Vernon Subutex was once the proprietor of Revolver, an infamous music shop in Bastille. His legend spread throughout Paris. But by the 2000s his shop is struggling. With his savings gone, his unemployment benefit cut, and the friend who had been covering his rent suddenly dead, Vernon Subutex finds himself down and out on the Paris streets. He has one final card up his sleeve. Even as he holds out his hand to beg for the first time, a throwaway comment he once made on Facebook is taking the internet by storm. Vernon does not realise this, but the word is out: Vernon Subutex has in his possession the last filmed recordings of Alex Bleach, the famous musician and Vernon's benefactor, who has only just died of a drug overdose. A crowd of people from record producers to online trolls and porn stars are now on Vernon's trail.
Apologies if the above sounds like a lot of telling. But that is the mode of presentation of this lengthy first volume in what is to be a trilogy of the life and decline of Vernon Subutex. It’s just a lot of telling and very little showing. And periodically there are new characters introduced who do some further ranty telling for a few pages. They are mostly far-right exhortations against one group or another, or against women or certain types of women. Or they are far-left exhortations which, in the curious world we live in these days, sound incredibly similar.
I’m not sure why the original French text of this novel became acclaimed in France. Perhaps the people reading it are the same people who are blithely ignorant of what occurs on the Internet on a daily basis, or are surprised to learn that there are angry people in France who have difficulty articulating their views but not their anger. And, shock, it turns out that there are homeless people in the capital of culture as well! So perhaps this book is being treated as reportage. If so, I’m glad it is opening people’s eyes.
But otherwise it is rather dull. And so, not recommended.