Here, one is tempted to believe, is a writer crazy enough, crude enough and gluttonous enough to swallow the whole Trump era and then belch out its poisonous comedy ... The premise of Processed Cheese is simple; its execution is cuckoo — a critical term I don’t think I’ve ever used before ... You want subtlety, read a different book ... a broiling parody of American excess, fermented with wild violence and crazy sex acts. (Attention Bad Sex Award judges: Look no further than Pages 236-237, although all of Chapter 15 is perhaps the most repulsive thing I’ve ever read) ... a retail fantasy clotted with gangster thrills. But its sharp taste stems entirely from Wright’s attention to detail: an indefatigable piling on of ludicrousness. Here, finally, is that rare satirist who doesn’t feel outstripped by the actual details of today’s culture. There is no page, no paragraph, not even a line that doesn’t feel crammed with Wright’s comic bile ... Like President Trump, this absurdity can be grotesquely funny. But like the Trump presidency, it runs on way too long. That, I suspect is the point. Nothing else I’ve read is as faithful to the obscenity of these latter days, the consummation of vacuous pop culture and complete social bankruptcy. For readers who can stomach it, Processed Cheese is jolting enough to reveal what degradation we’ve become inured to.
Wright is an unpredictable author with an unwavering commitment to the surreal; you get the feeling he couldn't write a straight story even if he wanted to ...simultaneously angry and resigned, a darkly funny satire of American consumer culture in all its greed, lust and sloth — really, just name a deadly sin. Dizzying and bleak, it's Wright at his best ... The world that Wright creates in Processed Cheese is a tremendously unsettling one, largely because it's essentially indistinguishable from our own ... It's easy for authors who go down this road to get lost in their own whimsy, but Wright plays it with something like a straight face, which lends the novel a profoundly disturbing air ... Processed Cheese is brilliant, but it's at times difficult to read, and that's almost certainly by design ... An excoriating critique of what America has become, Processed Cheese is an exhausting, maddening and unforgettable book.
... its first pages are absolutely brilliant, a frenetic, hilarious rush of pure feeling ... as the brand names and celebrity names pile up, along with a few bodies, it’s hard for the reader to hold onto the manic energy in Wright’s prose. He’s a masterly writer, with a wild sense of humor that he pushes as far as he can, but this fairy tale about our wealth-obsessed culture starts to drag. At one point, Graveyard asserts that money affects one’s perception of time, namely that 'it goes slower and I’ve got more of it.' Eventually, you start to wish the money would simply run out ... reminds me, in both tone and theme, of George Saunders’s short stories Sea Oak and The Semplica-Girl Diaries, or even Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road. But those works have brevity on their side, layering their absurdity with very real concerns about the inescapable nature of poverty, a flash of strangeness that echoes far beyond the page. By the time I reached the end of Processed Cheese, with its inevitable showdown and reckoning, I felt overwhelmed by both the satire and the violence. All that kept me going was Wright’s sentences, so wonderful, so bizarre, $100 bills pulled endlessly from a canvas bag.
The satire of an ad-saturated, media-distracted, money-dominated society could not, in fact, be broader, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it could easily come across as ludicrous and off-putting. There are times, frankly, when it does, though Wright’s fierce commitment to his hyperbolic lampoonery carried me along, even if it never quite won me over. The novel owes its success to the fact that, just when you think the manic raillery can’t go any further, it plunges screaming over the edge ... To evoke this depraved excess, Wright abandons his typically labyrinthine, dreamlike style in favor of starkly simple prose limning scenes of such generic banality that even the characters know they’re preprogrammed ... Unfortunately, Wright’s arraignment of the gibbering inanities of mass consumption doesn’t have quite the bite Going Native had, in large part because the popular mediascape has so metastasized in the 25 years between books that it appears to have outstripped the author’s capacity to capture it ... Processed Cheese is one of those novels...that, in its Swiftian fury, is easy to admire but hard to really like, in large part because the reader feels uneasily implicated in the satire. This book doesn’t just hate the kind of nation America has become, it despises us all for our complicity in it. And we totally deserve it.
... bitterly satirical ... You can almost imagine pitching the plot of Processed Cheese as a Hollywood movie: screwball comedy meets high-tech revenge thriller. The keyword is 'almost,' because Processed Cheese is brimming with Wright’s riffs on the relentless, mind-numbing barrage of bullshit hucksterism that rains down on our heads all day long ... wildly imaginative mashups of American vernacular with brand names and catchy slogans memorably convey the growing sinkhole hollowness of everyday speech. People have names like RealDeal, Mr. FlavorAdditive, and Uncle Parsnips. The novel is as much about the replacement of language with gibberish as it is about the desire for the perfect lifestyle ... Wright’s humor is devastating, sharp, and constantly in-your face ... a musically cacophonous, devastatingly precise indictment of American shallowness ... Wright looks beyond America’s sugarcoated veneer of respectability with a clear vision of the ridiculously hideous place this country has become.
... part fantasy, part science, part nonsense and totally intriguing ...There is a tenderness in this book, but it struggles to surface, buried as it is by the characters who are willing to trade it for momentary delights. And it is in that struggle that Wright’s story shines. While Processed Cheese is an absurdist look at late-stage capitalism, it is also a funky romance with two compelling, if mostly enigmatic, central figures ... Wright’s tale is set in a place somewhere between a comic book and a video game. It is quite bawdy, though only occasionally really graphic ... Cleverness abounds in Processed Cheese, and sometimes Wright may be overly dazzled by his own word play and overly committed to his style. Still, this satire, like Ambience’s marksmanship, hits the target more often than not. The bond between Graveyard and Ambience is never in doubt, and if not for their redeeming qualities --- even if obscured by their frenzied response to the cash windfall --- the novel would be much more bleak. Most of the characters here are lonely, and their drug-sex-stuff-filled lives only highlight their lack of control in a society where they are little more than consumers.
Wright...holds up a fun-house mirror to our money-obsessed society—and, after a while, the distorted reflection grows uncomfortably close to real life ... Even as his characters’ indulgence in empty pleasures becomes ickier, riskier, and more life threatening, Wright sustains a vision that comes across like an updated Thimble Theater comic strip from the 1930s juiced with the free-wheeling, whacked-out comedy of a vintage 1970s Firesign Theater LP. The book’s unending stream of uproarious faux brand names...doesn’t distract from the ferocious and mostly effective assault on our own world’s obsession with getting, spending, and having, whether it’s sex, drugs, guns, cars, clothes, appliances, or shelter. This dark, harrowing, and wildly funny novel somehow both challenges and affirms that tried-and-true adage: Money isn’t everything.
The disappointing latest from Wright..takes place in an alternate reality much like the current world, except that every place, every brand name, almost every proper noun has morphed into something bizarre ... Various subplots and asides...add some depth to the hollow main characters. But this hypersexualized, hypercommercialized surreal world never feels consequential or any less absurd than the characters’ names or circumstances. Wright’s goofy postmodern tale of money, sex, and guns is imaginative but trivial.