Lights Out in Wonderland

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"Lights Out in Wonderland has all the verbal wit and energy of Vernon God Little."—Financial Times
Gabriel Brockwell—aesthete, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent—is thinking terminal. He's decided to kill himself—but not immediately. His destination is Wonderland. The style of the journey is all that's to be decided.
Traveling between London, Tokyo, and Berlin, Gabriel is in search of the bacchanal to obliterate all previous parties. His adventure takes in a ...

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Lights Out in Wonderland

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"Lights Out in Wonderland has all the verbal wit and energy of Vernon God Little."—Financial Times
Gabriel Brockwell—aesthete, philosopher, disaffected twenty-something decadent—is thinking terminal. He's decided to kill himself—but not immediately. His destination is Wonderland. The style of the journey is all that's to be decided.
Traveling between London, Tokyo, and Berlin, Gabriel is in search of the bacchanal to obliterate all previous parties. His adventure takes in a spell in rehab, a near-death experience eating a poisonous Japanese delicacy, and finally an orgiastic feast in the bowels of Berlin's majestic Tempelhof Airport. Along the way, Gabriel falls apart, only to reemerge with a new outlook on the world and a mission to right his past wrongs.Lights Out in Wonderland is an allegorical banquet, a sly commentary on these End Times and the march toward banality, and a joyful expression of the human spirit.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Man Booker–winner Pierre pulls a gonzo evisceration of these grim times in his high-octane third novel (after Ludmila's Broken English). Gabriel Brockwell, 26 and trapped in an English rehab facility, decides that suicide is his only option, but he's got some stops to make—first, his home in London, then to Tokyo where his friend, Nelson Smuts, is working as a chef at a restaurant specializing in poisonous blowfish, and finally on to Berlin to look up an old colleague of his father and to stage a last supper in the famous Tempelhof Airport. The narrative, of course, isn't really the point: it's the verbal pyrotechnics, the observations and digressions about society that sneak up on you with their scathing humor or cutting clarity. As a nihilistic screed that rails against capitalism and excesses, this hits all the right buttons (think a fusion of William Gibson's intelligence with Hunter S. Thompson's manic energy), but Pierre doesn't fare as well on the human dimension, finding little heart or genuine emotion in Gabriel or the grotesques he encounters. Even if the characters never really pop, Pierre's relentless energy will keep readers entertained and piqued. (Aug.)
The Guardian
“If any novelist can collate the killing irony of what is happening around us it is DBC Pierre.”
Library Journal
Dazzling if coruscating invention or vulgar overreach? That was the mixed (and heated) response to Pierre's first novel, Vernon God Little, which won the Man Booker Prize. Expect the same response here: this latest has "the verbal wit and vitality" of that first book, says the Financial Times. Then there's the plot: Gabriel Brockwell has decided to kill himself, but first he wants to go to Wonderland—that is, have the bash of bashes, which takes him 'round the world for some wild times. Glitter for your literati.
Library Journal
Gabriel Brockwell, the narrator of this impressive and entertaining novel, escapes from a rehab facility north of London, substance abuse habits intact. Vowing to end his life, he travels to Tokyo to hook up with fellow profligate Nelson Smuts for a massive bender. There is a death at the Tokyo restaurant where Smuts is chef, and he is charged with murder. The two contrive a drug-fueled scheme whereby Gabriel will travel to Berlin to set up some sort of apocalyptic feast for a network of international power brokers; in return, the shadowy figure behind this network, whom Smuts knows, will use his influence with the courts in Japan. The author intricately describes the ensuing debauchery and decadence. With the help of a cynical German girl he has fallen for, Gabriel decides that it's time for the partygoers—and himself—to face reality. Man Booker Prize winner Pierre (Vernon God Little) is working on multiple levels. There are a world gone wrong owing to capitalism, hedonism, and ignorance; the coming-of-age of a young man with serious substance abuse and mental health problems; and a pilgrim's progress tale of individual awakening and the birth of moral consciousness. VERDICT Cleverly detailed and skillfully written, this British novel is enjoyable and penetrating. [See Prepub Alert, 2/7/11.]—Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. at Oneonta
Kirkus Reviews

Man Booker winner Pierre (Ludmila's Broken English,2006, etc.) continues on his polarizing way with another extreme adventure, this one undertaken by a narrator who plans to kill himself.

Readers may not feel too terrible about that, since Gabriel, like Pierre's protagonist inVernon God Little(2002), is initially as obnoxious as he is motor-mouthed. Just checked into rehab by his father, Gabriel puffs defiantly on cigarettes while ranting about capitalism and messing with the staff. Soon he slips away for a final pre-suicide bacchanal with his best friend Smuts, who's working at an ultra-exclusive Tokyo restaurant that serves poisonous (and illegal)fuguto those who can afford it. Unfortunately, once Gabriel gets done loading him up with coke and booze, Smuts recklessly takes the challenge of a customer who wants the fish's extra-toxic liver. The customer winds up in the hospital, and Smuts in jail. The only way Gabriel can spring him is by getting Smuts' shadowy "sponsor," Didier Le Basque, to pull strings. And the only way to do that is to convince Didier, who makes a fortune creating one-of-a-kind banquets for rich thrill-seekers, that Gabriel can connect him to a unique venue. So off Gabriel goes to Berlin, where his detested father had a club in the 1990s. Things get even crazier when Gabriel actually does discover the perfect spot for a decadent feast: miles of tunnels and bunkers built for the Third Reich underneath Tempelhof Airport. Even as he enthusiastically participates in the excesses of Didier's right-hand man Thomas, who's arranging the bash in the bunkers, Gabriel is developing a guilty conscience about the whole affair. Can it be that our hero is growing up? Well, yes: Gabriel eventually drops his intended suicide, along with several other affectations of youth, though Pierre does feel obliged to provide an over-the-top finale involving fireworks both gastronomic and incendiary.

Considerably more mature than its predecessors, and just as scathingly brilliant with words, but this author is definitely an acquired taste.

Rodney Welch
Lights Out in Wonderland isn't perfect…but it's a terrific one-man show. Gabriel is the eloquent misanthrope Pierre has been looking for all along, good company even if you dislike him, gracefully moving from screed to story without missing a beat. He's a man who holds a mirror up to a suicidal society and sees himself, a genuine product of his time.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393081237
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/8/2011
  • Pages: 350
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

DBC Pierre

DBC Pierre’s first novel, Vernon God Little, won the Man Booker Prize. His other novels include Ludmila's Broken English and Lights Out in Wonderland. He lives in County Leitrim, Ireland.


DBC Pierre was raised in Mexico between the ages of 7 and 23, although he has also traveled extensively. He lived a very privileged life in the milieu of that 2 percent of Mexico that holds the country's wealth and spent much time in the USA. Despite a very unrealistic, or "fairy-tale" childhood, he found himself more in tune as a child with the other 98 percent of Mexicans, and increasingly escaped home to run with the street crowd. When, at 16, his father fell gravely ill, he was largely entrusted with the family home, its cars and staff, and without recourse to counsel or reason, in his grief embarked upon a life of blithe self-destruction, alongside another half dozen junior rakes. Only two of them survived their twenties, and then only just:

"Mexico, with its contrasts, its crushing poverty and sparkling wealth, its institutionalised corruption and cultural wisdom, its love of life and its embracing of death, undoubtedly set me on a path toward the deep end, philosophically and emotionally speaking. A fast and careless life had put me in tune with the common man, for whom a throw of the dice would mean life or death. When, as a teenager, I set out for Texas to bring cars over the border, I saw that the same divides applied to the richest country on earth. Truest kinship was found in a group of homeless derelicts who camped under a bridge beside where I used to stay. It is in their broken-down lives that the seeds for Vernon were planted."

DBC Pierre has worked as a designer and cartoonist and currently lives in Ireland. Vernon God Little, his first novel, was awarded the 2003 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and the Booker Prize.

Author biography courtesy of Faber and Faber Ltd.

Good To Know

Pierre's true-life journey from debt-ridden drug addict to Booker Prize winner has been a stranger-than-fiction ride. He told the Guardian, "For nine years I was in a drug haze, on a rampage of cocaine, heroin, anything I could get. I am not proud of what I have done and I now want to put it right."

During his dark years of gambling and drug addiction, he once even sold the house of his best friend—and stole the proceeds.

In addition, he ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt by taking part in a scheme to find Montezuma's gold in Mexico.

He has said that the £50,000 check awarded with the Booker Prize would go about one-third of the way to settling his outstanding debts.

Pierre landed a publishing deal for his first novel one hour before the first plane hit the World Trade Center on September, 11, 2001. "Ever since, I feel like there's some dark destiny swirling around the book," he said.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Peter Finlay (real name)
    2. Hometown:
    1. Date of Birth:
    2. Place of Birth:
      Reynella, Australia

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012


    Sorry, but this is the sillest, tritest writing I have read in a long time. The author just regurgitates tired old "anti capitalism" nonsense that we have heard for years. The thing reads like he copied text from protest phamplets and strung them together with a hint of a story. The narrator of the story comes across as an emotionally retarded young man who would feel right at home among the self indulgent nitwits of the sixties. Like most of them, he fancies himself smarter and better than the rest of humanities poor slobs who just go about their lives accepting their responsibilies. Something too mundane for our poor little mistreated hero.

    Do not waste your money on this garbage.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Lights Out In Wonderland

    I guess you have to be a fan of the author to get his writing. I couldn't get into this story of a twenty-something wanting to kill himself but yet writes a travelogue of his adventures across the globe. With footnotes and recipes, it was witty at times, but more confusing to me than enjoyable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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