day he sentenced to death, and constantly reminding reporters that
even murderers are loved by their mothers. Vernon does point
out that he is on trial for accessory to murder as opposed to murder,
but as the novel develops the significance of facts seems to lessen,
as every character seeks justification of their own selfish truths and
beliefs in order to gain status or wealth.
Almost every action in the plot (other than those of Vernon who spends
most of his time trying to avoid arrest), is dictated by status or wealth.
Obesity, bullying, consumerism and mass media influence are some of
the issues explored here, all with a kind of South Park spin, a show
which I suspect Pierre may be a fan of. We witness the Bar-B-Chew
Chicken companys rise to power with a familiar air of McDonaldisation.
Footwear also evolves over the course of the tale, as we see a character
in Timberlands near the end, Nikes are out, or Vernons are at
least, which means a hell of a lot to a teen from Martirio. Eric Cartman,
I mean, Vernon, is the only one who seems to journey anywhere intellectually
however. Certainly the other characters dont, nor does society
within the book, as we see a kid receiving a gun as a gift toward the
end, suggesting that the whole disaster could easily happen again:
Brad thumps onto the porch behind us.
B-ooom! Suck shit muthafucka!
That better not be loaded. says Betty. Bradley Pritchard!
Dont you point that thing, or itll go right back to the
I'm not sure the reader is really transported anywhere other than into
Martirio and back out again if they have a knowledge of current affairs
before reading Vernon God Little. The book serves as a reminder, a smart
kick in the ass, but doesnt necessarily teach us anything, or
need to for enjoyment to be had. The book is rammed with humour from
start to finish, most of it just plain wrong, but lapped up by the reader
as we find ourselves living and breathing through Vernon. Everything
which Vernon feels is naturalized as we identify with him after just
a few pages. We accept every twist thrown at us by Pierre, not questioning
the living ideology that is Vernon Little.
Picking the book up again was the only cure for my swearing at everyone
around me as Vernon does in his head. This is a book which chewed me
up and refused to spit me out; absorbed I was, tasting the blood and
dust of Martirio with each new line. A constant flow of comedic moments
were key to the hypnosis cast upon me by the read, almost as effectively
as Lally was able to impose his story on the community:
Jesus Navarro was born with six fingers on each hand, and that
wasnt the most different thing about him'.
Though there is much mention of panties their fragrance and stained
colours, the book confronts serious societal issues; the story really
hangs on a question posed by Jesus at the beginning which Vernon is
completely unable to get his Texan head around: If things dont
happen unless you see them happening do they still happen if
you know theyre gonna but dont tell nobody
Vernon God Little asks the question: Can we get away with just ignoring
the problems in todays society? No.
So does Pierre succeed in informing us about societys current
situation? Yes I suppose he does, and if we look past the extraordinary
voice in which the novel is presented, a deeper meaning is found, which
isnt to say however that the subject hasnt been covered
Some may say that Vernon God Little explores rather obvious modern day
issues. Indeed Joyce Carol Oates of the New Yorker turns Vernons
quote: I already know Ill be offering a service, I just
have to Position and Package the thing. Against Pierre, claiming
that perhaps all he has done is recycle or repackage ideas of a socially
sinking America, spinning them off at another angle, from anothers
Thats all very well, but in my eyes which are in tune with Verns,
(and would have been long before had books as well written as this been
readily available on such subject matter), if you can identify with
the song that this book sings, even if its not the same virgin performance
of the message, as the book is for Pierre, you can at least give yourself
a pat on the back as you see your world slip into the hands of the Bernays
elite few represented in Vernon God Little by the likes
of Nike and Bar-B-Chew Chicken, but like: hell, just enjoy
the read, its worthy, god.
© Dean Betts Jan 2007
Dean is studying Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth
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