Vernon Goodstuff LittleI usually don't hit it off with the critically acclaimed ones. The works of the Nobel laureate, the canon of the Sahitya Akademi recipient, the Booker Prize winner - I've been wary of these. These tend to be complex, referential, multi-threaded and usually end in a confused ball of yarn.
But occasionally, I stray into that side. Going by the sheer effect of namedropping, induced by hearing it in an answer for 10 points, for flavour of the month is usually a popular choice for Q. No. 19. I had heard of the curiously pseudonym-ed DBC Pierre (DBC: Dirty But Clean) and seen clips of him winning the Booker for the similarly curious title Vernon God Little - all this recall helping me pick it off a shelf in the local library. Looking at the back cover for some more illumination, I was surprised to see it set in Texas which struck me as the last place for a Commonwealth literature award winner to be based in (there may be others too, but I'm ignorant).
The story is completely through the mind of Vernon Gregory Little (the middle "G" is a merely a placeholder for a range of moods from Genius to Gucci to Godzilla). He goes from being suspected of aiding a high school massacre to being arrested as the perpetrator of every crime from Martirio to Mexico (sometimes simultanous crimes in two different places) to inspiring a reality show that helps people vote off prisoners on death row so that they can be executed.
No wonder the book is subtitled "A 21st Century Comedy in the Face of Death". The comedy is also undeniably black. Pitch black in fact. That's why given that some reviewers (off the back cover) compare it to "Huck Finn on six packs" and "Catcher in the Rye", I had to find my own analogy. I chose the film "American Beauty". Some of us like to take a superior view and look down at the Americans, tap our foreheads Obelix-style and say "These Americans must be crazy". We'll sit and watch their self-deprecating reality shows, their comedy monologues and their "America's Most" illustrations of behaviour that makes us aghast. While all the time someone is planning a desi version.
Vernon God Little has a preponderance of slang, as seems inevitable when a kid of 15 is narrating his version of events. He is a little too aware of things, at times. However, this lets him refer to pop culture in ways few would in a "critically acclaimed" novel. Most importantly, it has a tidy ending and a subtle twist that will strike you if you've paid attention among the stream-of-consciousness. If you happen to pick the book on the basis of this post and find yourself losing interest in the middle, I'd coax you to finish it. You will see then.