A bag of money drops out of the sky, literally, into the path of a cash-starved citizen named Graveyard. He carries it home to his wife, Ambience, and they embark on the adventure of their lives, finally able to have everything they've always deserved: cars, guns, games, jewels, clothes-and of course sex, travel, and time with friends and family. Of course, the owner of the bag is searching for it, and will do whatever is necessary to get it back. And of course, these new riches change everything—and nothing at all.
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.
... 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.
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.