Sutter is pretty much completely messed up, but he doesn’t know it. Sutter’s Mom and Dad got divorced when he was little, and while tells everyone his Dad is a big shot with an office in the tallest skyscraper around, he hasn’t seen him since he moved out. His self-involved mother married a guy who pretty much just talks about plumbing supplies and sending Sutter to military school, and his sister got plastic surgery and a yuppie husband. Sutter has been downing six-packs since the seventh grade, and now, three months from graduation, he rarely heads out without his flask of whiskey or deals with any situation without having first “fortified” himself with a couple of beers. He is happily living in the moment, heading from one party to the next, from one adventure to the next, which, to him, seems like the perfect way to live. He’s an amazing storyteller, and gifted at making friends: he’s the kind of guy who can convince anyone of anything. Unfortunately, his girlfriend is sick of his attitude and even his stoner best friend thinks it’s time to cut back on morning drinking.
The Spectacular Now is a completely depressing book, and one that shows alcohol abuse in stark relief, without being a preachy. The charm of this book is Sutter himself: he is both extremely perceptive and totally blind, a combination that lets you follow his stream of consciousness, seeing the reality of his life and the lives of the people he meets. He’s a wild, likeable character, with deep problems that you hope he can start to solve by the end of the book, especially after he meets someone who may be able to accept his flaws unconditionally. It’s bleak, frustrating and beautifully written. The Spectacular Now was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2008, and I highly recommend it.