The book tells the story of Bill MacLaren, ex-Marine, who comes into the Jebson household as a 'nanny' of sorts. The household is awash in problems - primarily the behavior of the twin children: Roberta is a nymphomaniac and Peter is (eep!) gay.
Bill solves their problems, and those of the twins' guardians, by using an elegant scientific tool that appears over and over again in the (bad) fiction of this era: The Slappenfuk.
Although the process may seem (hopefully) dated in this enlightened modern era, in sixties fiction, the Slappenfuk was a popular cure-all. Despite the Teutonic name, the Slappenfuk is not Freudian in origin - but merely a form of unconventional pseudo-psychological treatment. If someone has a problem, you slap them... then you fuck them. In the space of chapter break, everything will be resolved.
The Jebson Kids is an unusually focused novel in that the Slappenfuk solves every single problem raised during the course of the book. From cover to cover, it is 154 pages of non-stop slapping and fucking. Let's take it on a case by case basis:
Roberta Jebson: Roberta is a feisty nymphomaniac. She fights (physically) with Bill MacLaren from the first few pages, until he beats that sort of behavior out of her. But Bill knows that the slapping is only the first part of the cure:
"He could thrash her ten times a day and she would still refuse to accept him as her master. But it occurred to him now that there was indeed one way he could achieve domination.... what if he were to prove that he was more of a male than she was a female - that he could out-last and out-love her?" (75)
It takes a few sessions of therapy, but by the end of the book, Roberta is cured of nymphomania. Chalk one up for the Slappenfuk.
Peter Jebson: At the start of the book, Peter is a mincing ninny, fallen prey to the dread disease of homosexuality. Bill tries to talk him out of it (one of the most painful scenes I've ever read), but when that fails, Bills has to reach for the handy bottle of Slappenfuk. Peter's problem is that, although he's a man, with the appropriate functioning equipment, he's too cowardly to use them in their God-designated fashion. Bill clearly can't Slappenfuk Peter (that'd be a little too ironic), but he can, by gum, teach Peter how to Slappenfuk others. The treatment? Judo and whores. By the end of the book, Peter is straighter than McCain on a Sunday, and only puts his man-parts where they belong (that is, in whores - and not other men). Slappenfuk: 2, "Degeneracy": 0.
The Guardians: Morton and Jessica Jebson have problems of their own. They're alcoholics and hypochondriacs, and they waste their precious lust on gardeners and hookers, rather than one another. (Hookers are only acceptable for medicinal purposes, see above). Bill MacLaren, showing his advanced mastery of the Slappenfuk, encourages the elder Jebsons to slap - and fuck - one another. This is Slappenfuk group therapy. Slappenfuk: 4, Rest of World: 0
Bill MacLaren: This is where The Jebson Kids really reveals itself as a pillar of the Slappenfuk genre. Although Bill has spent 154 pages Slappenfuking the entire supporting cast of the book, what about him? What about the dark emptiness of his own soul? Bill is filled with aching loneliness. Finished as a Marine, an outsider in the Jebson house, Bill is the picture of despair. But what we, the reader, see is that in distributing Slappenfuk to others, Bill has undergone Slappenfuk himself. (So post-modern. So very deep.)
Roberta is always admired by Bill for her fiery temper. Even while twisting her arm behind her back or pulling her around by her hair, he respects her spirit. And in administering the latter half of her 'treatment', he learns that he's met his match - sure, his man-stamina defeats her devouring woman-parts - but it takes a lot of work. In fact, he must go at it "with all the skill at his command, working with the patience acquired in hovels and pleasure palaces in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Saigon". (78) (Hovels?!)
Somewhere between one "powerful mounting" and another, Bill realises he loves this woman. He's found his place and a sense of belonging. The beautiful nobility of the moment cannot escape the reader: in giving Slappenfuk, Bill has received Slappenfuk. It is a truly enlightening moment. And, naturally, it concludes in marriage, happiness, etc. etc. Slappenfuk: 5, The Human Condition: 0.
When the book's subtitle says that this is a once-in-a-generation book 'dealing boldly with the problems of unconventional love, yet tender and perceptive' it certainly doesn't lie. This is truly the Great American Novel of Slappenfuk.