Brand New Cherry Flavor, by Todd Grimson (Schaffner Press)
August 13, 2011
Billed as a novel of the occult, Brand New Cherry Flavor is an erotic gore-fBrand New Cherry Flavor, by Todd Grimson (Schaffner Press)
August 13, 2011
Billed as a novel of the occult, Brand New Cherry Flavor is an erotic gore-fest tucked between unnecessary foreplay and spooning. The story’s empathetic center is meant to be Lisa Nova, a borderline-sociopathic film school graduate who, when she can’t sleep her way into the job of assistant to Selwyn Popcorn, the “it” man of her film scene subculture, sets the gears of the plotline in motion by seeking out a hit man to kill the guy who lost her the job.
Enter “Boro,” an offensively stereotyped bad guy who creates zombies out of bikers and inflicts psychic barrio tattoos on Lisa as part of their “deal” to wreak supernatural havoc on the man who lost Lisa her ticket to indie film fame.
Neither deadpan enough to be tongue-in-cheek, nor outrageous enough to be camp, Todd Grimson makes fetish fodder of xenophobic memes: in this case a mixture of Mesoamerican creation myths, voodoo, suburban black magic, white women sleeping with black men, lesbian-tryst rubbernecking, knives, piercing, drugs, film students, zombies, and plastic surgery.
Grimson’s writing swings wildly between the banal: “Today Lisa was wearing an untucked apricot-colored blouse, a grey herringbone skirt, a fake Byzantine bracelet…”
the raw: “Oh I love you, I love you,” he said as he sawed away another hundred times so that he might ejaculate where he was.” and the highly figurative metaphysical:
“Animal wisdom, animal now, the jaguar shaman loves the captured bird of bleeding thought.”
Likewise, the plot vacillates between a noir, cop-centric potboiler, 90’s Los Angeles twenty-something drug/music/film scene homage, and a supernatural sub-plot that keeps hinting about Lisa Nova’s possible true were-feline identity. This overengineering might work in some kind of unholy alliance if the book’s emotional litmus wasn't a character who reacts to the supernatural as if it were a fashion accessory: when suddenly gifted with the power to psychically create films, Nova's greatest concern is whether or not it might get her into the Berlin film festival.
Fast-paced, heavy on visuals and satellite characters, the book suffers from the same problem much contemporary horror/supernatural fiction does: overkill. What makes the supernatural compelling is when it disrupts the idea that safety and normalcy really exist, and when is that more frightening than when it’s difficult to tell reality from non-reality? Unfortunately, Brand New Cherry Flavor might be a better book if the supernatural had been left out entirely: who needs supernatural zombies when self-made ones in Hollywood are ubiquitous?
It is quite possible that there are readers of horror and occult fiction who are simply looking for a non-addictive thrill ride with no lingering side effects. In that case, crank up some Lords of Acid and surrender to characters and a plot with little conscience but great fashion consciousness.
brand new cherry flavor by todd grimson (344 pages/ Schaffner Press 2011*) *original printing 1996 ISBN: 9782936182190 ...more
This book would have been great even without the time-travel and disease superspreader sub-plots. The character voices that tell the story are worth iThis book would have been great even without the time-travel and disease superspreader sub-plots. The character voices that tell the story are worth it all on their own. I only gave it four stars because it gave me nightmares-- and this is from a hardened soul that regularly falls asleep reading The Exorcist or short stories by Guy de Maupassant without similar effects......more
I have to say this book gets better as it goes on. My problem with it is that the characters only seem to really begin to feel real just before the boI have to say this book gets better as it goes on. My problem with it is that the characters only seem to really begin to feel real just before the book ends. The first 80 pages feel distant, flat-- the characters don't seem to have volume or weight. This could be chalked up to the idea that the main character has been living a kind of half-existence, recoiling from spontaneity and the messiness of human contact-- for some time. But I'm not sure it's entirely a stylistic choice as much as the subject warming up.
The main character is presented as a stereotypical banker/middle-management career type (who never actually got to be a manager) who has been laid off and is forced to find work-- which he does in the unlikely place of a funeral home. Then he "sees something", which we indirectly infer to be a ghost. This is a great part of the storytelling-- Lightman doesn't reveal exactly what the main character saw until a very anticlimactic moment near the last quarter of the book, and this is a good thing. What our hero saw is not important, it's how much it disturbs the doldrums that passes for his life that is important. Yes, maybe lightman meant to have the first part of the book feel flat and lifeless because that is how the character has been feeling, but I don't think that it fully came across if that was the intent.
There is a lot of "mind" in this book-- much of the upheaval and self-questioning that the main character experience is manifested in the writing by long passages of close-third "thinking" like, Did I see what I see? Is my eyesight all right? I know the Pythagorean Theorem. Black is Black. White is White. What goes up comes down, etc. etc. This kind of intellectualization on the page of the character's thoughts can work, and does sometimes when the fragmentary nature of it reflects more the unique nature of the person thinking. It needs some oddity and unpredictability to feel like I am listening to the thoughts of a real person and not a foil for the author to pose arguments for and against the possibility of supernatural events.
I think it's a worthy subject, but I don't think the author really cultivated an fully realized protagonist-- I think he used the protagonist as a kind of speaking trumpet to have an interesting dialogue about how a rational person deals with an irrational, unscientific event. I did like it enough, however to want to read his other book, Einstein's Dreams. Maybe he let himself go more in that one....more