Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Vernon God Little

I think about all those days when the alarm wakes me up and I wish I could stay in bed all day, or at least a couple of hours longer. But when I'm stuck in bed because being upright is agony, the place is less than appealing. Even the thought of doing nothing but reading is anathema. And it's hard to do crosswords with a pen that doesn't write upside down.
Nevertheless, while spending the last two days in bed I got stuck into Vernon God Little, the 2003 Booker prize-winning novel by DBC Pierre. It was a compelling story, and was enjoyable in a grungy kind of way. It reveals the dark side of small-town life, populated with characters whose dark sides aren't far from the surface at all times. In some ways, Pierre reminds me of Patrick White (and the Australian love-hate relationship with this Nobel prizewinner's work).
White and Pierre both scratch the thin skin of social acceptance and reveal the raw bones and blood underneath. You can't love their characters because you can see them with all their inner conflicts exposed, but you have to marvel at the writer's ability to reveal deep meaning with a deft phrase, or even a single word. There's no happy ending, although there is satisfaction in the conclusion. Reading Vernon God Little makes me want to go and dig out my copy of Voss, which I think is one of Patrick White's best (I did recently enjoy The Eye of the Storm). I'll have to add it to my reading list.

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