Striver, Burnout, Lover, Scrub: A Debut Novelist Lays It Bare

Sean Thor Conroe’s “Fuccboi” depicts a delivery boy’s struggle to create meaningful art, as he alternates between tenderness and offensiveness.

Striver, Burnout, Lover, Scrub: A Debut Novelist Lays It Bare

In recent years, it hasn’t looked good for young, heterosexual, male American novelists with rogue talent who want to be known beyond the underground.

Striver, Burnout, Lover, Scrub: A Debut Novelist Lays It Bare

Stateside cultural war partisanship has restricted the bandwidth of allowable literary expression, with the heterosexual white male considered as intrinsically dubious.

To get along under the new regime, ambitious young Americans would be inclined to tread on eggshells while presenting themselves as paragons of virtue – and disagreement could spell professional suicide.

(If the general point seems overdone, recall that Americans elected Donald Trump as their president, then ask yourself how many pro-Trump literary novelists you can identify.)

Sean Thor Conroe, Armed With his Debut Novel Fuccboi and an Unbeatable Title, Enters this Troubled Monoculture.

He is faced with a difficult dilemma: how to write in the style of the classic American male autobiographical novelist while yet being honest about the struggles he faces as a young adult trying to make it in the world (such as wrong-think and the pervasive but often destructive force of lust).

It’s possible that, in order to maintain credibility, he’ll have to play both sides, coming across as neither a whimpering literary beta-cuck nor an idiotic and toxic reactionary. To my left are magas, and to my right are wokists.

The novel aspect of Fuccboi is the narrator’s neutral stance towards the ball-aching social justice religion that stifles the flow of air in contemporary American culture.

“Fuccboi” Follows its Narrator,

Between the fall of 2017 and the summer of 2019, Fuccboi follows its narrator, Sean, as he struggles to get published, suffers from an alarming skin condition, works for a food delivery company in Philadelphia, hosts a book podcast, and deals with the aftermath of his sex life (“ex bae,” “side bae,” and “editor bae” are his love interests, while male friends go by single initials: Z, C, V).

He attempted to walk across the United States in 2014 but failed, and he wrote a novel about the experience that he is now trying to sell with the help of editor bae, a woke feminist just getting her start in New York’s publishing industry (their working relationship is complicated by our hero having slept with her).

In the Background, History is Simmering

“I located a sign to attach my bike to after manoeuvring past two police blockades for an anti-Proud Boys march.”

Neither the storyline nor the tale are really compelling in this book. Conroe bets most of his chips on voice and by and large his writing has enough charm and freshness to keep him solvent.

From Hemingway to Tao Lin, Americans have always been at the forefront of minimalist prose. Because that’s how it is now, bruh, Conroe’s variation is a punchy combination of rap language and internet speak.

The novel aspect of Fuccboi is the narrator’s moderate stance against the morally and doctrinally puritanical social justice religion that stifles American popular culture.

Sean, an avid reader of Nietzsche and Houellebecq, has a “hate of neoliberal feminism” and takes umbrage with “woke youngsters” and the “puritanical, ultimately fascistically western origins of their ostensibly awakened language-censoring” (his spleen fuels such tin-eared, adverb-clogged phrasing).

But in other contexts, the cultural paradoxes he has internalised to the point of mental decline become comical. Sean is “nearly turned on” by his “wokeness,” but he can’t achieve an erection when in bed with “side bae” so he gives her medical advise instead.

When he moves in with a female roommate, he is overjoyed since it “quickly established me as non-predatory” (from another scene).

Get the f*ck out of here, guy, I’m married! Those who believe that US writers now come to us filtered via a de facto system of censorship will not be reassured by a scenario in which Sean’s unpublished work is subjected to an edit that erases “every violent, ugly, testosterone-fuelled, disgusting thing it had been most difficult to write”.

By the time I reached the novel’s final third, I had completely lost track of the novel’s plot, other than the fact that the narrator was still present.

Final Words

The auto-novelist’s liberation from plot comes at the cost of submergence in life’s essential formlessness.

Nonetheless, it was entertaining to follow Sean through the twists and turns of his “sus hetero bro” life, and I respect his effort to accomplish what is difficult, if not taboo, in America in the 2020s: to write like a man and not an ideal.