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Vernon Subutex, 1

(Vernon Subutex #1)

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3.87  ·  Rating details ·  7,205 ratings  ·  629 reviews
Vernon Subutex: the man, the myth, the punk-lit sensation.

WHO IS VERNON SUBUTEX?
An urban legend.
A fall from grace.
The mirror who reflects us all.


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 frie
...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 29th 2017 by Maclehose Press (first published January 7th 2015)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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 ·  7,205 ratings  ·  629 reviews


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Meike
Mar 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book – Virginie Despentes wrote a wonderfully mean, cutting-edge social novel that sheds light on contemporary French society, with a story full of vivid characters, but devoid of heroes, full of disparate voices, but creating an astonishing panorama. While I feel like I need to read parts II and III ASAP, I am also afraid of what will happen next, because this unsettling story viciously attacks its readers: I got angry, I was sad, I laughed, I was shocked, and I while I was glued t ...more
Hugh
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my fourth book from the Man Booker International longlist, and if my friends in The Mookse and the Gripes group are typical, it is also the one which is dividing opinions the most. It is very much a book of its time and place - 21st Century Paris, and it is lively, fearless, funny and often tasteless.

Despentes has created a world of grotesque caricatures who embody the most extreme characteristics of our social-media-driven world. Like the people she satirises, her characters are frequen
...more
Hanneke
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, yes, Vernon. Let’s take a look at him. When you are familiar with circles such as Vernon’s, the guy will feel real to you. He did to me! He is a likeable guy. A guy who gets around with everyone. He’s aloof, he’s easy to talk to, he is good company. Vernon has a big plus to boot, he has beautiful blue eyes. People trust him just looking into those eyes. But when you get down to it, Vernon does not attract any real commitment from his friends because he has never given any true commitment i ...more
Fionnuala
Review of Vernon Subutex 1, 2 and 3.

Earlier in the year, I read a review of the first book in this series, and, as sometimes happens, the reviewer's negative experience made me perversely curious to read the book for myself. I'm grateful to him now for inadvertently pushing me towards a long reading adventure I might otherwise never have embarked on.
Part of my motivation to read Despentes' books was the sneaking suspicion that the reviewer's many valid-sounding points about language, style and
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Trudie
Jun 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
*4.5*

Well, I burned through this book like a crazy person. It has that frenetic, out of control feeling I got from reading Trainspotting back in the 90s. Vernon Subutex is a searing kaleidoscope of modern Paris, and not the romanticised version of chic bistro's, wine and moonlight cruising on the Seine.
There is no getting around that this book is written to be provocative, to emerge you in sub-cultures and mindsets of marginalised lifestyles you may be not want to inhabit. I did struggle with t
...more
Neil
Mar 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, 5-stars, 2018, 2018-mbi
If you are a lover of the movie Magnolia (I think it is my favourite movie), then I imagine you are going to enjoy reading about Vernon Subutex. This is a story of modern day France told in picaresque fashion using an array of characters whose lives cross paths as they deal with their own personal demons and circumstances. It is not a happy story, but it is completely engrossing: it is raw, sometimes painful to read.

The eponymous Vernon Subutex used to run a record store (the book is full of ref
...more
Paul Fulcher
Mar 23, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Inexplicably shortlisted for the MBI, but thanks to Amazon for giving me a full refund on the grounds of 'offensiveness to literature'.

She uses young people’s words, says them without yet knowing how ridiculous they are. She says “swear down”, she says “on fleek”, she says “bae”, and he recognises the fervent foolishness of people who feel the need to put the same expressions in every sentence.

While not a big fan generally, one advantage of the Kindle is that one can easily read previews of book
...more
G.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fearless and sometimes harsh, Virginie Despentes's social commentary on contemporary Paris (and France) makes for a marmite book—some will love it, some will hate it, and there isn't going to be many caught between. Vernon Subutex 1 isn't a flawless book - sometimes the flitting between the characters gets a bit tiresome - but I'm definitely a fan of the novel.

About my rating: I'd give the book itself a four, but the translation earns it a bonus star. I bet the book is bomb in the original Fren
...more
Antonomasia
While I was in the middle of Vernon Subutex One, a book called Destroy All Monsters: The Last Rock Novel appeared in my Goodreads feed. (Thanks Kris.) Vernon Subutex has a strong claim to that subtitle too. In English it's so far been pigeonholed as translated literary fiction about the state of modern life / Western Europe / France / Paris (depending how specific you think its types are), and its Booker International shortlisting cements this - but just as much as being a perceptive take on con ...more
Jonathan Pool
Apr 21, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: international
How this book wrestled itself onto the Man Booker International Prize short list for 2018 is something of a mystery.
Don’t come looking for beautiful prose, don’t come looking for subtlety, don’t expect too much human empathy.
What you do get is a callous, selfish, remorselessly pessimistic view of people.

I am very pleased to have read Vernon Subutex.

Had I not known the gender of the author I couldn’t have guessed it; and in this respect- Virginie Despentes’s ability to write alternately from male
...more
Doug
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Perhaps the most divisively polarizing book of the year amongst my GR coterie, I didn't LOVE-love it as much as some, but I would say I definitely enjoyed it and found it quite intriguing, and fast-moving. I had no problems with the harsh language or the more scandalous elements; my main annoyances came from not really relating to much of what was going on or to the particular political/punk/druggie subculture (being an older bougie American, and all), and having a hard time keeping the multitud ...more
Sadie
ETA: [Dieses Buch haben wir auch im Papierstau Podcast besprochen (Folge 104: Oh là là)] /ETA

What a fantastic ride - this book pushed all the right buttons for me. It's a direct, raw novel about the current social and socially conditions in France (which sadly can be transferred to many other European countries as well, especially what's with the right-wing idiots gaining strength) and a rich kaleidoscope of diverse characters. The book opens with the titular Vernon, an ex-record store owner wh
...more
Dan
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars rounded up to 4 stars

Virginie Despentes’ Vernon Subutex One stands as a custom-fit contemporary sequel to George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London. On the last page of his 1933 memoir, Orwell says: ”My story ends here. It is a fairly trivial story, and I can only hope that it has been interesting in the same way as a travel diary is interesting. I can at least say, Here is the world that awaits you if you are ever penniless. . . I can definitely point to one or two things I hav
...more
Sarah
Mar 18, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it's worth starting this view with a caveat: If you don't like drug taking in your books then this is not the book for you. If you need likeable and relatable characters with views that are not at odds with your own then this is also probably not for you. But if you can overcome those issues then this is an engaging look at the Parisian music world and some of the characters that move in it.

I'll admit that at times I struggled with Vernon Subutex, 1, even having to put it aside for a day
...more
Marie-Therese
I wish my reviewing mojo were working because this is such a special book, so vivid and zesty and keenly observed, that it deserves a thorough review.

Sadly, I just don't have the time or the energy for that right now, so suffice to say that this is a wonderful read, that Despentes' mastery of different voices, her ability to evoke the humanity in everyone, no matter how loathsome their opinions may be, is remarkable, and just by following the fate of one rather hapless middle-aged man and the c
...more
Katie Long
Jul 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oh how I loved this book! I spent the early 2000's reading every Irvine Welsh novel that I could get my hands on, trying to recreate my first experience reading Trainspotting. It didn't work until all of these years later when I met Vernon Subutex. As caustic and bitter as this novel often is, it isn't without moments of tenderness that broke my heart and made me cry with sympathy and understanding. The translated Book 2 will be available on July 18 and I already have my order in!
Declan
Apr 22, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Effortless writing, as in Virginie Despentes couldn't be bothered to make an effort. A delight for all bourgeois readers who want the vicarious thrill of visiting the seediest of societies subsets without having to get dirty.
D
Sep 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
A kaleidoscope of stories about a good many people that are somehow connected. The main character, which acts as a glue, is Vernon, who looses his record shop and eventually ends up as a tramp in Paris. The stories are sometimes surprising, sometimes moving, but always well written. As an example, the life of an overweight adolescent girl is described so accurately and sensitively, leaving the reader effortlessly sharing her feelings.

Annoyingly, the author consistently uses the term "logarithme
...more
Brown Girl Reading
Review coming...
Anya
Jun 19, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Vernon Subutex” is part I of a trilogy by (in)famous French writer Virginie Despentes. The novel tells the story of Vernon Subutex (former record shop owner, not his real name) and his descent into hard times.

Each chapter in the novel visits either Subutex or a friend or acquaintance connected to Subutex. Each personality is an attempt by Despentes to offer us a portrait of the underbelly of Paris; you meet skinheads, drug dealers, porno stars, homeless people, washed up rock stars, etc.

If you
...more
Gumble's Yard
DNF - simply not for me, a kind of anti Philippians 4:8 and one of the rare books I will not pass on to my local Oxfam bookstore.
Jason McKinney
May 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Aside from Their Eyes Were Watching God, this is the best novel I've read all year, and maybe even in a long time. It was recently shortlisted for the Man Booker, so I thought it would start getting more attention in the U.S. but it hasn't and it's actually pretty hard to find--I had to order it from England.

Anyway, it's a novel that gradually grows on you and it makes sense because it's the first in a trilogy. It's incredibly hard-edged, but soulful and vulnerable at the same time. Even though
...more
Marc Nash
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Relentlessly nihilistic trawl through Paris' 'wild side' (as per Lou Reed's song, only this is largely the bourgeoisie). Porn actresses, transvestites, druggies, film producers, rockers, neo-Nazis, hobos, professional online trolls. All linked through Vernon Subutex, erstwhile record shop owner brought down by the digital revolution and when his rock star benefactor dies suddenly, he's homeless and goes on a non-pilgrim's progress through his address book.

Vernon is supposed to be an everyman, b
...more
Philippe Malzieu
Mme Despentes settles down. It is the twin of Houelbeck. « Baise moi » his first book, a kind of « Thelma and Louise » porn-trash was published at the same time as Houelbeck first one. Interesting to compare their last books.
Thus Despentes settles down.

It acts of the mishaps of a 50 years French rocker. Already a problem, French rocker, It is just not possible. Rocker, it is culturally Anglo-Saxon. A rocker with beret, that starts badly. He does not have any more money, more friend. The intrig
...more
Martin Faulkner
Sep 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Absolute, and I don't say this lightly, *absolute* shite.

An endless collection of unlikable characters with unlikable habits doing unlikable things, portrayed with little sympathy and even less charm by an author who seems convinced she has something big to say about modern French society but instead spends 330 pages name-dropping bands and not actually saying anything.

Further hobbled by a rickety translation that seems unconcerned with the concept of tenses.

Oh well.
Alex Gilvarry
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is the bomb. Just one of the most surprising things I've read this year. And there's three of them!
Darryl Suite
Apr 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such a vicious book. Bold and blunt. Cruel and cynical. And I loved every page. I need Part 2.
Veronica
Hmm, I have been trying for years to find contemporary French/francophone authors I can enjoy, without much success so far (even Amélie Nothomb is a bit hit and miss). So I decided to join a French book group, and this first choice is a bit of an assault on the senses. Brutal, crude, revolving around explicit sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Definitely X-rated. It's also very slangy; even with fluent French I was reduced to Google more than once!

It's also difficult to review fairly because it's no
...more
Holly
Wow! To my mind this is one of the things that great fiction can do: humanize other people by leading me into their minds and lives, not letting go too quickly, showing the thought processes, neuroses, passions, eccentricities - whatever! - thereby giving me this special lens to see them. Since I learned to read as a child, this has been my reason for reading fiction. It feels like the opposite of escape for me. I need windowpanes (Orwell/Zadie Smith).

Of course that's what some claim for fictio
...more
Morgan M. Page
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
FUCK. Virginie Despentes delivers a wild, harrowing, and cruel take on the political polarization poisoning the heart of France in the first volume of Vernon Subutex. Moving between a dizzying array of different characters' points of view, Despentes unleashes her incisive rage on all corners of French society - dredging up its worst and bringing its many hypocrisies into sharp focus.
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Virginie Despentes is a French writer, novelist and filmmaker, born in Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle. Her most famous novel, and film of the same name is Baise-moi, a contemporary example of the exploitation films genre known as rape and revenge films. Her most recent biographical, non-fiction work, King Kong Theory has also been translated into English, and recounts her experiences working within the ...more

Other books in the series

Vernon Subutex (3 books)
  • Vernon Subutex, 2 (Vernon Subutex, #2)
  • Vernon Subutex 3 (Vernon Subutex, #3)

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