Pierre’s adventure tale of the pursuit of poor little Vern by virtually the entire machine of ‘Merica is a combustive mix of satire and suspense. The pace doesn’t let up. From the moment you meet the eponymous hero until his final homecoming, you feel as out of breath, as uncertain of your surroundings as he is. It’s a novel that very cleverly characterises the claustrophobia suffered by those for the whom the American Dream is nothing short of a nightmare.
Vernon is the product of a dysfunctional single-parent family in Couldbeanytown, Texas. His mother dreams of a limited edition refrigerator while Vernon dreams of simply being accepted. He attends a local high school where something has gone horribly wrong. What exactly took place, you piece together as the story unfolds. Exactly what role Vernon played in it is what everyone else wants to know.
Through the introduction of some of the most comic US-lit characters since Ignatius J. Reilly and Yossarian, we find the authority of law enforcement and the voice of mainstream media lampooned like never before. All the while, Vernon grows up faster than he needs to and is beset on all sides by enemies both real and imagined.
The strength of this novel comes not only from his biting satire but also from the style that Pierre has employed. The US has always been easy to mock, strewn as it is with stereotypes, laughable if not horrific foreign policy and, best of all, ever too sensitive to take it all with a pinch of salt. The satire should therefore come easily to even a modestly talented writer.
What makes Vernon special though is that the writing is constructed as a perfect embodiment of the very culture it sets out to critique. Vernon’s narrative is offensive, cynical, self-absorbed, angry, confused, paranoid and pessimistic. While he’s busy lambasting his mother’s dependence on her rotating door of lovers, he’s lusting after his own dependencies. At the same time he’s scathing of society’s incompetence, he’s unable to organise even the simplest tasks for his own welfare.
The result is a tirade that can be taken two ways at the same time. While it seriously questions the fundamental aspects of USAnian society, Pierre also seems to be asking whether you can in fact actually take the writing seriously. On the one hand Pierre’s novel seems to find absolutely nothing of cultural worth. On the other, the very fact that this culture is so delicious a farce makes it worth so very much to an art form that strives to help us understand the human condition. Fact.