Magazine article Newsweek International

A Tale of Two Views

Magazine article Newsweek International

A Tale of Two Views

Article excerpt

As if the war in Iraq hadn't done enough damage to transatlantic relations, another culturally contentious issue is now gaining volume. This con-troversy is taking place not at the United Nations but in bookstores--and among reviewers--across the world.

Last month Britain's Man Booker committee awarded DBC Pierre's "Vernon God Little" its prestigious [Pound sterling]50,000 prize. In the announcement, the novel was praised as a "coruscating black comedy reflecting our alarm but also our fascination with modern America." The story of a high-school shooting in Texas also reflects seriously divergent literary tastes. Reviews in the U.K. and Australia, where Pierre is from, have been largely laudatory, while most American critics have found much to dislike. "The great division in European and American public opinion on areas of political and foreign policy is creating this kind of critical firestorm," says Homi Bhabha, professor of literature at Harvard University.

The difference in opinion was apparent long before the Man Booker Prize was announced. Back in 2001, American publishers passed on the book unanimously, in part because 9/11 had many speculating that irony was dead. But when "VGL" began to circulate around Britain, its dark take on suburban Americana kicked off a bidding war that resulted in a hefty [Pound sterling]208,000 signing bonus--not bad for Pierre, a debt- ridden recovering drug addict who'd never published a book before.

The novel hit Britain's bookshelves like a bomb. …

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