ON A TIRING RUN – a book review

Jackie Kabir

We all expected Monica Ali to win the Booker Prize in 2003, if not for anything else than for the fact that she is half Bangladeshi by birth. Ali’s book Brick Lane was both longlisted and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize award. Surprising everyone, DBC Pierre got the prize that year for his work Vernon God Little.
Just like Ali, Pierre was also an outsider in the literary world. DBC Pierrie’s real name is Peter Finlay. Apparently DBC stands for ‘dirty but clean’ as he had led a a very eventful life starting from using cocaine to borrowing money from friends without ever paying them back. In the end, he tried his hand at writing which finally made his list of achievements include the Booker Prize.
DBC Pierre was born to British parents but was brought up in Mexico and Australlia. He says that he feels culturally uprooted as he did not belong to any one particular place or country. Vernon God Little is the narrator of the novel who belongs to the Eminem generation of today’s Martirio in Texas. According to Professor John Carey, the chairman of the jury, the book is “a coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm and fascination with modern America”.
The book has been compared with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Fin and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. A 15-year-old Vernon Gregory is a Texan teenager whose physical and spiritual journey is depicted by Pierre as he absconds after being released on bail in a trial. He is accused of killing eighteen of his classmates. It was in fact Jesus Navarro who committed the murders before putting the gun to his own head.
Vernon’s mother’s associate and lover Eulalio Ledesma follows his fugitive life and proves that he was actually involved in the murder of thirty four people following the killing of eighteen of his schoolmates. Before crossing the Texas border Vernon meets his only friend Taylor Figueroa for whom he has had a long-standing infatuation. Vernon wants her to accompany him on his flight. But she has a boyfriend and has come to shop for her lingerie for their next date.
Heartbroken, Vernon starts his journey alone. His experience in Mexico wizens him up a bit; but that does not prevent the protagonist from being lured to a hotel to meet Taylor. Taylor Figueroa does not hesitate to hand him over to the police. The whole show is orchestrated by Lally, the manipulating TV reporter who makes a fortune out of Vernon’s case. Vernon tells the court that he has been running an errand for one of his teachers, Mr Knuckles, and has further delayed by his bowel movement. But Knuckles fails to testify to Vernon’s innocence as he had lost his wits after the incident. Even though the boy is on the run he is accused of committing thirty four murders altogether.
Readers are sometimes shocked with the Texan language that seems to emanate from the characters. It is nonetheless a true picture of the Eminem generation (even I would not have known anything about the Eminem generation had it not been for a student who did his presentation on ‘hip hop’ music in class) who use a lot swearing in their music and use shocking phrases in their vocabulary. Even then Vernon has a poetic quality in writing his rap about his night time bike ride: “I ride down empty roads of frosted silver, trees overhead swish cool hints of warm panties in bedclothes.”
The book has been criticised for showing a side of America that only Americans are aware of. DBC Pierre is bold in his portrayal of how the American media rules people’s lives. Fast food, homosexuality, reality life shows and death among the younger generation have been portrayed with vividness.
Pierre uses a lot of irony in this novel. It is satire that makes us laugh, with a feeling of guilt. It is a good book even though it shocks readers with the language used.

Jackie teaches English language.

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