Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fleshbot and Pop Memoirs

This week’s Sex Blog Roundup at Fleshbot draws a deep breath before plunging in with those who take risks.

Those of you who enjoy stalking me will find Jocasta has some fun dressing me up before showing me what’s under her dress.

Bridget offers a helping hand to my sickly self by picking up my daughter at school. There, for the first time, she encounters . . . my ex wife!

Speaking of fun, I’m having loads of it this week. The kids are on break from school. It’s too cold to go out unless absolutely necessary, so we huddle close at home, warmed by the constantly buzzing Xbox. It’s tough for me to get things done when the kids are home—I swear to God, it’s like they require feeding every five hours or so—but I am at my computer as often as I can be. A large family made me and I made a large family, so I’m good at tuning out noise when concentrating.

Yesterday, though, I was distracted by Lillie and Collie giggling. I listened and heard Lillie shout, “That’s the beauty of alcohol! If you can’t remember it, it didn’t happen!”

“Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s not appropriate.” I went to investigate.

Lillie was bouncing on my bed reading Tucker Max to her brother.

“Lillie, Lillie, Lillie,” I clucked, taking away the book. “Now, this is not something for you to read.”

“You’re reading a book about beer!” she giggled. “And alcohol!”

“I know, it’s so bad!” I agreed.

“So why are you reading it, Dad?” Collie asked.

I put the book on a high shelf. “I had heard it was funny.”

“It’s funny if it’s about beer,” Lillie laughed. “Beer is funny. Beer!

“There are those who would agree,” I nodded. “For some people, that’s all it takes.”

Near as I can tell, Tucker Max is one of those people. I’m currently reading popular recent memoirs, and so my friend Janie suggested I take a look at I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell. It’s the memoir of a self-described asshole who drinks with his buddies, picks up women for casual sex and tells all in a blog. Sounds right up my alley, I thought.

I liked that the book is popular. So popular, in fact, that I bought it not at a bookstore, but at Urban Outfitters. It was stacked near clothing and furniture, all part of the décor of the well-outfitted urban dweller.

My memoir reading list also includes Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, which I bought in an airport. I asked the cashier where to find the book, which I misremembered as titled “Eat, Pray, Live.”

“Love,” she corrected, taking the book from a large pile behind the counter.

“Oh, thanks,” I smiled. “I guess you sell a lot of these, huh?”

“Tons,” she said. “I don’t usually care what Oprah says, but she’s right about this one.” A woman standing to my side nodded vigorously.

“Oh, you’ve read it, too?” I asked.

“It changed my life,” she smiled.

These were shining endorsements. I plunked down fifteen dollars and started the book on the plane. I could quickly see why the book resonated with so many readers, especially Oprah’s viewers. Gilbert’s memoir opens with her divorce in New York State—hey, I’ve had one of those!—and her plucky decision to spend the next year in pursuit of happiness. Gosh, I did that too! However, my identification with her could end there, as she makes the decision to go about it as a celibate. (Well, to finish the comparisons, we’re both skinny blondes.)

Gilbert travels to Italy in pursuit of pleasure through food, to India in pursuit of spiritual bliss, and to Indonesia where she hopes to unify body and spirit. Now, these are not the kinds of things your real best girlfriend does, but throughout, Gilbert writes in such an endearing, ingratiating tone that you can’t help but think, over and again, “You go girl! That’s just what I would do, too!”

With that memoir still warming my girlish heart, I picked up Tucker Max. I was truly stoked to be spending time with a dude who promises, on the book jacket, that he is a real jerk whose only value is his willingness to tell us about his amazing acts of debauchery on his blog and now, his book. We’re promised raucous drinking, piss-poor behavior and misogynous sex.

Now, this may not sound like someone you’d want to have around, but if he’s as bad as he promises, this could be a lot of fun to read about.

It’s not. It’s boring.

Max tells us, over and again, that he is a funny writer with funny stories to tell. “Hilarity ensues” is his favored cliché, usually preceding a story that never gets very funny. The problem may be that he is too impressed with his outlandishness to get the joke across.

For example, in one outing, he brags to his friends that he could fuck a girl met through his blog. (Apparently, people do such things.) His friends dare him to do so, and not one to pass on a dare, Max meets up with a woman who likes his blog. The woman is pleasant, we’re told, but there’s a problem—she’s fat. Undaunted, Max has sex with her. Afterwards, he’s mean to her, throwing her clothes out a window and telling her to go find them.

Now, this is cruel, no question. Max convinces us that he’s an asshole. But the second condition—that he’s funny—doesn’t come to fruition. Because the joke is simply this: he fucked a fat girl and he was mean to her. Get it?

I don’t require comedy writers to be kind or moral, and I think good comedy can be written about anything. But there are no laughs in the posture that cruelty and boorishness are so funny in and of themselves that a writer needn’t be concerned with timing, language or any other elements of comedic storytelling. If Max wants us to hate him, I’m game. But if he wants us to laugh along, he needs to be funnier. Otherwise, he’s just another drunk asshole.

Maybe he could use a better editor. The book reads like he hit “print” on his blog. Characters are reintroduced in pretty much the same words each time, and there’s poor flow from tale to tale.

Still, as Lillie knows, some people will just find beer funny. Apparently a lot of people—Max’s book, like Gilbert’s, is a best seller. We can only imagine that like Gilbert, Max is changing lives.

Here’s a sidebar on fate. As I paid for Max’s book, Madeline looked over and asked, “Are you seriously buying that?”

“Yeah,” I said, reaching for my wallet. “It’s popular, it’s a memoir, I’m reading it. Why?”

“No reason.” She looked casually at earrings. “I’m glad I didn’t fuck him.”

I was taken aback. “You were going to fuck Tucker Max? When was this?”

“Oh, a while ago. I saw that he fucks women he meets through his blog, so I thought, hey, why not?”

“Well,” I asked. “Why didn’t you?”

“Because I found your blog, silly,” she laughed.


Bridget said...

...and there but for the Fates... ;)

Dude. Really. First inappropriate youtube videos, and now books?

Next, you'll tell me Lillie ran around the house naked because she didn't want to wear a dress...

oh wait.


Mia said...

huh. as a fat chick, I'm incensed that someone EVER found such behavior appropriate. Is it soooooo terrible to make us believe that we're attractive and deserve to get off too? Really? As if most of us aren't self-conscious enough about our weight, then to have someone do that to you? Sinful. The devil has a special spot for him.

Jefferson said...

Everyone should ignore my financial advice and get rich. But I still get ten percent.

Mia, Tucker Max takes pride that he has an executive position waiting in hell. Which is kinda funny.

Someone has pointed out that Wikepedia characterizes his book as "fratire." I guess there's something to the idea of carrying your frathood into your thirties for fun and profit. Perhaps that tactic will age as well as David Lee Roth.

Anonymous said...

I never said the memoir was all that funny, though! Let that be said. Popular, but not awesome.

Also, I was looking at my statcounter page the other day, and noticed that some people had gotten to my blog through Tucker Max! I thought, how funny, that I'm being endorsed over there. Turns out, some dudes were talking serious shit about my blog, and saying, among other things, that I use too many commas!

They're probably just jealous that all my commas are in sentences not about them.

Anonymous said...

This is how people choose lovers?

Tilda said...

As a kid, I read nothing but inappropriate books snatched from my parents shelves and I turned out alright.

Oh, wait...

Jefferson said...

This just in: I found a drawing Lillie made last night. A stick figure holding a cup is labeled "drunk Barbie." At her feet is a circle labeled "Barbie's puke."

All that parenting, gone to ruin. See you in hell, Tucker Max!

JaneyRuth said...

Just change one letter in "blog" and voila, it becomes "boog" which almost SOUNDS like "book" but isn't, n'est pas?

It's that unsimple....

Anonymous said...

Assuming she's old enough for PG-13 romantic comedies you should show Lillie "The Wedding Singer".

She'll appreciate the underage drinking scene and may learn the important lesson:
"All right, remember - alcohol equals puke equals smelly mess equals nobody likes you!"

Anonymous said...

Jefferson, I would love to see you post that "drunk Barbie" picture. It would make my week.


Tilda said...

"Barbie's puke." That's pretty fucking awesome! My kind of kid. Oh man, I have GOT to see that drawing! I'm cracking up.

Mia said...

Huh. My Barbie's just had sex. I guess I wasn't as creative as Lillie. You should put it on the fridge :) See how she reacts to that.

Apparently, my husband has this book and said it was terrible and Tucker is so unfunny that it's painful. Just browsing his site made me want to spoon out my eyes. I guess he got my gourd the way he wanted to, but I'm just not into being mean. Call me a humanist (not necessarily in the capital H way).

Janie: What do they know about comma usage? They should visit my classroom someday. My 10th graders can teach 'em some shit. They can comma up and down and all around like a mothafucker.

badinfluencegirl said...

well i must say that i also found eat, pray, love to be awesome in spite of oprah not because of her...

i don't know if it changed my life but it certainly helped affirm some choices i've made...

as for tucker max? return the book. (though barbie puke is tragically funny)

(janie i suspect that being insulted by them is a HIGH compliment...)

Susan M. said...

It’s not. It’s boring.

I am so glad you said that. I never bought the book, but found his blog got old after about two and a half minutes or so. That's almost how long beer is funny to me.

I see the possible superficial similarities, but I never revisited his site, and I return to your blog time and again. Your genuine respect for your partners makes your writing far more fun to read, for me. I mean, you actually seem to like women.