The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Where was Tim Tharp as I sat in creative writing class being torn apart by my contemporaries and professor for creating a unlovable character and throwing him into an adventure where he doesn’t learn a lesson? Sure, Sutter Keely might come off as your typical, everyday high school party goer. And sure, he might seem charming. And sure he might get the gist of knowing he has to grow up, but in The Spectacular Now I’m left wondering if he will ever get his head straight and start thinking about something other than the now.

The Spectacular NowDo not mistake charming for lovable. Sutter Keely will steal your heart and make you smile throughout the book with his misguided, quasi-jaded philosophy that puts Holden Caulfield to shame. There is no denying, however, that Sutter is a teenage alcoholic bound to grow up into an adult alcoholic. He’s disappointed with people who don’t embrace his idea of fun and living life. Still, you read through the book with the understanding that this is a coming of age novel. That Sutter will eventually have to grow up. And after seeing what’s in store for his future, watching his friends growing up around him, the reader expects an epiphany, a change. Screw up after screw up, mishap after mishap, trouble after trouble

Tim Tharp, however, doesn’t deliver that to the reader. The Hollywood ending doesn’t do Sutter justice because it’s just a manipulation of the atomic vampires in charge. And while I can’t help but to admire that this book just proved my creative writing class wrong, I still feel cheated.

Even through all the good of the book, the lackluster ending where the narrator learns absolutely nothing even though reflections of his future cheer him on, stare him in the face, ditch him constantly, he keeps on trucking as God’s own drunk. Romanticizing his dead-beat father until he becomes a carbon copy image of the bastard. The only lessons he learns he quickly forgets with his big 7Up and whisky.

Still the amazing ability of getting into his main character’s psyche proves that Tim Tharp is a writer that will get young adults to sit down and read. There isn’t a boring moment within the pages. And the information is delivered without the fluff that makes most books tedious to read at that age. The sort of writer that I yearned for growing up.

So if you’re willing to go along from the drunken ride and test your sobriety, it’s time you curled up with Tim Tharp’s novel.

About the book (from

This National Book Award Finalist is now a major motion picture — one of the most buzzed-about films at Sundance 2013, starring Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller.

SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Ember, 9 July 2013 (movie tie-in cover)
ISBN: 978-0385754309

You can purchase a copy of The Spectacular Now at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. An e-book edition is available for Kindle and Nook.

Posts By Shaun

A Few Things

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Hello. This is Shaun speaking. Typing? Whatever. That’s me up there in the slideshow with my reporter face on. It’s cute, isn’t it? What can I say? I take my good looks from the good parts of my daddy and mommy and I have to say that I’m one awesomely, über-cute baby toddler big boy bad ass. I’ve taken over Dad’s computer because I can and he’s not around because he’s sitting in the corner, his legs up with a book lying his lap reading some book about a little person—someone who’s a little bigger than me, I’m told—with hairy feet and who wears a ring and fights a dragon. He tells me that he’ll read it to me when I’m older and can sit still longer than for a few minutes, but I’m all like, “Dad, I can type seventy-two words per minute. I’ll read books when I learn to read. Until then, lemme just get on the computer and blog my thoughts.”

And what thoughts does an almost-two-year-old me have? Well, first of all, I noticed that my feet are funny and cute and—supposedly, according to my father who gives them a sniff whenever he’s in the process of changing my diaper (I think because it makes him laugh that I laugh, but I only give him those chuckles because I know it means so much to him to hear me laugh)—stink.

Secondly, I’ve noticed that my dad has a lot of books. And I mean A LOT of books. Now most people think they have a lot of books when they fill up one shelf space. And that it’s over doing it when you fill up an entire shelf. Dad has more than that. More than three.

Your average almost-two-year-old might say a gazillion (actually, your average almost-two-year-old would just babble some nonsense, but whatever, but I give all my peers the benefit of the doubt) shelves, but it’s less than that. Way less than that. But, to be honest, I think my dad wants to hit that some day. He just might.

Now the word hoarder gets thrown around a lot these days, but that’s not too far from the truth with Dad. He  likes to call himself a book hunter—which is like a treasure hunter, but one who buys his booty rather than stealing it from other people. For instance, he heard that Barnes & Noble was having their red-dot sale where everything with a red dot is half price. He also knows that since it’s the end of the year, the calendars are also on sale.

He made off with three books from the red-dot sale—Blonde Bombshell by Tom Holt, whoever that is; Martin Sloane by some guy named Michael Redhill; and Along the Watchtower by Constance Squires—for only $1.79 each. Not a single one of them is about a fox or a monkey that makes friends with a walrus named Tiny Tamoo. At least none of them have tiny people with hairy feet in them, which is an upgrade for my dad.

Along with these books, he walked away with copies of Your True Home by some guy with a funny name (Dad says to be respectable of others, but the guy’s name is Thich Nhat Hanh; it reads like something I say when I’m just making noises with my mouth to entertain my parents) and a copy of The Upanishads, which he tells me is a holy book from some ancient religion, translated by another guy with a weird sounding name—Eknath Easwaran. I asked Dad about his non-religion and the fact that he has a lot of books from various religions, but he just rubbed my head, picked me up, and blew on my tummy so it sounds like my butt, which always makes me laugh.

He bought himself a Zombie wall calendar filled with a lot of awesome zombie drawings, which would scare most almost-two-year-olds, but not me because I’m a zombie slayer at heart and I laugh in the rotting faces of the undead. He bought a One Direction calendar for my cousin, Jaylene—sure she gets eye-candy as a calendar, but you ask for a calendar of 1950s pin-ups and  you’re told you’re too young (pfft! double standards)—as well as, a Smurfalicious bookmark. Nothing for me? Gee, thanks Dad.

Oh well, I think that’s about all I have to say tonight. Maybe, if I’m good enough (or if Dad’s reading that other book about more little people with hairy feet and rings), I’ll get to post soon enough.

For Chapin City Blues, this is Shaun Damien Corona signing off. And Happy New Year!!!

P.S. I should probably note (Dad told me to) that the sale price is in store only, as it seems. If you want to pay $1.79 for the red-dot books you’ll need to have a membership and actually visit the store. It seems the website is marked at a regular (and semi-discounted) price. However, as any good book hunter in training knows, Amazon has them for a fairly reasonable price, which is why I linked to those pages in most cases. Sorry. Continue on to my dad’s rather boring posts about being a boring adult.


This One Goes Out to the One I Left Behind

I grabbed a copy of The Juliette Society at Barnes & Noble a few weeks ago. As of last week, I stopped reading it. An entire chapter dedicated to semen? That’s what probably did me in. I can’t explain why I bought the book. Maybe because it’s written by former pornographic actress Sasha Grey. That’s actually the only reason why I bought the book.

Exhibit A

There are several books that line my shelves that have gone half-read or completely unread. Duma Key by Stephen King; Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust; The Inner Circle by T.C. Boyle; On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Just to name a few. Still, I continue skipping to the bookstore and picking up a few more. Today’s trip sent me home with The God Delusion and What’s Left of Me. It’s no secret that I’m a hoarder. Acknowledging the problem is half the battle, right? However, I have no illusions that I’ll beat this demon. You’ll probably read about me in the paper some day. The modern-day Collyer brother. My head resting beside the E.L. Doctorow book fictionalizing their lives.

Exhibit B

The God Delusion was intended. I thought of picking up a Christopher Hitchens’ tome, as well, but something deterred me. Impulsive, I remembered a book suggested by Grace and searched fro that instead. I was greeted by a familiar face when I went to pay. The same cute girl (though I feel inclined to say lady) that handled my Solanin return. I fought the urge to relay my successful quest of finding a non-tainted copy of the manga because I’m sure she didn’t recognize me from Adam and the smile perched on her face was merely good costumer service. I also failed to mention that the copy I returned earlier this week found its way back to the self. Instead, I made a joke about hoping that I’m still a member. I fail at being flirtatious.

I think I’m getting the hang of talking to people again. It’s only a matter of time before I stop filling the void with books.


Men, Women & Children by Chad Kultgen

Last year, I witnessed the end of my relationship. One that I thought was chiseled into stone, anticipating that we’d grow old together. Just last weekend, I “whispered” my inner turmoil. Of realizing I should’ve fought instead of laying down my arms. I started a conversation with a local romantic stating that I should just fix it. What most failed relationships lacked was communication. Communication, I thought. What does she know? More than I expected, actually.

10327847Communication, or rather the lack of communication, is central in Chad Kultgen’s Men, Women & Children. The book’s a portrait of middle America and all the demons we bury in our closets, hide away in our browser histories, between the sheets, and refuse to share in a public setting. It covers football, divorce, infidelity, child modeling, depraved pornography, adolescent sexual urges, depression, etc. It follows the lives of a group of eighth graders seeking out their place in the world and their parents who still haven’t ascertained the goal. It’s a chilling story that echoes Hubert Shelby Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream. Instead of making the case for the death of the American dream, it recites the funeral dirge for the perfect relationship. There are no Hollywood endings for this tale; it just leaves the reader with a sense of awe and a reevaluation of their life up to the point of finishing the last lines.

It’s most certainly not for the faint of heart.

About the book (from Amazon):

The author of The Average American Male and The Lie returns with a shocking, salacious, and surprisingly subtle new novel of the average American family. Like Neil Strauss and Nick Hornby, Chad Kultgen has the capacity to enthrall and astonish even the most ardent readers of contemporary literary fiction. In Men, Women, and Children, his incisive vision, unerring prose, and red-light-district imagination are at their most ambitious and surprising, as he explores the sexual pressures of junior high school students and their parents navigating the internet’s shared landscape of pornography, blogs, social networking, and its promise of opportunities, escapes, reinvented identities, and unexpected conflicts.

Men, Women & Children
by Chad Kultgen
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Original publishing: 21 June 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-165731-3
Trade Paperback, $14.99
Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.2 x 8 inches

Men, Women & Children by Chad Kultgen is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A digital edition is available for Kindle and Nook.

Doldrums · Writing & Writers

Sans Forgiveness

Some people just want to watch the world burn

A creative writing professor once told a class, “You got to learn the rules before you can break them.” It’s true. How can you rebel against something you have no knowledge of? These days, kids just pretend to rebel. They hunger for revolution, praise anarchy. They have no knowledge of what either of these things mean.

Noche Bohemia

We’re having a reading tonight. I’m in attendance again. I haven’t written anything worth sharing since 2007. I read from the same desktop-printed chapbook I complied for a creative writing class I took in college. I pulled its name from the book of Psalms, chapter 137 verse 9. It’s called Little Ones Against the Stones. In addition to one of my lyrical essays, I also plan on readingSick City” by Charles Manson.

I  intended Little Ones Against the Stones as something much bigger than the final product. It was a project called “My Life as Jesus Christ,” in reference to the Jesus complex I held during childhood. The project was never completely, obviously. My internal ink ran dry.

I became complacent. I close my door on a world that closed its door on me a long time ago. Those are the thoughts you have, anyway. When you just don’t fit in the world, you blame it first before you blame yourself. You never tell yourself that you’re delusional. The world doesn’t care if you’re different from the others. The world loves her children one and the same. But it’s easier to blame your failures on the world, on a society that demonize the unique. I learned that a long time ago. I still haven’t put it into practice.

You say you want a revolution, I say you’re full of shit

Troy Davis was put to death, despite the evidence. Had Troy Davis been white or rich or a former mayor’s son, maybe things might have played differently. Despite our naiveté of our brave new world or acceptance, we know that racism played a grand part in yesterday’s legal murder. The right-wing lynch mob saw justice served for a fallen police officer. Where’s the justice in death for death? Especially when that justified death was of an innocent man?

A woman kills her child and gets off. She gets a book deal. She’s turned into a media darling. I’m so disgusted with the world, I don’t know where to being to list my complaints.

People on the streets don paper masks, holding signs that read “I am Troy Davis,” as if this some Spartacus revival band. Revolutions are rarely won with words these days. Actions aren’t enough. To bring down a government, we must stand up against it. When it pushes, we need to push back. One cannot sow chaos and hope to reap anarchy. Don’t be foolish to think no government is a good government, or that it would ever exist – or doesn’t.

Christian zealots tut-tut and such ridiculousness. Their savior was a sword, sent here to divide not unite. Christ knew the power he wielded. Knew the consequences of his actions. Knew others would distort his teachings and beliefs.

Poetry as a ballot

There might have been a time when I believed in the power of words. Maybe I’m just jaded about it. Maybe writing needs a revolution. Nothing’s happening anymore. Nothing new is presented. Nothing worthwhile that’ll reshape the way we see writing again.

Films no longer move me. The old ones that carried a stronger message, the old science fiction films that once carried social criticism are gone. And zombie movies are just movies about the dead running after big-breasted beauties. What happened to us as a culture? Fuck society. Society has never progressed. But as a culture, what happened? Where we draw the line that said music, film and writing no longer had to be anymore than what it was? Because it’s unnerving.

Future generations

For future generations, I hope that they do not christen just anyone as their messiah. I hope they look back in disgust with our way of murdering legally as we look back at slavery. I hope that their writing is more than just beautiful. That it lasts a lifetime and then some. I hope they realize the importance of books and education. That science and reason should overpower religious belief. And hope they know they can hold onto both. I hope they do not allow their leaders the power of murder.

Breaking the fucking rules

A flower growing from the pavement.