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New Yorker Fiction Review #122: "Honey Bunny" by Julianne Pachico

Issue: Nov. 9, 2015

Story: "Honey Bunny" by Julianne Pachico

Rating: $$

Review: Stories about drug use and drug addiction can be a tricky row to hoe and I'm not particularly a fan. One of my all time favorite writers, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, wrote the Moby Dick of "drug fiction," Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas...and it wasn't even fiction. Anyway, Thompson succeeded in turning heavy drug use into a hilarious act of existential daring, pushing oneself as close to the line of tolerance as possible, and reporting the results. But he's been just about the only writer I've ever known who's succeeded at this.

Trying to turn drug use into some kind of adventurous act of rebellion against the system, of living on the edge, etc. is not something of which I particularly approve and it's a type of writing/fiction that I think worked at one time but generally doesn't (or hasn't) anymore, especially since drug use is now not associated with the "counter-culture" like it was in the 60s. In other words: doing drugs isn't "cool" or daring anymore and therefore anyone who tries to write about it as if it is, might as well be writing about a trip to the grocery store...which, would probably be more interesting.

The OTHER avenue of so-called "drug fiction" is to show the dangers and harsh realities of addiction. This kind of fiction is something I can get behind, because, well, drugs aren't good for you and seriously eff up your life and therefore should not be extolled as a worthwhile activity by any civilized person or artist.

All of that is preface to my remarks on "Honey Bunny," which shows the darker side of a young Columbian woman's addiction to -- not exactly sure if it's speed or what, specifically -- drugs that keeps her locked in a somewhat manageable cycle of desperation and loneliness, as her life seems to be made up of minor episodes with men interspersed with visits to her dealer, Paco.

We do get some nice details from inside the young woman's head; particularly nice are the different objects that seem to inhabit her bag of pills as she plucks them out of her purse. At one time her fingers are like light sabres as she pulls out a pill, another time the bag is filled with blades of grass that she has to pluck out one by one before grabbing a pill. The woman is in a fragile state of mind, for sure, but I'm not convinced Pachico knew what she wanted this story to be.

Is this story supposed to be a story about the dangers of drug use and addiction, or one of those yawn-inducing, "I'm young and single in the city and doing too much ****" kind of stories. In either event I don't think it succeeds

What is mildly interesting are the main character's recollections of her childhood in Columbia (she that effed up) and it would've been interesting to hear more about this.
Julianne Pachico...I think.
now lives in New York City) and of her flight to the U.S., presumably as her parents fled prosecution or danger associated with the collapse of the Columbian drug cartels in the early 90s. To me these remembrances provide the really interesting context for why the young woman is so effed up (and, she's not really even

Two stars because, even though I was lukewarm on the story itself, there was something about Pachico's prose that was dark and psychological and succeeded in creating a dark, seductive mood. I wanted to know more about this woman, but not because Pachico didn't succeed in painting an interesting character, but because she dropped enough details to make the character intriguing while leaving a lot to the imagination.

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