The human world is darkly comical. The twenty-first century has only added more sound and fury to the comedy. D B C Pierre’s novel, Vernon God Little, gives us all that dark humour on a platter.
As Vernon is going to turn 16, he is arrested for complicity in a serial killing which his friend Jesus Navarro committed. Jesus could not endure the bullying any further and he pulled the trigger on sixteen of his fellow students before killing himself. The novel tells the story of the investigation. How people react to Vernon’s arrest and related events bring out the hollowness of their thoughts and feelings.
Vernon’s mother, Doris, is more worried about the fridge that she has been waiting for though she does console her son saying that mothers love their sons even if the sons are murderers. She is in no hurry to believe her son’s assertion of his innocence. Soon she develops an affair with Eulalio Ledesma, who claims to be a TV reporter, though he is in fact a TV repairman trying get his share of fame at Vernon’s expense. Dr Oliver Goosens, the psychiatrist who is to assess Vernon, is a gay paedophile who strips the boy naked and fondles his private parts until the boy jumps up in protest. In retaliation, the psychiatrist threatens him with a negative report. Mr Nuckles, the science teacher, is another child abuser. Jesus, the serial killer, was a victim of both Mr Nuckles and Dr Goosens. There is a retired principal, Mr Deutschman, who loved to fondle the private parts of his girl students. Vernon with the help of a girl called Ella blackmails Mr Deutschman and extracts $140.
Though Vernon was not in the premises when the serial killing took place, he is unable to prove the alibi. Mr Goosens who had sent Vernon to the lab for bringing certain things for an experiment does not help. But Vernon has a problem with his bowel movement and the faeces he dropped in a field as well as the science notes which he used as toilet paper will play a major role in the plot eventually.
In the meanwhile, Vernon runs away to Mexico. He rings up Taylor Figueroa, a senior girl in his school, for some money. She goes all the way to Mexico promising to give him the money personally but betrays him to Eulalio Ledesma and his policemen. Taylor uses sex for making Vernon confess. “Vernon, tell me all those things you did,” Taylor murmurs to Vernon as she holds him in a tight embrace. They melt into each other’s mouths, in Vernon’s own words. His hand “finds the round of her ass, surfs it, a finger charts an edge of panty – doesn’t pick, or lift – just teases and glides, moving higher, feeling the climate change around her rudest rebellion…”
Taylor realises that the tantalisation is not enough. She wriggles herself out of her shorts. Soon Vernon’s face is buried in “the stinking wet truth behind panties, money, justice, and slime…” He cannot resist anymore Taylor’s demand to confess to his crime. “Tell me what you did to those people,” she insists, “tell me you loved it.” She wants to hear that Vernon killed all those people, not only the students but also many others in the town (the police have actually assumed that Vernon was the killer in many unproven cases). She wants Vernon to say that he committed all those murders just for her sake, for her love.
“Yeah,” Vernon gives in to heat of the moment. “I did it for you.” As soon as that confession is made, Taylor changes into a different girl. Within seconds, Vernon is under arrest, in the glaring lights of cameras.
Taylor is happy that she finally found a job, a fairly glamorous one too – as a TV anchor. Ledesma is the man behind that show. Vernon’s mother will soon get her new fridge.
Vernon’s friend in the jail is Pastor Lasalle who is also on the death-row like Vernon. Lasalle was an axe serial killer. Now as a pastor, his advice to Vernon is: “You’re the God. Take responsibility. Exercise your power.” Vernon Gregory Little thus becomes Vernon God Little.
God or no God, it is Vernon’s faeces and the science notes which became his toilet tissue that will save him in the end from the death-row.
Life appears to be a big farce sometimes, though simultaneously tragic too. This novel which won the Man Booker Prize in 2003 explores that farce through the eyes of a boy who turns 16, old enough to be put on the execution chair. In this tragic farce, “You need positioning, like a product in the market – the jails are full of people who didn’t manage their positions.” Here public opinion goes with “the first psycho who points a finger.” Here you should learn “when to be an asshole in life” if you want to get on. In the end, “maybe only the dumb are safe in this world, the ones who roam with the herd, without thinking about every little thing.”
It is funny world. It is a tragic world. Sometimes we don’t know where the comedy ends and tragedy begins or vice-versa.
PS. This is part of a series being written for the #BlogchatterA2Z Challenge. The previous parts are:
3. The Castle
14. No Exit
16. The Plague
18. The Rebel
Coming up on Monday: Wuthering Heights