by D.B.C. Pierre
Very few nations in the history of civilization have come close to America's brand of prescription audacity. This doesn't make the medicine any easier to swallow when someone, especially a foreigner, takes us to task. Making light of America or rather, Tex-Americana, is exactly what Australian author D.B.C. Pierre has done with the Texas twister that is Vernon God Little.
The setting is Martirio, Texas, a desolate, oily truck stop in the middle of nowhere. It reeks of every non-metropolitan burg in America. Martirio is littered with vacant lots and manufactured homes. It's a town full of fast food-eating, overweight Anglos, and Mexicans with names like Palmyra or Jesus. This is where we find Vernon G. Little, the story's protagonist and he's neck deep in a Columbine-style bloodbath.
The ensuing media circus and law enforcement bumble-fest sets up Vernon for a gauntlet of accusation. The Texans, it seems, want their Charles Whitman. Vernon's ensuing introspective and candid narration is the strength of first-time novelist Peter Finlay (His penname is D.B.C. Pierre, the obscurant nature of which is a story worth investigating unto itself.) who, for his efforts, won Britain's prestigious and lucrative Man Booker Prize. Vernon's slanged Texas-speak is crazy talk; part J. D. Salinger and part Lynda Barry with a kind of tarnished Twain-like flair for metaphor. This alone makes it worth the read.
The problem with the novel, from the American standpoint, is that the story makes you feel a bit put on. We are being laughed at, rather than laughed with, and it hurts. Pierre's rapier wit causes much blood loss, and if you've ever seen a startling picture of yourself, you know what I'm talking about. You'll cry, "This, from an Aussie? The Brits awarded him how much?!?" You'll look for errors in regional dialect and find them. You might see flaws in continuity, but it doesn't really matter. Actually, Vernon God Little is a great novel. Maybe we deserve to have our asses kicked with the truth, even if it's dressed as fiction. We are, after all, the land of Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, and George Bush. Until we do our own reckoning, we may as well get used to the rest of the world doing it for us. LANCE CHESS