About half-way through the book I’ve just read, the sixteen-year-old protagonist finds himself in Austen, Texas, at a crossroads in some very absurd proceedings. I say absurd because this wretched individual manages to get himself in very deep shit, his life rocketing from bad to terrible with comic speed.
I wouldn’t normally want to read about the adventures of a troubled teenager, but the fact that this book won the 2003 Booker Prize, the Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman Prize for Comic Fiction, and the first novel award in the 2003 Whitbread Awards, and the only other readable thing in my universe at the time was a webcam manual, I gave it a shot.
Getting back to the crossroads in Austen, it was at that point in the book when I became utterly hooked. I stopped reading, stared at the ceiling and tried to work out where the hell the author was going to go with the narrative. He’d set the main character brilliantly, constructed the background of a painfully sad parochial Texan town in cringe-worthy detail, and had all the extras set and ready to go. But where?
The story was poised to go anywhere and—totally sucked in—I would follow it blindly. I was so into it that if someone had attempted any form of book theft at that point, the ramifications would have been of global proportions.
It was also late and I had to head for bed, presenting me with a tangible dilemma. We keep books out of the bedroom as a matter of course, so how to safeguard my reading material? I slept easy after I’d hidden the book and left my new iPhone, laptop, and a wad of cash in plain sight to deter any burglars from looking too hard for it. Yes, it was that good.
Where a book’s heading is usually bubbling away in the back of my mind as I read—a writer’s thing, I guess. But, for all of us, the thread of the story is critical to its readability and, therefore, its credibility. Insane things may happen in the story, but you want to believe they can, don’t you? A bad story line can snap you back to reality very quickly. It’s jarring, much like a ytpo appearing, or a lack of continuity becoming glaringly obvious. Yes, those editing slips jump out like dog’s thingies and can really spoil a good read.
So, where was this particular story going? The one in the book, I mean. It could go anywhere and did. And from a writer’s perspective, I had oodles of ideas of where it was headed —all wrong. I was on tenterhooks right up to the last word. The author had built such a strong and versatile platform that he reached out, grabbed me, and took me on a rollercoaster ride. Now that’s good writing.
If you haven’t worked it out, the book is Vernon God Little by Australian born author, DBC Pierre (Peter Finlay).