A spectre is haunting publishing: the hyped galley. The formula is pretty simple. Social media-savvy publicists have discovered that if you dish out galley copies of forthcoming novels not only to reviewers but to a carefully curated list of influencers and “cultural critics”, they will in turn treat it like this season’s hottest accessory and imbue the book with a stylish provenance once only afforded to Dior saddle bags. Fuccboi is one such novel.
Sean Thor Conroe’s debut work follows Sean, a gig-economy delivery driver and SoundCloud rapper who, in his spare time, is working on his debut novel. Sean is a fuccboi, someone who often refers to the women in his life as his baes and runs nearly entirely off the fumes of his own toxic masculinity.
The novel is written entirely in FuccboiSpeak, a kind of fusion of street slang and Twitter cant, whereby Sean absolutely rails coffees, skrrrts around the place and ends his sentences with frfr or tf. Hand-drawn maps of “Philly in the Time of the Fuccboi” bookend the novel and impart a sense of the epic to Conroe’s book, turning the lonely fuccboi into a sort of Greek hero roaming the streets on his own odyssey.
The fuccboi is surely one of the most maligned and derided figures in current popular culture, a mascot for every squirmy facet of modern masculinity. What Conroe does so excellently is enrapture us within the psyche of this unpleasant figure, entangle us with Sean’s brain worms and force us, reluctantly, to look again.
There is no notion more laughable in criticism than the concept of a book being “necessary”, but at a time when young male novelists are becoming a dying breed and discussions around masculinity are often overshadowed by the whataboutism of a narrow-minded strand of feminism, dare I be so despotic as to proclaim Fuccboi a necessary novel? You bet I do.
How brilliant to finally have a novel that examines contemporary masculinity with such candour, with such humour and style as to immediately read like a modern classic. Sean Thor Conroe is a real one.