Newsnight Review discussed the comic novel Vernon God Little, the debut novel of Peter Finlay, who writes under the pseudonym of DBC Pierre.
(Edited highlights of the panel's review)
Tim Lott, it's a good question for
any novelist, can and should
Columbine be done as a comedy?
I don't have a problem with that. If
you can write catch 22 about a war,
I don't see why you can't write a
satire about death. I suppose one
could consider there is a matter of
taste in the matter of time that's
elapsed. It's not a tasteless book,
oddly enough. It's rude, and it's
obscene, and it's very, very funny.
But it's serious as well. It's not like
we are reading PG Woodhouse
here. It is a combination of a book
that makes you laugh, but in some
ways it has several things in
common, oddly enough, with
About Schmidt, in that it has a
serious purpose, and yet it's very
funny, it's also about truth and lies
and the struggle for one voice to find
the voice of truth. The voice of the
book is its great attraction, in many
ways. He's found the voice. I didn't
like it at first, but I was kind of won
over within the first 30 pages, and
realised it wasn't just a rather facile
device. It went to the very heart of
It's complete phoney. It's not been
published in America - never will be.
A puerile, facile book. I disliked it
less as I went on, because the plot
is good, smart, great architecture.
The tone is wrong. It's Catcher in
the Rye with none of the sensitivity.
It's got these characters who all come
out of comic books. I think it is pure Faber and
Faber publishing this. I can see the
guys sitting round the table saying,
"It's got the F word 17 times on every
page. Let's publish this
I think it's
easily the funniest novel, certainly
since Confederacy of the Dances
which came out about 20 years ago,
that I have read. It's absolutely
tremendous. It is absolutely tremendous.
There is incredible condensation of
language, incredibly funny images.
The beauty of the language, which
is a kind of Jerry Springer show
language, just turned into poetry. I
think it's the most fantastic book. I
can't believe this was on a slush pile
of an agent and not published in
America. I think he is a really
There are some fantastically timed
jokes here. We are told they are
having a charity day for the victims,
then a couple of pages later you find
out they are building a media centre
with the money that they've raised.
There are things you don't know.
TV courtrooms which have TV in
America, do they have make-up
rooms or not? Then later, everyone
on death row is being voted for by
viewers, who's going to go next.
You think that's not true, but in ten
years it might be.
It's a thoughtful book. There's a great
line here: "You are cursed when you
recognise true things because you
can't act with the full confidence of
dumbness any more". I loved that