Although my first impulse is to dismiss this as yet another American-Jesus tale, Vernon God Little probably deserves to be treated with at least some seriousness. This is extremely difficult though because it smacks of the peculiar pretentiousness of an author attempting to emulate J.D Salinger…
This tale portrays Vernon Little, latter-day Jesus in question, as a slightly hapless and angry young man living in flyspeck, Texas, who is caught up in a high-school massacre conducted by his best friend… Jesus! From this point on the only redeeming feature of the novel is wondering whether Vernon, as narrator, did commit the heinous crimes of which he is accused, and whether he is in some sort of elaborate denial.
I mention Salinger because the style of narration Pierre employs strongly evokes our anti-hero from Catcher in the Rye. He’s isolated, socially distant, and confused by events that have overtaken him. Unlike Holden Caufield’s motivation, the child committing suicide at school, the tragedy in this novel is not obscured but is instead laid open just enough to set in train a ’cause and effect’ theme that pervades the story. Vernon is swept up in the machinations of the adults around him and he becomes the scapegoat, or sacrificial lamb, one that must be offered up unto God.
While this heavy Christian symbolism is probably well at home in the Texas setting of the novel, a country known for it’s willing blindness and faith, it tends towards the outright pretentious, and in the end gives the entire novel a disinct odour of redemptive cheese than becomes overpowering.
These criticisms aside, I found the desriptions of Texas highly evocative. I could see and feel the country’s mad heat and weight while I read the book, and smell its putrid, oil-feed gluttony. There are also some outright laugh-out-loud moments at the utter witlessness of the stories denizens, and a believability I found all too real.
On average then, a decent novel. Not quite the American classic the boosters on the paperback would have you believe, but not quite the load of poncance I feared it would be.