Magazine article The Spectator

Blow-Out in Berlin

Magazine article The Spectator

Blow-Out in Berlin

Article excerpt

LIGHTS OUT IN WONDERLAND

by D. B. C. Pierre

Faber, £12.99 , pp. 315,

ISBN 9780571228898

D. B. C. Pierre's Vernon God Little was an unusual Man Booker winner (2003). Not only was it brilliant, it was also a first novel, and apparently by an American. Holden Caulfield was invoked, and Liam McIlvanney called it 'the most vital slice of American vernacular since Huck Finn'. It turned out, though, to have been written by a Brit, 'on the floor of a boxroom in Balham'.

D. B. C. Pierre is the nom de plume of Peter Finlay, an evolved childhood nickname - 'Dirty But Clean', which is evidently his motto as a writer. Foully satirical, he is also sweetly allegorical. The romance of a highschool gun massacre, VGL reminded me of a darker and funnier Douglas Coupland, and while Coupland writes American but is Canadian, Pierre is a bit more complicated.

Born of British parents in Australia, he grew up in 'a lavish mansion' in Mexico City, and has lived around the world (currently up a mountain in Co. Leitrim). In his wild jet-setting youth he became involved in drugs and other illegalities, and wrote VGL when he was nearly 40, after years of rehab and recovery; after its success he repaid the money he had stolen as an addict.

Predictably but justly, his second novel, Ludmilla's Broken English , a tedious saga of Siamese twins in London and the Caucasus, was given a critical kicking.

Lights Out in Wonderland , his third, is in perfect accord with the D. B. C dynamic: Good But Bad, or possibly vice versa.

Written in the first person and present tense, it is essentially a Luddite addict's wistful fantasy of intoxication. Aged 25, a self-described microwave chef, pamphleteer, failed student and bad poet, Gabriel Brockwell has just begun a course in rehab when, for undisclosed reasons, he decides to kill himself. …

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