I read Vernon God Little at a somewhat appropriate time – this week it was announced that Eleanor Catton wins the Man Booker Prize for her novel The Luminaries while Pierre’s novel won the very same prize exactly ten years ago in 2003.
I liked this novel. It is amusing. I always have reservations about novels that are meant to be funny. In addition to the Booker Prize, the novel won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, a prize that celebrates comic literature. I can only think of two or three books I have read in my life that have actually made me laugh out loud. One of these is Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. Another was Alan Temperley’s Harry and the Wrinklies, a book I read when I was nine and I remember tears streaming down my face when practising my reading with my teacher. Plenty of things I have read on the internet have had me crying so hard that I can’t breathe. Vernon God Little really is funny, and it’s no fault in the writing that it didn’t make me physically laugh out loud: it did make me laugh on the inside. Some books just don’t hit the right buttons.
The novel deals with Vernon and his plan to abscond to Mexico when all signs point to him as an accomplice to a school massacre. Vernon is innocent, but the cards are not stacked in his favour. There are unreliable traumatised witnesses, an overzealous bureaucracy, an incomprehensible attorney, friends of the family out to get him, and when the only piece of information to exonerate him is precariously near an unrelated buried gun with his own fingerprints on it, Vernon’s ridiculous situation and his outlook on the absurdity of it all sets his plan in motion. From there we follow Vernon’s crazy journey packed with hilarious American stereotypes and his struggle against his testosterone-driven desires and the long arm of the law, all done in Vernon’s idiosyncratic narrative voice full of expletives, hyperbole and teenage angst akin to J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
I don’t have any quotes cause I went and returned the book to the library I got it from. But truth be told, it is a cracking read.