S.F.W. by A.M. Wellman


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An earlier version of this short and clever book appeared in Playboy after winning the magazine's college writing contest. And while it's no great work of art, Wellman's debut is utterly fresh, a satiric report from the generational barricades that's bound to make parents queasy, but that--in the movie version it's destined for--could easily rally kids to its heavy-metal nihilism. The premise is high concept: a self-described ""smart-assed kid"" from the run-down northeast suburbs of Detroit suddenly finds himself with a national forum from which to proclaim his simple message ""that nothing really matters."" (The title stands for the new teen anthem, ""So Fucking What?"") Cliff Paul Spab, a greasy-haired, acne-faced high-school dropout, captures the American imagination when he, along with four others, is held hostage in a 7-Eleven store for 36 days by a terrorist organization demanding total nuclear disarmament. Spab and a fellow Burger King worker, Joe Dice--two vulgar, rude, and obnoxious punks--perform nightly for the terrorists' video camera. And the tapes become the most-watched show in the country, with Spab's wicked sendups of TV culture earning him from Time magazine the sobriquet: ""the leader of the dark side of the Pepsi generation."" After two of the other hostages die, and the third--rich girl Wendy--starts sharing her stash, the three surviving teens spend their days completely zonked. Only when the beer runs out do they stage a semi-successful escape that ends with lots of bloodshed and a dead Joe Dice. Meanwhile, Spab is a cult hero, famous by accident, a most reluctant celebrity. Rather than cash in on his dubious fame--as does reformed Wendy--Spab takes a powder and watches the phenomenon develop from his room atop a closed movie theater in another depressed Michigan suburb. His inarticulate wit and wisdom--collected in the paperback cheapie The Essential Cliff Spab--make for lots of gross yuks, rendered here with total authenticity. If the plot and its flimsy epilogue add up to editorial overkill, that doesn't detract from this wild portrait of a Bart Simpson at 20, after years of substance abuse. Teen spleen with a vengeance--pump up the volume, kick out the jams.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Random House