✭✩✩✩✩Stinky Yes, But Not From the Cheese

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Just joining our story?  It starts here . Or you can begin with this installment and hear what some readers think of the Big Cheesy Novel. Starting with this back cover blurb. You can always trust back cover blurbs, right? 

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Praise for the Big Cheesy Novel

Beautiful, lush, and a tour- de-force, the Big Cheesy Novel is the late 20th century’s Vanity Fair. Bonnie Huber is a modern Becky Sharp: a plucky, likeable heroine climbing the American social ladder of the late 1970’s. Rich, poignant, and at times hilarious, this novel sets the standard for THE American novel.

Bob Burdicker, best-selling and award-winning author of the Lucky Hands and Winning Streak.

First Online Review for the Big Cheesy Novel

✭✩✩✩✩Complete Waste of Time – The Big Cheesy Novel is a Big, Gooey Mess.

By Ann Amison-Reader

The Big Cheesy Novel is appalling, ludicrous, superficial, and a complete waste of the time it took to write this sentence. Still, I wanted to warn readers out there who might believe the false advertising on the book cover and attempt to read this thing. There are so many things wrong with this book I don’t even know where to begin.

First, do we really care about another college girl’s trip to Paris and its ripple effect through the rest of her boring life? That premise might have been okay if a more interesting character undertook the journey. But Bonnie Huber is as lame as the name sounds, with a lackluster physique to match her late-1970’s era fashion sense, though of course she’s perfect for THAT lamentable era of smock tops, bellbottoms, and earth shoes. She is as bland as stale toast on a cloudy, midwestern day.

Don’t believe what the book title advertises; it’s marketing drivel, but I guess that’s how they sell books. I was expecting delicious, gooey cheese, and lots of it, and while there is a lot of SOMETHING in this novel that stinks, it’s not cheese, not even flavorless, cellophane-wrapped American cheese which would have been at least SOMETHING.

I am insulted by the blurbs on the back cover, like the one from the so-called famous author Bob Burdicker. Never heard of Burdicker. Based on how this novel is going, I won’t be checking him out soon.

The fact is that a wimpy, unsexy girl with a bad haircut cannot sustain even a small, “serious” novel, and certainly not a big cheesy one. Take my advice, avoid reader’s indigestion, and walk away now from the Big Cheesy Novel.

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Bonnie considered Tom’s plea. It was going to be tough enough for him to survive in Paris without any knowledge of French, but no money and no passport could have some severe consequences. Sure, he might be able to eventually find his way to the American Embassy with help from some passerby, but here she was, capable, someone he knew, someone who already knew her way around Paris. How could she turn him down? It would be cruel.

Still, turning him down was her first thought. Her only thought.

He’d needed her before. He’d needed lots of people. But his needs were driven simply by an arrogant laziness; everyone knew that, including Tom. He was smart enough to know that the easiest, surest path to success was to have others lined up eager to do his bidding. And people seemed to fall all over themselves to do just that. Bonnie wasn’t one of those people, but it wasn’t because she’d always had the guts to say ‘no’ to him. He’d rarely asked her for anything. He didn’t have to. There were already plenty of people falling all over themselves to do whatever he wanted.

They guy had charisma, whether he was hung over or not. He lit up a room, and she could see that had not changed.

They were in the land of the Louis XIV, the 16th century monarch who’d ruled France at the height of its powers. Regarded as a miracle at his birth, he was also known as le Roi Soleil – the Sun King. The Louvre, now the world’s richest museum, had been his palace.

Tom was the Sun King of Sunray Lake High.

He had, however, been less than sunny the last time he’d asked something of her. They had been taking a calculus exam, one that counted for half of their final grade. Even though it was nearing eleven a.m., Tom was still wearing the rumpled overcoat of a hangover, and he leaned close enough for her to smell the alcohol on his breath. He nodded towards her nearly complete test paper, giving her what he probably thought was a charming look. She immediately dismissed him, shocked that he was actually insisting that she help him cheat. Bonnie had been willing to share a few homework answers here and there, but letting Tom copy an entire test was something else.

The flash of annoyance that crossed his face when it was clear she had rejected his request made it clear how he felt. No one turned down the Sun King of Sunray Lake High! For the rest of the year, whenever they passed in the hall — him with a half dozen friends, her alone —she could see that she didn’t seem to register in his face at all. He’d forgotten her the moment she turned him down and quickly moved on to more accommodating subjects.

And that was fine with her.

“So you will help me out?” he asked. “Right?”

“Sure,” she said. What else could she say? “After the Louvre.” She was not going to have him messing up her plans. She didn’t have a year to bum around Europe like he did, she had just two more weeks.

“The Louvre, huh. They serve wine there?”

She knew he knew exactly what the Louvre was. And how he would have preferred to spend the afternoon. The guy had lost everything, and still the only thing that mattered to him was where his next drink was. So she shrugged and gave the same response she’d given when he’d asked her to cheat on the final calculus exam.

“Suit yourself,” she said, turning away to and continuing on her way across the Tuilleries.

“Still a hard-ass,” he said, instantly at her shoulder again, “taking everything so seriously. Not everything’s a final exam.”

She kept walking, feeling the blood rush to her face. So he had remembered.

“Look, once I get things straightened out, I’ll take you to dinner. I’ll owe you,” he said.

Bonnie gave him another look and tried hard to detect even the smallest amount of sincerity. And while it was still the face of the Sun King that beamed back at her, she thought she might have seen the slightest dimming of his damnably blue eyes. Perhaps she had convinced him that dorky Bonnie Huber still had the guts to turn him down. But she would have to decide without knowing for sure, suspecting that she was seeing what she wanted to see in those blue eyes, and not the truth.

“I said I’d help you,” she snapped, “– after the Louvre.”

— Want more cheese? Head right this way —-

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More from the Big Cheesy (a.k.a. “Sweeping Gooey”) Novel

frizzyWhen we left our heroine, she had just run into someone she didn’t expect to see in Paris. Remember, it’s January 1979. And she has just gotten a very bad haircut, which she is hiding under a stocking cap. Keep in mind this is  a gooey novel, though I’ve heard from a reader that ‘gooey’ may cheese off my male audience. So I’m considering making it a BIG CHEESY novel versus a SWEEPING GOOEY novel. My first concern is that it needs more cheese. So I’m working on that.

Bonnie shrank back, remembering clearly who it was she was talking to. Tom Iversen. The Tom Iversen. Graduated first in their high school graduating class — but just barely — after having slept his way through most of their senior year. Since he’d received a full-ride scholarship to Stanford University, he could let things go. And he did. He came to class hung-over, almost every morning, and tried to hide his bloodshot eyes behind cool, dark aviator glasses. His rare contributions to the classroom discussion – when he was awake — were in the form of crude commentary to anyone nearby, or cutting remarks about the teacher.

And Bonnie could hear it all. She was always placed nearby Tom, her Huber just ahead of his Iversen in the seating chart alphabet.

Even when he was at his worst, Tom was still every teacher’s pet – the golden boy who was going to make Sunray Lake, Minnesota, proud, ace his way through Stanford, become an aerospace engineer with NASA, who knew, maybe wind up piloting the Space Shuttle.  Bonnie was sure they already had the “Welcome Home, Tom!” banners printed up and ready to hang from the Sunray Lake water tower when he made his triumphal return from space in just a few years.

So he could afford to slack off.  People like Tom always could.

But Bonnie wasn’t like Tom. She couldn’t slack off.  She wasn’t sure she even would if she had half the chance. She was a bright, industrious student, and earned a few scholarships, but not enough to attend some pricey West Coast school. So she never bothered looking outside the Midwest. And why should she? Her path had never been as has clear as Tom’s always had been. And she had no one taking her on as a special project, ready to encourage her to try more lucrative, less traditional female professions. Shouldn’t she have been encouraged to think of being a rocket scientist too? Received some extra coaching to raise her college entrance test scores?

Bonnie wasn’t sure what she might have made of such encouragement. She’d never been the type of person to accept help easily, and never asked for it. She’d gotten her first job as soon as she could, working at 15 in a drugstore restaurant as cook, waitress and busboy, sometimes all in the same shift. She took the bus to and from her restaurant job, finishing her homework when the ride didn’t make her nauseous. Sometimes even when she was nauseous, she’d fake work on her homework so the local pothead on his way to the head-shop didn’t insist on carrying on his never-ending anti-government rant in the seat next to her, all the while steadily exhaling remnants of his long-held smoke at her as he spewed his nonsense. It always seemed best to stay under radar, keep your head down, avoid eye contact (especially with ranting potheads), and take care of your business by yourself.

And while she would have done better to save everything she earned for college, she had a hard time not spending all her meager wages and tips on small luxuries. Mostly art books and art supplies, which went to good use, but also the occasional cute angora sweater in pink, a color that she thought looked good against her pale, sometimes blotchy skin and didn’t make her hair look so bad. Oh and a pair of super wide bell bottom hip-hugger jeans. Or two. It wasn’t that her parents couldn’t afford to get these kinds of things for her. Bonnie didn’t want to ask.

And maybe that meant she was to blame for where she was after all. If you don’t ask for help or mentoring, you don’t get it. Instead you got angora sweaters that kick up so much static electricity that your limp hair goes even flatter against your neck and shoulders; hip-hugger jeans that quickly go out of style; and, just that day, an ugly curly, short haircut to fix the frisé frizzies. Instead you wound up at the nearest college that would take you, that your parents could mostly afford, with loans and part time jobs to pay the rest of the way.

So that’s where things stood for Bonnie Huber, visiting Paris, France in January 1979. In a few months, about when the perm grew out, she’d have to declare a major, and she still had no clue which direction she should take. And now she was standing right in front of a guy who had always had a clear sense of direction, and always seemed to have others for pushing him along when he needed to be pushed.

Bonnie shrugged off her feeling of inferiority. Tom Iversen was nobody, like all the other nobodies she’d had as high school classmates, who were all long gone from her life. This chance meeting was nothing.

“I’m studying French – and art — in Paris for the month,” she said casually, adding the “and art” part even though Mademoiselle was teaching only French. It really was a stretch to say she was studying art at all. Sure, she had a talent for portraiture and a few art history classes under her belt, but that was hardly “studying art.” She was, however, carrying a sketchpad and pencils with her, and planned to do some sketching at the Louvre. So at least she had some proof on her. Maybe someone would happen to notice her there, see that she had talent, and something special would happen in her life after all.

“How’s rocket science school?” she asked Tom casually, as if they had just run into each other at the Sunray Lake grocery store. But her voice rang out too loudly in the quiet, empty Jardin des Tuileries, echoing against the stone courtyards of the formal gardens and ricocheting back to her with false rings. It seemed like the wrong place for such an untrue tone of voice.

He shrugged. “I’m taking a break from aerospace engineering,” he said, using the more proper term for his course of study. “Taking a year off to travel.”

“Really,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound too sarcastic or envious. “How do you take a year off?” She thought that might sound rude, and again her voice was too loud, which confirmed it. She wondered whether the chemicals from the permanent had seeped into her brain, and changed her, permanently, maybe for the worse. She decided she didn’t care. “Exactly how do you do that?” she said, her voice ringing back to her a little less harshly.

“Well, let’s just say that everyone thought it was for the best,” he said.

“Everyone?”

He took a few moments to consider her question, and answered her. He was obviously taking his direction from the solemn atmosphere of the winter garden. “Mostly my advisor. My dad was against it, saying I’d hit my stride soon enough.”

Jim Iversen, Tom’s dad, was the long-time Sunray Lake high school principal. He’d seen enough kids to know whether one would hit his stride at some point, but had a huge blind spot, or so everyone thought, regarding his son.

“So here I am. In the middle of my European tour,” he said with a laugh. “And I’m completely, 100 percent lost in Paris. I just got into town and if I hadn’t run into you, I’m not sure what I would have done. I got scammed by some gypsies in a bump and run. My wallet’s missing, I lost my passport, and I’m down to my last franc. Think you can help me out?”

Interested in more cheese? Why click here,  s’il vous plaît.