Vernon Subutex 1

by Virginie Despentes

Other authorsFrank Wynne (Translator.)
Paperback, 2019





New York : FSG Originals/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
Vernon Subutex is down on his luck. He’s lost the record store that he owned and ran for 20 years near the Bastille in Paris. He’s spent the last couple of years picking up bits of work as a music journalist here and there and selling off his record collection piecemeal on Ebay. And for the past year his old chum Alex Bleach, the only one of his friends to have made it in the music biz, has been paying his back rent. But now Alex is dead, an overdose. And as sad as that is, it’s the fallout that is on Vernon’s mind. No one is going to pay his rent on which he is some months in arrears. And when the bailiffs come knocking to evict him, he has only ten minutes to grab what he can and stuff it in a bag. For some reason, one of the things he takes with him is a set of three tapes that Alex made one night in Vernon’s apartment, a drug-fueled rant Vernon assumes but one that might now be worth something. But first Vernon is going have to deal with this homelessness thing.

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.
… (more)
LibraryThing member oldblack
This book has received very good reviews, including a warm one from the usually sensible Kate Evans. It was also short listed for the Man Booker International. Why? WHY!!?? I read 200 pages, hoping that the good part would arrive in the next chapter. It didn't. It's all uniformly bad. Maybe the final 100 pages makes it a worthwhile read in the end....I'll never know.… (more)


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