The Spectacular Now
by Tim Tharp
Analysis: What's Up With the Title?
"The Spectacular Now": sounds wild and exciting, right?
Eh, not so much. There's a reason your parents keep telling you to think about your future: the older Sutter gets, the more destructive the choice to live in the now becomes.
Sure, at first, it's all about partying and fun. "This stage in the life of the buzz is truly fabulous," Sutter tells us. "This stage says, […] (t)o hell with tomorrow. To hell with all problems and barriers. Nothing matters but the Spectacular Now" (53.10). This attitude lets him kick back and be the wild party animal he's known for being.
But if you're reading carefully—which, duh, of course you are—you'll know that this isn't Sutter talking: this is the whisky talking. And that would be dangerous enough. But by the end, Sutter is using the same phrase to mean that he'll never have a future, and that there's no hope for him. The book's last lines drive home this point: "Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now." (66.27)
Yeah. Not too cheery. In the end, all Sutter has is the drunken present to look forward to—which means that he doesn't have anything at all. It's spectacular, all right – spectacularly horrific.