The Sick Burn of Sean Thor Conroe
The narrator of the new novel Fuccboi—a SoundCloud rapper, Postmates delivery guy, and struggling novelist named Sean—often says things like, “Fuck outta here, bitch,” and, “Luh ya bb!!” and, “Maybe I’m a sus hetero bro who’s been subtly abusive and deserves to be blocked out entirely. To be cancelled.” The book’s title recalls Larry Kramer’s Faggots (1978) or Dennis Cooper’s The Sluts (2004), both by gay novelists reclaiming slurs that shame queer desire. Except 30-year-old debut novelist Sean Thor Conroe is a straight white male, which might as well be a pejorative these days. Well, he’s half-white.
Born in Japan, Conroe was raised by a single Japanese mother and studied philosophy at Swarthmore College on a scholarship. Later, in New York, working in construction, Conroe would test out passages from Fuccboi by reading them to coworkers to see “if it was hitting for them,” he says. “That was the most important thing.” In the novel, Sean considers himself an outcast from both the woke literati and the professional-managerial class we used to call yuppies. “I’d been so bitter towards professional groups,” he declares. “Like you fucking simps. You basic fucks. Probably thinking y’all are doing good for the world by not saying un-PC things and drinking outta metal straws when y’all are just participating in organized classism.”
Drawn from the culture of rap battles, it’s a sick burn, and Conroe’s voice earns its precocious authority from both the juice of its dialect and his barreling charisma. In response to class shame, Sean has a curious answer: the novel. His earnest belief in writing distances him from the ennui of the Joan Didion–to–Brat Pack pipeline, aligning him closer to the orgiastic boys’ club of the Beat writers. What Sean, and by extension his same-name creator, deeply believes is that to write a novel is to wield power. Raw power. I wonder, do most writers today think this? Conroe himself was initially discovered by the freestyling Tyrant Books publisher Giancarlo DiTrapano, who had planned to release Fuccboi as the lead title for his brand new press. After DiTrapano’s sudden death last spring, Little, Brown saved the book, leaving most of DiTrapano’s edits intact.
Conroe’s writing absorbs influences from Haruki Murakami to Sheila Heti to Sam Pink to Karl Ove Knausgård, just as much as it soaks in the sights and sounds of its setting in downtown Philadelphia. Conroe certainly doesn’t suffer from an anxiety of influence, and considers writing in one’s own voice—which DiTrapano encouraged him to do—“a big ethic.” It’s the only originality a writer ever has.
Name: Sean Thor Conroe
How tall are you? 6 feet.
What’s your room smell like? Lavender essential oil, cigs.
How many hours of real work do you do? 24 a day.
What’s in your system? Coffee, tobacco, supplement powder, leafy green / celery / berry juice.
Whose approval matters? God’s.
Describe your life in 8 words or less. Go in and grind, there is no time.
Who makes you nervous? My future self, judging my current one.
Who is the best dancer you know? Lil Uzi Vert.
Have you ever faked an orgasm? What.
Which profession do you think is a sham? Writer.
Who do you admire most? Roberto Bolaño.
What would you eat for your last meal? Gyoza.
Sean Thor Conroe: “Turned on Postmates and started unloading groceries, back at the spot. The lights were out and roomie’s bike was gone, which meant he was at the wifey’s. Probably cuddled up, spooning. Netflix auto-playing atop their shared covers. Just like the rest of the simps: accepting affection from others to mask the pain of themselves. One pound russet potatoes ($2) on the counter, in the corner. One pound cooking onions ($2), next to that. Seven-grain soft white presliced loaf ($2) and Bustelo tin ($4) in the cabinet, above. And eggs ($1.50), Vermont sharp white cheddar ($1.69), and bag of clearance, overripe avos ($1) in the fridge. Got a ding right when I least expected it. Right when I’d forgotten I’d logged on. When I’d settled into the couch and opened YouTube. 3:37 a.m. Pizza spot in south. Way south. South of Snyder south. The fuck. Hit accept before fully considering the logistics. Fuck it. This was my life now.”
Grooming: Natasha Asmee using Jouer at Exclusiv Artists
Photography Assistant: Kenyon Anderson
Fashion Assistant: Amonte Arnold