Nepotism Runs Amok

Written by Marty Beckerman on . Posted in Books, Posts.

All [Chris]
could think about is what it would be like to fuck Sara Ludlow and not just
hook up with some drunk girl at one of his parties, like is happening in a
different room on the third floor where a girl they both know named Jessica
is making out with a guy from another school whose name nobody knows; Jessica
and this guy, and they are reduced to really just the two of them, making
out and then he comes in his pants and they stop and…

A Novel by Nick McDonell


McDonell’s Twelve is a chilling novel of urban adolescence that
has caused an international sensation," reads the inside cover of the 18-year-old’s
chilling novel of urban adolescence that has caused an international sensation
(Grove Press, 256 pages, $23). Except that it’s far more cliche
than chilling, and, considering it was just released, surely it hasn’t
caused any international sensation.

But never
mind the shameless corporate hype: What Harvard-bound McDonell lacks in discernable
literary talent he makes up for in being fucking rich and connected. His father,
Terry, is currently editor of Sports Illustrated and formerly Jann "I
left my wife for a boy half my age"Wenner’s top man at Rolling
; his godfather is the president of Atlantic Books, which just
happened to publish this novel, and his family friends include ex-geniuses Hunter
S. Thompson and Joan Didion, both of whom contribute glowing testimonials to
Twelve’s cover.

McDonell is the real thing," Thompson writes, most likely under the influence.
"The ratio of age to talent is horrifying. His trick is he writes the truth.
I’m afraid he’ll do for his generation what I did for mine."

Not quite,
Raoul. Granted, Twelve is an ambitious and attention-grabbing piece,
but unfortunately it’s one that belongs in a high-school writing workshop,
not every bookstore on Planet Earth. (Twelve was published in nine languages,
unheard of for a first-time novelist.) The story follows the drug-laden adventures
of teenage pot dealer White Mike and fellow affluent, sex-obsessed students
Chris, Jessica, Sara and Hunter, the last of whom is–as McDonell puts it
in one eloquent passage–"a pretty beef kid. It is a kind of flowing
beefness." That’s all there really is to say about the plot, except
of course that everyone dies in the end.Like Hamlet.

guess people in that book are all the people who are not my friends," McDonell
recently told the U.K. Observer. "All these great writers
that I seem to be suddenly compared to like Bret Ellis wrote books about the
spiritual debilitation of the wealthy youth. And here I am, like, a wealthy
youth… That’s why I killed everybody. To stop myself from being crazy.
If that makes sense." He continues: "One of the things that made me
do this I guess, that made me give up my summer and write…was [guilt]…
I felt like this ridiculous rich kid sitting down to write a novel, like, who
the hell did I think I was, this stupid cliché."

Pretty much,
Nicky-Nicky-Nick-Nick. Which is disappointing, because it’s great to see
a major effort put forth by a teenager other than Britney "Fuck Me Justin
Fuck Me Fuck Me in My Ass Justin Harder Harder" Spears. Too bad Twelve
is filled with narrative bombs that add up to its reading more like one
big outline than a finished product. "A black kid and a white kid with
fake IDs from Ohio and Oregon, fucked up dead on 117th street," begins
one chapter. "God, I hate drugs, thinks one of the detectives investigating
the double murder at the Jefferson Houses housing project."

it isn’t. The painful truth is that Twelve would’ve never been
published if the McDonell family weren’t in the money and in the business,
and it would’ve never been successfully hyped if Hunter Thompson–easily
the greatest writer of his generation–hadn’t whored himself out in
a futile attempt to be relevant again. (For Christ’s sake, the last three
books published under the man’s name have been relics from the 60s and
70s and a "long lost" novel from 1959.)

discussing this book," writes one reviewer on’s Twelve
talkback forum, "it is important for this reviewer to acknowledge that
at 18 years of age he would not have had the ability to create a novel of any

One Reviewer on’s Twelve Talkback Forum. Adolescence
has always generated stories of joy and loss and pain, but–contrary to
the claims of Atlantic–Twelve isn’t a Catcher in the Rye
for a new generation. It’s simply self-serving swill from a rich kid
with connections, and calling it more would be the phoniest thing of all.