The Cracker Factory (1977) generated a certain power and considerable sales by treating an intense insane-asylum experience...



The Cracker Factory (1977) generated a certain power and considerable sales by treating an intense insane-asylum experience in TV-comedy style. But Rebeta-Burditt has spent the last few years deep in video-land; and this slapdash new book--though its last 100 pages do feature some asylum scenes and lots of psycho-chat--mostly just reads like uncensored, TV-pilot outtakes: The Longest Sit-Corn Ever Sold, stringing together ancient gags, cartoon people, crude slapstick, and incongruously sentimental touches. The heroine is wisecracking, 35-year-old divorcÉe Jill Dunn Kenyon, a cracker-factory alumna who lives in L.A. with her sassy teen daughter Daisy; she's the new director of movies and miniseries at UBC. So about a third of this virtually all-dialogue novel is Jill at the office, where insider Rebeta-Burditt dishes out lots of surprisingly unconvincing, overdone TV-biz satire: the new network chief is an unhinged computer freak who communes with a baby to make decisions; Jill's assistant Alex is an outlandish, foul-mouthed, whiz-kid monster; her secretary is a super-psychic; her beloved boss breaks down, entering a monastery; and Jill herself eventually rides high with the series Rock and Roll Love, which leads to All in the Rock and Roll Family, Rock and Roll Social Worker, etc. (The spin-off syndrome has been lampooned much better elsewhere.) There's also Jill's love-life, heavy on promiscuity and self-pity: rotten affairs with a writer and a holistic M.D. (""You don't have to get cancer, Jill. You can marry me!""); assorted one-nighters with other cartoon creeps--including her former shrink. And lastly there are Jill's farcical family crises, which periodically take her back to Cleveland: her nagging widowed mother goes into a psychosomatic coma (Jill instantly cures her by saying ""I'm going to put you in a home""); and her sister Julie (with remote brother Johnny, they're triplets) runs from perfect-wife-and-motherhood into an affair with a randy priest, after which she regresses to childhood and must go to the cracker factory. Why is the family so crazy? Well, Jill finally learns the source of her late father's infectious phobias and shares her awakening with the clan in an icky, Esalen-like hug-arama. (Throughout, Jill has indulged in such interior mewings as ""Why won't anyone hug me?"") True, with firm editorial guidance, this family story could have made a genuinely affecting, shrewdly comic novel. But here, surrounded on all sides by totally unreal, laugh-track humor (about one-quarter of which is fairly funny), the fragments of honest feeling sink like lead. So, while Cracker Factory fans may be curious, this overlong potpourri is mostly for readers who like the idea of watching a dozen or two run-on episodes of such series as Soap, One Day at a Time, and Maude.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981

Close Quickview