Sitting in the American University bookstore on a Tuesday evening in March, Marty Beckerman looks like just another student, clean-cut and dressed in jeans and a sweater. Except that Beckerman’s sitting behind a satin-draped table, stacked high with copies of his new book, Generation S.L.U.T.: A Brutal Feel-Up Session With Today’s Sex-Crazed Adolescent Populace. As he signs for a sparse crowd while his girlfriend, Jess Webb, perches on a nearby sofa, the 21-year-old media-and-society major seems slightly nervous. But when a dark-haired young woman approaches and picks up the paperback, Beckerman spits out a sales pitch. “You’ll love this book,” he says. “It’ll change your life.”
S.L.U.T. has transformed Beckerman’s life, at least. His previous book, Death to All Cheerleaders, was a self-published title that he calls “bitter humor columns from a 16-year-old virgin.” Now, after a summer internship with the New York Press that introduced him and his idea for S.L.U.T. to a literary agent and eventually a deal with MTV Books, he’s being interviewed by Salon.com and giving well-attended readings in New York alongside such young literary stars as Jonathan Ames and Stephen Chbosky.
But despite S.L.U.T’s sexy title and cover photo, which depicts feet and ankles collared by pink panties, the work is a surprisingly nuanced critique of contemporary culture—a culture that Beckerman believes patronizes and demeans the hyperhormonal set. “Why does no one in this age group care about anything besides themselves?” Beckerman asks rhetorically.
S.L.U.T. (an acronym for “sexually liberated urban teens”) is a hybrid of fiction, rumination, autobiography, comic strips, and bullhorn statistics about the decline of American youth. Its core novelette follows some high-school sophomores in Beckerman’s native Anchorage, Alaska, who hook up liberally while dressing in the latest fashions from “Pike and Crew.” But their promiscuity leaves many of them fragile and emotionally dysfunctional.
In conversation, Beckerman rants about “boob jobs and Botox” and “the Britney lifestyle.” But make no mistake: He’s no Bill Bennett. “I’ve got a girlfriend,” he says. “I like to have sex with her as much as I can, which is averaging two or three times a day.”
Beckerman’s less ecstatic about the detours his celebrity has taken. He says that MTV just ratcheted back its planned multimedia marketing campaign for S.L.U.T. in the wake of recent FCC crackdowns on indecency. And the Salon.com interview provoked a rash of bilious reader responses to, among other things, Beckerman’s somewhat negative portrayal of feminism.
“That’s tough for an egomaniac….I didn’t expect the lit-hipster crowd to hate me,” he says. Then Beckerman regroups. “Aw, fuck ’em,” he says. “I didn’t write this book for 25 Salon readers. I wrote it for high-school kids. So they can suck my dizznick.”
It’s premature to say how S.L.U.T. is doing nationwide, but bookstore manager Tony Bell says the title’s moving there. “Mom and Dad would be up looking at the textbooks,” Bell says, “and the younger brother or sister would be going through [S.L.U.T.].” Still, Beckerman, who will graduate this spring, is worried. The book he’s writing now, an account of youth culture in the Middle East tentatively titled Jew Boy Goes to Hell, won’t be done until next year. And Beckerman says S.L.U.T. wasn’t all that lucrative. “[The advance] paid for, like, a semester of college,” he says.
But the literary life does have its rewards. With Webb gone and the hour-long signing session winding down, a cute blonde student in a pink top walks up to the table. “Is this the book?” she asks Beckerman. “I’ve heard about this book!”
Beckerman grins: “It’ll change your life.” .