Cherry: A novel

The Acknowledgements is the best part.

You’re not gonna want to read this. Our country is all optimism all the time, except when it comes to the government/political situation. Everyone’s got hope, everyone’s a winner…

But it don’t really happen that way at all.

“Cherry” is a buzz book, but there’s no buzz about it. No one telling me to read it, no one talking about it. Because it’s a hard read. Not because of lofty language, not because of density, but because of story.

I hate it when people say they hate art because there are no relatable characters. That’s what ruined art for me, when Spielberg took over and it became about artifice, when it all worked out in the end. That’s not the way it really is. One false move and you can be forgotten. Then there are those who’ve got no chance to begin with, like Arnold, the son of a hooker. Used to be we wanted to give you a leg up, now all you get is lip service. You had health care but somehow it penalized the corporations and the rights of those wanting to be free so they’re taking that away now too. You’re a grifter, ripping off the country with its food stamps and welfare payments. You need to go into the army, be a hero, make a man of yourself, stand for something.

Like Nico Walker.

A soft boy from the upper middle class, educated in a private institution, he joined the corps, he became a medic in the Army, and he’s yet to recover, to this day.

You see horrors worse than those alluded to by Marlon Brando in “Apocalypse Now” You think everything’s a fantasy, then you’re confronted with real life.

And it sucks.

You don’t know who to be. School seems phony, with all those overachievers trying to get a job in middle management. And those you’ve never encountered before running the world. We hate the rich, not those who inherited wealth, but the techies who started from scratch. They dropped out of Harvard, you couldn’t get in. They get to wear their street clothes like the rock stars of yore, you have to dress up to sell crap. And they write books and tell us they know everything, as if they knew anything about real life. And the media establishment lauds them, writers feed on this crap, it makes them feel important, that they’re championing winners.

But the truth is everybody’s got something to hide, even me and my monkey.

So Nico Walker survives Iraq, many of his compadres do not, and he comes back to Ohio and…


Does dope.

He feels dead inside, he just can’t get it together. You might have felt this way too, but you can’t admit it, unless you’re already famous and doing a mea culpa. Celebrities get to say they’re depressed, that they’ve triumphed, yet no one pays attention to those in the crowd, burdened by their troubles.

That’s what they don’t tell you growing up, you’re flawed. And you’re gonna spend your whole life either fixing those flaws or living in a deranged world of your own making where your flaws constantly get in your way. Like the person who can’t hold a job, the one who constantly gets divorced, it’s never their problem.

But it’s Nico Walker’s problem.

So I bought the book because I was going on a trip, I always load my Kindle up with books before I leave home, the worst fate in the world is to be stuck with nothing to read.

And I read “The Family Tabor” on my flights, enjoyed it, but you might not, it might be too psychological for you. What if the perfect aren’t so? That’s the question the book asks.

And when I got home I dove into “Cherry.”

I won’t tell you what that means, I don’t want to spoil anything, but I’m sure, like me, you’ve got no clue.

And at first it’s hard to get into. Robbing banks. Doing dope.

And then…

He goes to Iraq.

This ain’t the movie war. Nothing really happens, nothing is really achieved. You work outside your purview and don’t get to say no and your superiors are lying and you’re running on empty, but you could get your ass shot off, your whole body blown up, your latex gloves could melt as you’re picking up the pieces, this really happened.

And then I couldn’t put the book down. Tried not to stay up all night reading it. Until…

He came home.

You knew he was gonna, otherwise the Prologue made no sense.

But then you’re just at the middle of the book, and from there…

Nico and Emily do drugs. She’s in graduate school, he’s trying to stay in school. And they’ll do anything they can get their hands on and they run out of money and they run out of dope but there’s no redemption, Nico’s hollow inside, he’s a prick. An admitted one.

He treats women badly, is dishonest, but he’s not famous so no one is outing him, he gets away with his behavior, but as much as people hate him, he hates himself more.

And the dope culture is peopled with incompetents, who are screwing up when they’re not ripping you off.

But this is the life you chose.

And it’s this life that is real.

That’s what the Acknowledgements are all about, where Nico tells the story of how “Cherry” came to be. He was in jail, corresponding with someone who turned out to be a publisher who ultimately sold the rights to Knopf.

And you don’t always know what’s going on, but you do.

This is what rock and roll used to be. When the musicians were on their own path and didn’t care about mainstream society, never mind corporations and money. Today it’s all about giving people what they want, and if you’re not a winner, you’re a loser and you’re ignored, so people fake it. They buy the clothes, go to Vegas, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

But on the inside…

P.S. You know every word of this book is true, that he’s tangled up in blue, they call it a novel, but…

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