Marty Beckerman is Stronger Than You

[5 September 2002]

By Matthew Chabe

“I’m not trying to be a prick, but I’m kind of a local celebrity in Anchorage.”

Marty Beckerman, 19-year-old journalist, novelist and bona-fide native of Anchorage, is trying to describe the experience of going home after leaving his world for greener pastures. For most, this would be a feeling tinged with more than a little melancholy. But when you’re already the author of a notoriously scabrous sledgehammer of a novel at a time when most of your friends can still see high school in their rear-views, things tend to be a little different.

“I’m kind of uncomfortable with it, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like it,” he said. People will come up to me at parties [in Anchorage] and be like, ‘I’ve been wanting to meet you for so long!’ This one guy came up to me and started quoting shit I wrote like four years ago. I was like, ‘Oh, God.’ But it got me a blowjob once.”

That’s surprising. Surprising because his first novel, Death to All Cheerleaders: One Adolescent Journalist’s Cheerful Diatribe Against Teenage Plasticity (Infected Press, 2000), was a hilarious gash against hypocrisy, mostly by way of high school femininity. The book includes such sensitive pieces as “My Make- Out Session with Watermelon Tits” and ruminations such as “I wonder if I can nail that dumb bitch?” It wasn’t exactly nominated for a Caldecott Medal. At the age of 17, many were wondering how such a young man could muster that level of vitriol.

His new book, Generation SLUT: A Brutal Feel-Up Session with Today’s Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace, is an even more widespread riff on the degradation of his generation. Currently being shopped to big-name publishing houses, the novel’s due to contain nuggets such as “My Unforgettable (Almost) Prom Date with a Dirty Rotten Whore” and a piece on the debauched hypocrisy of frat life that garnered him multiple death threats at his American University in Washington, D.C. Much like his last book, this one isn’t likely to endear him to either parents or those entrenched in the cultural mainstream.

Of course, the young writer didn’t begin like that. His career began in 1998 as a student at Steller Secondary School in Anchorage, where he began writing in a teen column called “A Perfect World” for the Anchorage Daily Times. It was here, according to Beckerman, that his style began to develop from the respectable to the spiteful.

“I started out writing Dave Barry-type stuff,” he said. “I had this fantasy of morphing into Dave Barry and living his life. Well, I don’t know—he’s not too cute. But he was the writer that made me want to start writing. I guess as I got a little older, I began to realize the things that really pissed me off.”

One of the things that pissed him off was the social ladder inherent to almost every high school in America—the way, according to Beckerman, a person’s level of acceptance is directly proportionate to their level of performance. “I was a little bitter about that. A little bitter about the whole ‘girls’ thing. I just took that out on the targets, which were, you know, jocks and cheerleaders and shit. Who weren’t completely undeserving.”

Subsequently, the Times fired Beckerman after he asked a teen cheerleader how it felt to be “a urine stain on the toilet seat of America” in the name of the paper. So it goes.

Today Beckerman’s barbs are more focused, a result of the eye-opening nature of college. It was there he realized people from all over the country displayed what he called ‘the same superficial, plastic habits.’ “I was just like, ‘Wow, this is really a big thing’,” he said. And thus was born Beckerman’s theory of what he refers to in equal parts as ‘Generation Slut’ and ‘the hook-up culture’.

“In some ways, I’m very typical of my generation,” he said. “Sometimes I think I study it too hard. A lot of people go through life without looking at it. I try to understand people more.”

“The Death to All Cheerleaders era, that was very malicious. What I’m trying to do with this new book is take on a whole generation’s problems. When I was like 16, 17, I was aiming all my hate at just specific individuals. Which maybe missed the big picture, but it was a lot of fun.”

The problem plaguing his generation, he said, is that nobody seems to care about anything that matters. Whereas Generation X, according to Beckerman, was one of idling and a lack of direction, this new generation—Beckerman’s “Generation Slut”—is one of no common goal, no community. Generation X, he said, was one of ‘no future’. His generation, on the other hand, is one of ‘no soul.’

“The preoccupation with getting laid is just the symptom,” he explained. “The whole idea of ‘choose a different partner every Saturday night,’ that’s just one way of expressing it, the idea that we don’t feel connected to each other, that we don’t want anything deeper than ‘wow, this feels really good HUMP ME BITCH, HUMP ME, FUCK!”

“I think people want to feel connected,” he continued. “They want to feel loved and cared about and shit. But people are afraid of rejection, that they won’t be accepted if they don’t follow this ‘hook-up’ culture. If they don’t buy into it—if they try for something more—then they’ll be shunned, be called a prude and shit.”

This generation’s lack of attention span, according to Beckerman, is directly related to its lack of desire to seek long-term relationships. He cites, among other things, the influence of divorce rates among “baby boomers” and the proliferation of sex in the media as particular culprits. “There’s this whole hyper-sexual culture marketed towards preteens now,” he said, referring to popular teen magazines and thong underwear marketed towards youth in major clothing outlets.

“It doesn’t look fucking good. I don’t think a lot of teenagers [today] sit back and think, ‘Why am I on Earth?’ And maybe teenagers never asked that, but I look back at my parents when they were young and I think, ‘Holy shit, look what that generation accomplished.’ I just don’t see the same for this one.”

“I don’t know if there’s an easy solution,” he added. “It’s hard. It’s such a huge problem embedded in a lot of people. Generation X was at least looking for something. Maybe all they found was Starbucks. At least they were looking.”

He paused.

“But we’re not. And I guess that’s the fucking difference.”

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/feature/020905-beckerman/