Butter Rum, by Mary Chino Cherry: A Critical
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 Poohs 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
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
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.