Whew. Now that all that campaignin' is done, we can get down to business.
It's been fun watching Marty Beckerman evolve over the years, from the sort of nice young man who would tell Salon.com to "suck the seed from his massive Jewish cock" to, well, the sort of guy who goes on faith retreats to Israel and tries getting every woman in the room to do the same thing. However, he does a little more thought into it these days.
Dumbocracy is an attempt to cross Beckerman's own brand of fratire with something approaching socially redeemable. The book is structured as a number of anecdotes about his adventures in the US and abroad, only instead of insight to the human condition, we get half-ashamed anecdotes of drunken and disorderly behavior and a lot of trivia such as Texas A&M requiring professors to "celebrate and promote" homosexuality. ("Welcome to Animal Husbandry 101... now, we know that there are only two types of people from Texas, and those are steers and queers...") Perhaps it's the emotional scarring from growing up Jewish in Palin-land (he's from Anchorage), or perhaps it's ODing on the New York lit scene, but he comes off sounding kind of like Tucker Max spouting annoying factoids with a Davey-and-Goliath moral thrown in at the end—Hunter S. Thompson without the fuck-it-all attitude.
Where Beckerman is at his best is when he shows the idiocy of extremism from both ends of the spectrum, from the Republicans who try to lead him to Christ to the anti-Zionist hippies who are blissfully unaware that Hamas doesn't want their help. Some of it is dated (MacKinnon and Dworkin are old hat), most of the characters are cartoony, and none of it is analyzed in too much depth, but there are some laugh-out-loud moments in there. These are things we've parodied ourselves on this site, and we're not likely to stop any time soon. Marty Beckerman, God love him, can be one funny Jew.
The fatal flaw is that, deep down, Beckerman has a heart; he cares. As a result, Dumbocracy is neither white nor black, hot nor cold, Yankees nor Mets. Beckerman's not misanthropic enough to not care, and so comes back to say that he was just kidding about all the non-politically correct stuff—which takes away the little shock value that expressing the sentiments had in the first place. Unfortunately, this sort of drek overshadows the almost-glimpsed gleams of intelligence that are strewn throughout the book. It's almost as if he's afraid to cut the umbilical cord that reaches back to Generation S.L.U.T. and Death to All Cheerleaders, and allow the humor to be the clipped point on the razor-sharp knife of insight.
Even worse, the book was released at the exact wrong cultural moment. What's most valuable about Dumbocracy is that it's a demonstration of how quickly the zeitgeist can shift. A month ago, Beckerman's Generation Y nihilism ("people who believe in things are idiots and there is no God, so why not get drunk?") would have seemed hip and irreverent, almost a rational reaction to a world that's gone to shit. If the Titanic's sinking and there are no lifeboats are left, we might as well open the champagne. Since November 4, all that has changed. For the first time in eight years, we feel like there's hope in the world.
Dumbocracy is Beckerman's third book, and he went through hell to get it published. We hope it opens the doors for a fourth—one in which he definitively breaks with his "professional asshole" past and gives us the brilliance of which we know he's capable.