We live in an inverted world. What Yeats said in his apocalyptic poem ‘The Second Coming’ is truer today than ever: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.”
That’s why I picked up D B C Pierre’s 2003 Booker winning novel Vernon God Little for a second reading. It’s the story of fifteen year-old Vernon Gregory Little who has been accused of murdering his friend Jesus. Eventually he becomes a serial killer who has murdered sixteen of his schoolmates as well as many others in the town. One of his teachers, his psychiatric counsellor, his girlfriend and the media, all play cynical roles in making him a serial killer though he is innocent.
All of them have purely selfish motives in making Vernon the killer. Taylor Figueroa, the girlfriend, sees her opportunity to become a media star by doing a sting operation on Vernon. She seduces him into admitting that he killed all those people for her sake, for her love.
The novel has satirised almost everything from the ordinary people who convert tragedy into entertainment to the media that monetises the issue by live-telecasting the culprit’s life in the prison and organising reality shows as well as voting by viewers to choose the convict on the death row including Vernon to be executed first.
The only person with some kind of morality in that inverted world is an axe murderer turned preacher. He tells Vernon that the world is run by “intermingling needs” and those who learn to “serve that intermingling” get on successfully. Vernon missed the boat, says the preacher, because he didn’t understand the ways of the world. “Papa God growed us up till we could wear long pants;” the preacher counsels Vernon, “then he licensed his name to dollar bills, left some car keys on the table, and got the fuck outta town…. Don’t be looking up at no sky for help. Look down here, at us twisted dreamers.”
That axe killer with all his foul language turns out to be far better a human being than all the moralists, teachers, counsellors, law keepers and the common folk who are all twisted dreamers in the novel. Of course, the climax of the plot consoles us with the straight verdicts of conventional morality in which truth prevails in the end. But truth’s victory extracts much pain from those who don’t care to learn the ways of the twisted dreamers.