Sept. 23, 2008:
We did this interview via email:
What did Dr. Steve Edgell do for you?
In the aftermath of Generation S.L.U.T., I became a foaming-at-the-mouth right-winger. I can't explain all of the causes behind my transformation, but the hate mail I received from a bunch of leftists had a lot to do with it. I had a reaction to their reaction, and I suddenly felt a connection with anyone who hated the people who hated me.
(In retrospect, the combination of rape jokes and anti-feminist rants was astonishingly stupid, but that's how twenty-year-old boys talk-and I'm not a twenty-year-old boy anymore. I'll have to live with those words forever, which I'm not thrilled about, so the best I can do is hope that people understand I've grown up and mellowed out. I still have a sense of humor, but good lord, I have no idea what I was thinking.)
I started to blindly believe every single GOP talking point, mostly because pissing off liberals made me happy at the time. I freaked a lot of people out-my friends, family and readers-with good reason. I put myself into a conservative echo chamber and kept getting more and more intense. I wasn't seeing shades of gray; somehow I didn't realize there are major differences between moderates, liberals, socialists and communists. You were either a conservative or a Red; I was overwhelmed with hatred for anything remotely progressive, and my new right-wing friends were encouraging this, so I kept going further in that direction.
I remember being angry all the time-at feminists, environmentalists, perceived media bias, gay marriage, antiwar protesters, you name it-and those resentments were taking over my life. My writing became increasingly overzealous, and I made a lot of comments that still haunt me. I really lost my mind.
Steve Edgell was a psychologist who contacted me in 2004 after reading S.L.U.T. He seemed curious about my thoughts, and we started a conversation that lasted for the next year, trading e-mails every day, sometimes talking on the phone, sending books to each other. Over those twelve months he talked me back down to earth.
Edgell had been a conservative at my age as well, but became more liberal as he had more life experience. He slowly but surely planted a seed of doubt in my mind. He didn't make me into a screaming leftist by any stretch of the imagination, but he made me analyze the puritanical attitudes I had adopted, and over time I realized how far I had strayed from reality, and how irrationally angry I had become over nonexistent offenses.
Just as I was starting to moderate in early 2005, Edgell died from a heart attack. I never met him, but I dedicated the book to him because I don't know if I would have ever come back from that bizarre, fanatical phase without him. I still miss him a lot; in a weird way he understood me better than most of the people I actually "know." (In the biblical sense, I mean.)
How long you been with your GF?
Long enough for her to sodomize me with a plastic phallus... but it was for the sake of journalism, not personal pleasure. We never tried it again, I swear!
Anything new in your Jewish journey?
The final chapter of Dumbocracy takes me to Jerusalem on a search for God, but I don't quite find what I'm looking for. I spent a week with the ultra-Orthodox, which almost drove me insane, and honestly I've given up for the time being, which doesn't exactly mean I'm an atheist, but I wouldn't say I'm religious or spiritual either.
I've seen enough weird stuff to convince me that some kind of higher intelligence probably exists, but I just can't make myself believe that the Great Mystery cares if I turn off a light during the Sabbath. I want to believe, and I can't logically explain some of the coincidences that have happened to me, but I just can't muster any enthusiasm for organized religion. Then again, I don't feel "alone" on the rare occasions when I pray, so I'm going to try to live a decent life, not be as much of a jerk as I used to be, and hope that it's enough. But I don't eat pork, if that's what you're asking.
What are the biggest differences between Israeli Jews and American Jews?
Israelis have tans, muscles and physical stamina. We have Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Who are you going to vote for in 2008?
Barack Obama. I used to love McCain-he was the most centrist politician in the country-but he completely sold out to the Religious Right. I would have voted for the McCain of 2000 over the Obama of 2008, but McCain lost me when he started palling around with Falwell, Hagee and his other ex-enemies who despise the separation of church and state, which is this country's core founding value.
Right-wingers love to accuse liberals of treason, but nothing drives ultra-conservative theocrats insane like free expression and the pursuit of happiness for anyone besides themselves. (There are certainly leftists who feel the same way-free speech for me but not for thee-and it's equally disgusting; I bash both sides in Dumbocracy for their attacks on the First Amendment.)
Which chapter of this new book are you most proud of and why?
The aforementioned chapter where I look for God; it has an epic quality that's unlike anything else I've written. Also the chapter on gay marriage because there is simply no such thing as too many penis jokes.
What do you like to think about when you masturbate?
The reflection in the mirror. (Runner-up answer: Luke Ford.)
Would you write about islam in same way as xtianity and judaism?
My feeling is that religious moderation is a good thing-people like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher are wrong to label all believers as zealots-but there are obviously extremists from every faith who want to spread their ideologies through violence, and those extremists are equally worthy of condemnation. Some radical leftists, who (justly) can't stand Republican anti-secularism, are for some reason unable to criticize brutal theocrats halfway around the world, which is an absurd hypocrisy. Same B.S., different day.
What percentage of americans would not vote for a black for president?
According to the New York Daily News, 6 percent, but Colin Powell or Carol Moseley Braun wouldn't have the problems that Obama is facing, because it's not just race that's hampering him; it's this perceived foreignness due to his name and globe-trotting childhood, and this perception has fostered a huge nubmer of paranoid conspiracy theories. (By the way, did you hear that Sarah Palin cooks halal mooseburgers for Osama bin Laden? I read it in a forwarded e-mail so it must be true.)
You did not touch race in book? Why?
Oh Luke, you know me... I would never dream of causing any kind of controversy.
Is Marty Beckerman Good For The Jews?
Why Young Women Expose Themselves
I asked 21-year old author Marty Beckerman for his reaction. He replies:
I asked Marty to forward me some of his more literate hate mail. He sent this:
I call Marty Beckerman April 20, 2004, about his new book Generation S.L.U.T.
Marty: "Did you have a good Passover?"
Luke: "Yes. How about you?"
Marty: "I didn't really celebrate it this year. Some years I do. I always do Yom Kippur out of guilt."
Luke: "Did you have an Orthodox Jewish roommate for a year?"
Marty: "Are you typing or recording?"
Luke: "I'm recording."
Marty: "That's cool. I probably shouldn't talk about him. That's libel. Let's just say our lives weren't Heaven that year. Sometimes I would pin bacon to the door so he couldn't come in."
Luke: "What are you planning to do after graduation?"
Marty: "I'm trying to find a magazine gig, a book deal."
Luke: "Where are you politically?"
Marty: "I'm libertarian. I've drifted more to the right in the past couple of years."
Luke: "Did you really take a prostitute to your Senior Ball and introduce her to your parents?"
Marty: "That was all true.
"Did you enjoy the book?"
Luke: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."
Marty: "Cool. Thanks.
"[Both parents are Jewish.] My mom was really nervous about [meeting the whore]. I get my sense of humor from my dad. One of his favorite things to do in high school was to fill a decongestant bottle with [bleep] and then go speak to police officers... My mom is from a town in Arkansas where the most exciting thing that happened every year was a turtle race down Main St. I grew up in Alaska. My dad was an optometrist with the public health service. It's like the Army where they can tell you where to move. I guess he pissed off one of his bosses and got sent to the frozen north."
Luke: "Do you get impatient with dumb people?"
Marty: "Sometimes. Everyone thinks they're good, right? They think that what they're doing is right, for whatever reason. I don't believe anyone thinks he's evil or stupid."
Luke: "Was the repulsive rich kid author character in your novel named Trevor coming from your dark side?"
Marty: "I think I was more making a statement about young authors. Not that I know any young authors who rape young girls by the dozen and hand out drugs at parties to knock people out... The comment was more about how we can get away with anything in this country if you are a celebrity. I was never the teen author the girls wanted to f--- in high school. I was the teen author girls wouldn't call back in high school."
Luke: "How many interviews have you done in the past three months?"
Marty: "A s--- load. I came off badly in Salon. I won't say the [female] reporter was vindictive or didn't like me. I don't think she captured my sense of humor. I think she misinterpreted me as anti-sex. I'm getting better at it. I've developed these little soundbytes that go over well. But the message of my book is not soundbyte friendly. I'm not in the abstinence camp. The aspect of the female liberation movement that was freedom from monogamy and how that's trickled down to 12, 13, 14 year old girls. I'm questioning that. With a lot of far left types, you are not allowed to question anything about the movement of the 1960s and sexual liberation and the womens' movement.
"The reaction I expected to get from the book was that Christians would hate it. Fundamentalists would be all over me because I have graphic sex scenes and violence and drugs and profanity and s---. But they really haven't had anything negative to say about the book. I've found conservatives like it. Most of the hate mail I get is from the womens liberation types."
Luke: "Have you learned anything about reporters?"
Marty: "I try to do all my interviews on tape now. I've noticed that they can kinda get it right when they're writing it down but they're going to make up some of it. Most of the time that's harmless but some of the time it makes me look like an idiot."
Luke: "What percentage of the time do you think they are emotionally invested in making you look like an idiot?"
Marty: "Not very much. It's more when they come in with their own preconception of what the book is. I think the Salon reporter was a feminist who thought the book was misogynist and chauvinist and white heterosexual member of the patriarchy keeping down women and minorities across the globe. I'm not getting trashed by the media. It's more the blogger types. Everything I've heard from anyone under 21 is enormously positive. Kids love the book. The Gen X snooty literary crowd in NY that hates anything that's not pretentious poetic s---... Normal people like the book and that's who I wrote it for. I didn't write it to gain literary credibility. I didn't write it to be popular with the LiveJournal set. I wrote it to entertain and provoke thought."
Luke: "Did your mother read it?"
Marty: "No, she's going to need to be pumped up with some Thorazine before she lays a finger on it. My dad enjoyed it. He wishes I would've done more innuendo than flat out..."
Luke: "You mean like the rape scene where she was passed out..."
Marty: "That's one of the criticisms I get. Did you really need to depict things the way they are? Yeah. What would be the point of watering it down and just alluding to things. I'd say a majority of young Americans are seeing sex as this anonymous, violent, detached, emotionless, soulless activity.
"Once the [post Janet Jackson boob] crackdown hit, MTV got nervous about promoting this book. No radio station would interview me. They all said we would've loved to have done this a year ago but now we're too scared of something slipping on the air and people complaining. It's a tough time to be an independent thinker."
Luke: "Jealousy. Few writers have published a book..."
Marty: "I get a lot of that. Especially the blogger crowd. You wrote a book about sex. Anybody can publish a book about sex. MTV probably gave him two million dollars. A lot of these guys are in their thirties and they've wanted to be writers since they were younger than I am now. A lot of young writers get publishing contracts by whoring themselves to the top. I started writing at 15 and I self-published my first book. I paid my dues. I built myself from the ground up by working really hard. My [last] book contract paid for one semester of college. I'm looking for a job now. I'm not swimming through my vault of gold coins.
"I think when I meet people, they have a different impression of me than when they read me in interviews or read my writing. I play a character in my writing, like Neal Pollack does. I'm a polarizing writer. I can't do anything about that except try to be a nice guy to people who are assholes to me."
Luke: "Has your writing cost you friends?"
Marty: "Sometimes. Not in a while. I went through a dark couple of years after high school where a lot of my friends became addicted to drugs and became self mutilators. That's when I started writing the book. I wrote the book as therapy. A lot of people criticize me for ripping off Brett Easton Ellis. I never even read Brett Easton Ellis until I was 75% through this book. I think he's a genius who's never written a good book. He writes great scenes but criticizes superficiality with superficiality. I try to give my characters more soul.
"Girlfriends usually want to change me. The one I've got now, today is our seven month anniversary, is great because she doesn't try to change me. Sometimes I push it too far with her. She gets my sense of humor. The last couple of girls I dated were on a mission to turn me into a feminist. I've been known to write about my own sex life in graphic detail. People are really sensitive to being written about, even if you portray them well. If you give them any shades of gray, if you depict them doing any things they don't like to think of themselves as doing. It's not that they get offended but really hurt. Sometimes I'm reckless. It's not worth losing a friend over a column. I've done that before.
"I've had three or four serious girlfriends in my life.
"I'm not being that funny tonight. In some forums, it's fine to make rape jokes and it is fine to make women jokes. In other forums, I have to watch it."
Luke: "When a woman says no, does she always mean no?"
Marty laughs nervously. "I think I answered that by email."
Luke: "I think you shied away from it."
Marty: "That's the territory where you've got to walk on eggshells. Unless they are screaming no and slapping... I like vanilla sex. I'm not too exciting in bed."
Luke: "A boy and girl, nineteen years of age, are alone in a room, naked and lying on top of each other and making out. She says no softly as he tries to go all the way. Does she definitely mean no?"
Marty: "There's an art of persuasion and seduction. If she says no right before he puts it in her, I guess that's..."
Luke: "He puts it in anyway and she keeps saying no softly while he pumps."
Marty: "Ahh, if she's not fighting back. There has to be some kind of physical conflict unless he's got a knife to her throat. That's the f---ing way to do it."
Beckerman complains that some of his teachers grade on beliefs rather than scholarship. "I had one feminist professor who told the class that there should be affirmative action to ensure that half of Congress is female because half of America is female. I challenged her. She replied, 'You don't know what you're talking about, young man. Sit down.' Sorry that I like the idea of democracy. Maybe we should legislate the gender and race of all our leaders. You're not allowed to disagree with a lot of these people. It's a speech code violation if you disagree with them."
Luke: "Do you think the average black graduate of your university does as much work as the average white graduate?"
Marty, who comes from Alaska, about the whitest state around: "I don't know. I might know if I had any black friends."
Luke: "What do you think of affirmative action on the basis of race?"
Marty: "I don't agree with it. Maybe I would accept it for class. I don't see the need to put your race on your application."
Luke: "Do you think the average black person is as smart as the average Asian?"
Marty gives his nervous laugh. "I guess stereotypes have to come from somewhere."
Luke: "Do you think the average Asian thinks the average black person is as smart as he is?"
Marty: "I have one Asian friend. Asians are my favorite minority group."
Luke: "Mine too."
Marty: "I like their outlook on life. They have the same thing going on as a lot of Jews, where the parents base their love on grades.
"WASP culture is so much more pronounced on the East Coast. They say, 'My parents call me once every few weeks. I don't really like them.' The point of the family on the East Coast is to destroy one another.
"Jewish families may be more neurotic but more closeknit. WASP families are quiet. They don't talk about things so much. Social status with WASPS is about keeping up appearances more than getting a good education and a high paying job. There's no attention span here. They have two minute conversations instead of two hour conversations. At the same time, the kids here have more ambition.
"I started majoring in journalism but I switched over to media and society. The sociological side of journalism. How the media affects society. Every journalist I ever spoke to said to not go to journalism school. I went to j-school, paying $30,000 a year, to sit in a room and be taught Associated Press style.
"I think I pissed off the administration. You'd think they'd promote the fact that they have a published author in their lit department at age 21. The subject matter. That I talked about the frat boys and criticized aspects of the school. When I do a signing at the book store, the manager says, 'The guys from the administration said we shouldn't be letting you do this.' I put up posters for the book and they get taken down. I ask the lit department to send out an email to their students about the book and they say they were told to stay away from this kind of content."
Luke: "Is there any expose you are going to write about the school when you graduate?"
Marty: "No. This kid Ben Shapiro, 20, is writing this book called Brainwashed, about UCLA and its liberal professors who grade on beliefs rather than academics.
"The girls are f---ing disgusting. Playboy voted us one of the ugliest campuses in America. Then you go to Georgetown and the women are Olympic goddesses. My girlfriend is pretty good. I like her anus."
Luke: "I'm sure she will be pleased to hear that.
"What are the books that most influenced your life?"
Marty: "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had the honor of doing a reading with him in New York over Spring Break. His book was published by MTV and that was one of the main ways I justified signing with them. Some of my fans called me a sellout for aligning myself with MTV. Well, I wasn't paid enough money to sell out. I lost a couple of nights of sleep over MTV culture. It's about a semi-autistic kid who can't control any emotional responses. It made me want to write a book that affected people as deeply.
"The difference between my first book, Death to all Cheerleaders, and Generation S.L.U.T., was that Death was just a collection of my humor columns. I was going for something deeper with Generation.
"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gave me a new outlook on what you can do with writing. He is my old hash buddy. It is so extreme but there's this powerful message underneath that. He is the first humor writer I saw who had a lot more to say than just Dave Barry, who's the guy who made me want to be a writer. I got a chance to meet him. I've done well to meet my heroes in the past couple of years."
Marty names off some punk musicians he's met. He wants to meet Paul McCartney.
"I love movies but none have affected my life. Another book I loved is Brave New World. I don't think I've ever listened to an album, put it down, and thought, 'I am a different person now.' I don't think I've ever put a book down and said, 'This changes everything.'"
Luke thinks, "Dennis Prager's Nine Questions People About Judaism forever changed my life."
Luke asks: "Any writers you hate?"
He laughs. "I hate some feminist chic lit."
Luke: "Prozac Nation?"
Marty: "That was terrible. Two to three hundred pages of people bitching how horrible it is to be white and rich. I hated Nick McDonald. He's 19 now. He's at Harvard. His book was called Twelve and it was a piece of s---. He got it published because his godfather was the president of Atlantic books. I wrote a review of it for New York Press. He met my ex-girlfriend at one point and he told her, 'He's such a [blinking] asshole.
"Gen X grew up with so much political correctness, so scared of offending anyone, that instead of biting, scathing humor, we got Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, Janeane Garrafolo, who don't push the boundaries. They just make fun of everyday life things. Irony got boring. I think what broke that for good was [the TV show] Southpark. It killed PC for good in the hearts and minds of the common American."
Luke: "Do you think people with AIDS should be tattooed so they don't spread the virus to the unsuspecting?"
Marty starts preaching in a sarcastic tone: "I think people with AIDS should go to hell. That's why God created the AIDS virus. To send the faggots to hell."
Luke, joking: "That's what I wanted [to hear].
"Do you find one man putting his penis in another man's buttocks aesthetically pleasing?"
Marty laughs hard. "No, I find it revolting. I've seen gay porn in passing. Seventy five gigabytes on my computer. I think everyone goes through that little period of doubt when they are 14, 15, and can't get a girl to go out with them. They think, 'Something's wrong with me. Maybe I'm gay.' I'm pretty sure I'm not gay at this point."
Luke: "Do you think a man should be allowed to marry a man?"
Marty: "That's a tough one. Honestly, I don't give a s---."
Luke: "How would you feel about someone with Hepatitis C preparing your food?"
Marty: "I guess that would be bad. I guess I'd like healthy people preparing my food. By healthy, I mean Caucasian."
Luke: "Do you like Monty Python?"
Marty: "I never got it.
"I'm going to this big pro-abortion rally this weekend in D.C.. Called the March for Womens' Lives. I'm going to write a column entitled, 'Bitch Nation: My Visit To The March For Turning Human Babies Into Scrambled Eggs.' I'm pro-choice but those people deserve a kick anyway.
"All young writers want to be famous. I want to write books that are going to keep people loyal, like Hunter Thompson. Maybe he hasn't written a great book since 1976. He could show up to any one of his fan's houses and live there for a year and the fan wouldn't complain. I want to be one of those writers people are dedicated to. I want to write something that good.
"My friend Ned Vizzini had his memoirs from high school published when he was 19. He's got a huge fan base compared to mine. He speaks at high schools and conventions. He's flown everywhere. He's going to outsell me and be a more famous writer.
"I'm nervous that I am going to become like Thompson, or McCartney or Bukowski, and turn 50 and just lose it."