cover image Vernon Subutex 1

Vernon Subutex 1

Virginie Despentes, trans. from the French by Frank Wynne. FSG Originals, $16 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-374-28324-7

The first book of a trilogy, Despentes’s Man Booker–shortlisted novel about a former record shop owner is a searing social satire and biting portrait of contemporary France. The titular Vernon Subutex was the owner of a record shop called Revolver in the 1980s, when he became an indelible part of the burgeoning music scene of the times, befriending rock stars, groupies, and fanatics. Now in his 40s, unemployed and broke, Vernon is left reeling after “the chain of catastrophes,” a series of deaths of his friends from the scene. Most notable is that of Alexandre Beach, a mega-famous pop singer who, despite his stratospheric fame, never left his old friends behind. And unbeknownst to him, Vernon, who owns the last recordings of Alexandre Beach, has become a target of all kinds of attention: from Alex’s exes, from a fan-slash-writer working on a definitive biography, and from a film financier with a personal vendetta. Vernon couch hops from one unstable living situation to the next, unaware of the forces after him, and in the process readers are introduced to a cast of tangential members of Vernon’s social group and generation at large. Despentes’s timely novel is both arch and political without being too obvious that it’s either. This is a rollicking, brilliant send-up of masculinity, politics, and rock ’n’ roll. (Nov.)