Web Exclusives: Alumni Spotlight

O'Dwyer is a Washington, D.C., health-care lawyer.

May 14, 2003:
More fries, big trouble
First-time novelist Jeffrey O'Dwyer '89 makes fun of fast food industry

Jeffrey O'Dwyer '89 swears that his new novel, Red Meat Cures Cancer, is a fictional parody. Any similarities it may have with recent lawsuits like the one that blamed McDonald's for a nationwide epidemic of obesity in kids are purely coincidental.

"I chose fast food because it's at the epicenter of American pop culture and thus the perfect vehicle for satire," says O'Dwyer, who writes under his middle name, Starbuck.

Using exaggerated characters and circumstances, O'Dwyer goofs on everyone from dot-commers to hippies to nuns in Red Meat, published last year by Midnight Books. Even Princeton takes a minor hit via a dropout-turned-congressman who tries to bribe his way to an honorary degree.

The story begins at a business meeting for Tailburger, a restaurant chain whose cash cows are a beef-flavored milk shake and the Tailpipe — four battered, deep-fried meat patties served with generous dollops of Cajun mayonnaise. Frank Fanoflincoln, the reprehensible, whopper-sized CEO, threatens to fire chief operating officer Sky Thorne if the company doesn't super size its market share ASAP.

This sets Sky, who is months away from qualifying for his pension, on a journey through lies, bribery, and blackmail to improve the bottom line.

Sky's coup de grace is "Torture Your Body," his multi-media ad campaign, which flops after Los Angeles Laker Jelloteous Junderstack, an eight-foot, two-inch Belgian who devours 12 Tailburgers per sitting, dies from a peanut allergy. (Remember, the book is over-the-top.)

As sales cool and a class action lawsuit by anti-meat lobbyists heats up, Sky finds himself eating with a childhood friend who has made millions in adult entertainment. The porno power lunch leads to a web site partnership that brings fat times to Tailburger — until Sky's arrest.

"The main purpose of the book is to entertain and make people laugh," says O'Dwyer, a Washington D.C. health-care lawyer who penned Red Meat in his spare time. (The novel will be published in trade paperback next year by Random House's Vintage Books.) "But it's also intended to make people think about the impact of the American consumer culture on their daily lives and to bring into focus some of the more outrageous aspects and trends of contemporary life in America."

By Rob MacKay '89

Rob McKay is an editor for Times Newsweekly in Queens, New York.