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EDITIONS
 Monday, 27 January, 2003, 12:01 GMT
Vernon God Little
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)

MARK LAWSON:
Tim Lott, it's a good question for any novelist, can and should Columbine be done as a comedy?

TIM LOTT:
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 the book.

LISA JARDINE:
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 one."

CRAIG BROWN:
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 exciting talent.

LAWSON:
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.

BROWN:
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.

LOTT:
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 line.


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