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Mary Chino Cherry's Bejezus Butter Rum
by Y. Knott Wundyr

This book by first time novelist Mary Chino Cherry fits in with all the other novels by the erstwhile “Gen X”ers that have cartoony illustrations on the covers and are less than 200 pages long - except those by David Foster Wallace - and this one’s actually funny. You might even say it’s the best book since Chicken Soup for the Hunchback’s Soul, which topped the best seller lists from Texarkana to Saskatchewan and inspired a nation to take up bell-tower rope-swinging for fun and profit.

More power to ‘em.

I could even liken it to Proust’s long-lost but newly rediscovered Remembrance of Pooh's Past, the legendary French author’s take on the A.A. Milne classics, except Cherry’s book is set in L.A. during the 1980s, which helps explain the cocaine and the Valley lingo. Nothing, however, can explain the alien abduction or the trip to Las Vegas in an overpowered, 1970s-era red convertible. Why would they have wanted to abduct the poor alien anyway? Leave his little extraterrestrial ass alone!

It clearly isn’t clear, but the influence of Spielberg’s famous film from the beginning of the decade in which Cherry’s story is set may have something to do with it, though this cute little alien eats tobacco products and smokes chalk.

Whimsy or poorly disguised cry for Mojo Nixon?

Consider the section documenting the ever-popular childhood novel with an incest/abuse theme. Sure, it’s sufficiently self-referential to earn its po-mo stripes, but why all the allusions to banana-cream pies? Is this some paean to the watermark teensploitation film American Pie - or its critically-acclaimed mathsploitation parallel and guide to at-home body-piercing American Pi? Or is it just a product of the Ritalin/whiskey combination that fueled this novelistic experiment in first place?

And when the whacked-out ex-hippie mom allegedly laces the Co-Co Puffs with Rohypnol whether or not the narrator is in any way reliable is anybody’s guess.

But I suppose that’s what “non-linear narrative” is supposed to mean, though no one told that to Orson Welles.

No one told that to Quentin Tarantino either, when he thought what he was doing was in some way new.

But I digress. The need for the framing story lingers in my mind as problematic. Does a contemporary novel need the excuse of an adult therapy session as the launching point of the narrative? And wouldn’t the hour have been up at about page 60 anyway? The bit about the pull-up diapers redeems the book, though, as any scatological passage should in the years since Joyce paved the way.

So rush out and buy Bejezus Butter Rum if for no other reason than to have it on your shelf so when your trendy friends come over drink your Heineken and eat your Whoppers malted milk balls you can at least look cool.