Vernon is the "skate-goat" for sixteen deaths during a school shooting his buddy committed before he then kills himself in this offbeat Man Booker winner. Vernon's small Texas town goes wild with opportunistic media and outrageous locals that make for an oftentimes maddening cast of characters. I can't say that I loved the prose of this novel, but I certainly agree that it offers some conversation. It'd be a fun book club read if your group doesn't mind some heavy discussion.
Pierre pretty quickly throws certain aspects of Western middle class culture under the bus with his witty attacks, making for the bulk of the novel; the media's role in painting Vernon's guilt is the most obvious. Opportunism in the face of tragedy rears it's ugly head as everyone fights for shreds of gossip, or even the newest piece of damning evidence that'll fire the young man off to death row. Most of the adults in the novel are motivated by entirely selfish reasons, as is young Vernon in his quest to escape to Mexico at all costs with the coed he's been lusting over.
The novel obsesses about consumerism; from over eating, sexual deviancy, or spending into bankruptcy. Most of Vernon's hometown is plagued with these sorts of consumptive fixations, thus their selfishness and inability to protect Vernon from an unfair verdict or himself. Poor hopeless foreign born attorney Abdini is the only hero at the end, even after having been abandoned for a more showy, glamorous attorney when the hailstorm of the media frenzy is unleashed. Any one else want to jump to conclusions about why Pierre does this?
The atmosphere of this book is pretty entertaining given the tragedy that sets events to unfolding. Vernon's madcap exploits do have a sort of Huck Finn youthfulness to them; it's just distorted and ugly once it filters through the brand-obsessed, foul mouthed vernacular of adolescent boys. There isn't that innocence in growing up, and Pierre pretty deftly handles such a heavy task of rendering the oftentimes disturbing culture that permeates our media and every day lives.
I know the diction was meant to be coarse, but it did affect my enjoyment of this novel. That sort of thing matters a lot to me. Some of the characterizations were wonderfully subtle in their depictions, others were not so efficiently rendered and went a bit overboard. I felt like Ella and Lally didn't need to be quite so bizarre! I like it when an author can show some economy. At the end of the day, this novel is brimming with discussions for book clubs, but wasn't the dense masterwork I would have expected from a Man Booker award.
The fun part is that I found whilst browsing that the novel has been adapted for theater, and here is the oh-so appropriate design for the show! If you find yourself in London, maybe look into it!
Vernon God Little, D.B.C. Pierre