I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

June 30th, 2008 at 12:13 pm

“I really hope that God has the capacity for forgiveness that Christians claim, because I am going to test the absolute outer limits.” – Tucker Max

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell by Tucker Max

Tucker Max is an inexplicable success story. He wrote emails to friends about his drunken, debaucherous sexual exploits. This turned into a blog. This became a book. This became a New York Times bestselling book. Now there is a movie.

Though an impressive exercise in excess and gall, Max’s tales of drinking and sex are mostly unremarkable. Most youths half-conscious for high school and college will be able to meet Tucker half-way with his mildly shocking anecdotes of modern bacchanalian adventure. So let this be a lesson to you kids: be a cruel, disrespectful, self-absorbed, misogynistic drunk, and America will reward you.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, somewhere between a drunk Paper Chase and The Game on meth, is certainly appealing because it is authentic. You believe everything. Nothing is embellished. Nothing over-written. There is something very refreshing about its straightforward, casual forthcomingness.

But of course it’s totally depraved and reprehensible. The puritan in us wants to be appalled. The Top 40-listening, Simon Cowell wanna-being, Paris Hilton sex tape-watching fool in us wants to be entertained even more.

Though it pains me to say it, there’s a little bit of Hunter S. Thompson in Tucker Max. While I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell can’t hold a match to the rocket-fueled blowtorch that is HST’s intellect, craft, and cultural relevance, Max does carry around a tape recorder and write about his heroic consumption, just like the good Doc, however elementary and inferior the writing is. Sample passage (from page 69 no less):

“It got to the point where I was fucking with so much force her booty was clapping like Madison Square Garden, the bed was chipping the paint off the wall, my hips were bruising as they slammed against her ass bones and I was sweating like a migrant worker in a strawberry field, but it still wasn’t enough.”

This book and its success is frustrating and bothersome on several levels. Why do the douche bags always get away with it?

Let’s talk about this douche bag thing. Having read his book, I think Tucker Max is a douche bag. My secret sources working on the inside of the movie production of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell confirm this opinion. Though in his thirties, he’s the kind of guy who wears athletic shorts with dress shirts. Tucker Max angers me like drug dealers who don’t get caught anger me. But Tucker Max clearly has his own ideas of what a douche bag is and spends ample time examining so in the book. He refers to “legions of douche bags and tools that now seem to infect every aspect of Vegas,” and “an endless expanse of bushy-haired frat boy fuckwits in striped shirts and red pants.”

But Tucker Max drinks Grey Goose and Red Bull. His dog is named Maxie. He drinks booze from a CamelBak. Add this to the way he treats people and isolates himself in an insecure, cocky, self-absorbed and self-important bubble protected by mildly creative insults and vain ignorance, and you have a bona fide douche bag. You simply don’t garner respect or authority on any level by attacking metrosexuals for dropping Foucault and Sartre when you refer to Toulouse-Lautrec and Pheidippides and say things like, “That’s like Chamberlain telling Hitler he can have the Sudetenland.” I know, I know. Tucker Max does not care about garnering respect nor authority. Add that to the list of why he is the embodiment of the douche bags he claims to despise so much.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is at best an interesting anthropological contemplation of the decadence of modern white male privilege and at worst as bad as having to read someone’s diary or listen to them recall their dreams. How far American Comedy has come since Mark Twain. Max’s humor consists of glib observations and opinions and the occasionally chuckle-worthy rhetorical device. “Whatever buddy, you’re wearing a Detroit Red Wings jersey to a strip club, you obviously suck.” “When I am mid-coitus, a girl could extract a promise from me to trade my first-born for a Twix bar.”

If you think this kind of thing is funny, read this book. You won’t even be able to polish off a six-pack before you’re done and ready to move on to funnier, heartier fare. Like whiskey.

But Bravo to Tucker Max for creating an empire from something so debased and otherwise normal.



Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot

June 24th, 2008 at 6:38 am

Cover of \"Alice in Sunderland\" by Bryan Talbot

Alice in Sunderland is technically a “graphic novel,” but an unruly, bursting, whimsical one that makes the experience of interacting with it engaging and fun. It often forgoes the frames of traditional sequential storytelling in favor of busy scrapbook-like collages that reinforce the intricate, intertextual, interwoven, self-referential story about a story about a story (ad infinitum) motif that defines and dominates this graphic novel. It is a reading experience unlike any other you’re likely to have.

With the premise of some bloke wandering into a theater, the reader of Alice in Sunderland is taken on a schizophrenic and tangential trip through the history of England in general and Lewis Carroll and his infamous and influential work Alice in Wonderland in particular.

The book is big (almost a full foot tall and 8 inches wide) and long (319 pages!) and colorful (red! blue! yellow!). It’s a very ambitious work and quite impressive. Its scope would be considered “high-concept” as it consistently squirms away from any one genre or aesthetic or subject like a stubborn kid wiggling away from a smelly aunt. It explodes with tidbits of trivia and random facts with pictures and photographs and drawings of every color and style. It is a veritable kaleidoscope of imagery and ideas and history and culture and art. If it were made into a movie, Baz Luhrmann would have to direct. Maybe Terry Gilliam.

Overall, Alice in Sunderland is a little too researched and too little crafted (or maybe over-crafted) and a lot too much indulged. Many times I turned a page and muttered, “You think you’re so clever…”

But I was quite satisfied with Talbot’s achievement in Alice. The scale and style and ambition of it all are notable. And entertaining. When it doesn’t drag. Which it does sometimes. Especially at the end. I was really ready for it to be over already.



GONZO: THE LIFE OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON

June 22nd, 2008 at 2:52 pm

“But don’t forget – The Scum Also Rises.” – Hunter S. Thompson

Gonzo Life of Hunter S. Thompson

There are enough texts examining and illuminating the myth of that great social and literary pyrotechnic Hunter S. Thompson, but an oral biography from the people who were closest to him seemed like a worthwhile read.

Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson is a complete biography through Thompson’s zany life that manages to reveal a few intriguing tidbits about the man behind the legend. Hunter’s first wife, Sandy (now Sondi), had two abortions before their son Juan was born. After Juan was born she got pregnant five times but never came to term. There’s something darkly captivating about the potential of HST having 8 kids and the fact that nature did not let it happen.

A younger brother of Hunter was gay and died of AIDS. Why didn’t he write about this?

Aspen Sheriff and long-time friend of Hunter, Bob Braudis, relates a story about receiving a call from Hunter when one of Hunter’s girlfriend-assistants was unconscious on the kitchen floor and unresponsive. On the way to the hospital she stopped breathing. She survived, got better, and “went back to Cincinnati or wherever she came from.” Not everyone can, nor should, do drugs like Hunter S. Thompson. But how different would things have been had HST been in the news for killing a girl…it certainly would have tainted the Myth.

Beyond these few and far between, most of the book is not very enlightening for the ordained disciples of HST: he was a drug addict, he was an alcoholic, he was very smart, and he was a very good writer who absolutely failed to live up to his potential as a very, very good writer. What is also made very clear is that Thompson was certainly very charismatic but also a totally self-absorbed, unprofessional, childish, megalomaniac control freak. But people put up with a lot when you’re a brilliant genius. Which is why many of the chroniclers of HST’s life in this volume are so glib and blasé about this crazy drug fiend. First of all, they indulged and enjoyed in the same mortal pleasures, but also because they knew they were special for being lucky enough to be so close to the fire of this special man. A man who shined and burned out like no one else ever will.

The most illuminating of the many, many personal stories shared throughout the book is one in which Hunter, out of character, goes out of his way to help an injured friend. When the friend asks him why he is going to all the trouble, Hunter tells him, “I can’t stand to be around pain.”

Hunter S. Thompson couldn’t stand to be around pain. Explains a lot.

Thanks, book!



Progressive Book Club

June 18th, 2008 at 8:54 am

Move over Oprah. There’s a new Book Club in town.

But what I can’t understand is why anyone would join a book club started by an Insurance Company. Won’t that make for some rather dull, legalese-filled reading?

Or is it a book club focused on the defunct political party?

Or is it all about mass-produced Italian soup? So it’s a cookbook club! But only soups. Good niche. Go after those solid-food-only eaters/readers. (It is hereby announced that Authwhore is officially launching The Progresso Book Club. More details to follow.)

Progresso Book Club

Or maybe, just maybe, The Progressive Book Club is actually taking the word “progressive” literally:

1.

favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters: a progressive mayor.

2.

making progress toward better conditions; employing or advocating more enlightened or liberal ideas, new or experimental methods, etc.: a progressive community.

3.

characterized by such progress, or by continuous improvement.



Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

June 12th, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

I really wanted to like this book.

But it’s a train wreck. The literary carnage is so grotesque and horrifying, you can’t help but look, read. (And I promise you, just take my word for it, that metaphor is better than most that Pessl uses in this debut novel of hers.)

Despite what Bayard says, it’s amazing what happens when you stop talking about a text and actually interact with it. I’ll tell you what happens: disappointment. Utter, utter disappointment.

For all intents and purposes, the book doesn’t even start until the second half when a certain major character is found dead by the narrator/protagonist. As readers, we learn about the death with the first line of Chapter #1: “Before I tell you about Hannah Schneider’s death, I’ll tell you about my mother’s.” So essentially, the first half of the book amounts to literary blue balls in which Pessl torments us with bad writing and we writhe in agony praying for release.

It is a common formula to take the wit and wisdom of an adult and transplant it into an adolescent (from Catcher in the Rye to Juno). Pessl brings this trite technique to a new low. Unlike the social relevance and humor of Diablo Cody or the sparse, unfathomable brilliance of Salinger, Pessl just writes with broad strokes and clunky rhetorical devices. Her writing is hyperbolic and extreme. She seems to pride herself on regurgitating endless references and allusions, but I would prefer that instead of describing someone as having “the air of a Chateau Marmont bungalow about her,” she just describe the damn person. Do some real work, Marisha.

And oh how Marisha Pessl loves similes and metaphors. She and Augusten Burroughs should get together and have some kind of simiphor-off. Sample Pessl snippet:

“Charles and his friends looked forward to the hours at her house much in the way New York City’s celery-thin heiresses and beetroot B-picture lotharios looked forward to noserubbing at the Stork Club certain sweaty Saturday nights in 1943 (see Forget About El Morocco: The Xanadu of the New York Elite, the Stork Club, 1929-1965, Riser, 1981).

I have two problems with this kind of writing.
1) I don’t know the way New York City’s celery-thin heiresses and beetroot B-picture lotharios looked forward to noserubbing at the Stork Club certain sweaty Saturday nights in 1943. So this metaphor is completely useless to me. Why can’t Charles and his friends just look forward to the hours at her house?
2) The damn parenthetical references. They’re throughout the entire book. It’s probably supposed to help clear up my first problem with this passage, but it only serves to remove me from the story in two really stupid ways: 1) I stop reading and go look it up, or 2) Since I’m reading a book about a high school senior who can’t possibly know all of the books and references in parentheses, I can only assume this is Marisha Pessl being an annoying smartass with this kind of crappy Authorial Intrusion.

(There’s also “Visual Aids” throughout the book. Drawings by the author. Really annoying. Really stupid. Absolutely unnecessary.)

At one point there is a blubbery Mercedes. If anyone can send me a picture of a “blubbery” Mercedes, Authwhore will award you with a free book that is better than Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

At one point, people say their names “with paint-by-numbers politeness.” This is a problem because paint-by-numbers are not polite. They can be tacky, painstaking, time consuming, fun, childish, whimsical, or any number of other things, but I don’t think that there is anything polite about paint-by-numbers and certainly nothing polite about a writer using such poorly chosen imagery with reckless abandon and intending people read 514 pages of it.

At one point, “he either stared at the kid as if he were a Price is Right rerun, barely blinking, or replied in his molasses accent: ‘Nunna ya goddamn business.’” How do you stare at a Price is Right rerun? Well, Pessl knows that no one knows, so she tells us. You barely blink. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh………shouldn’t she then just have wrote that “he stared barely blinking” instead of “staring as if he were a Price is Right rerun, barely blinking?” Yes. Yes she should have. And that is why this book is categorically, officially, absolutely bad. (If you’re still wondering how exactly you stare at a Price is Right rerun, this book will also leave you wondering how you look at a snag in tights. Riveting stuff, really.)

At one point, “Officer Donnie Lee happened to have saturated himself in Paul Revere-like cologne (it rode far ahead of him, alerting all of his impending arrival).” Which doesn’t even work! Paul Revere rode to warn people not of his own arrival but of the British’s. So I guess that’s why it’s Paul-Revere-like? But isn’t there a better image for something that travels ahead to warn of itself? A fog horn, perhaps? A screeching buzzer on a truck?

At one point, “Hannah was wearing a housedress the color of sandpaper…”
The color of sandpaper??? Pessl, how imprecise can you be!!! Is there a worse writer? What type? What grit? What brand? I’ve seen gray sandpaper, black sandpaper, brown sandpaper, rust sandpaper, beige sandpaper……..

At one point, the narrator/protagonist has a fight with her father and proceeds to throw books at him. I was really hoping to learn that Marisha Pessl had some true postmodern class and sense of humor by having her throw this book at him.

It didn’t happen.

I threw my own copy instead.

For the record, Marisha Pessl is still hot.

Not Sophie Dahl hot. But still hot.



Author Abodes Imperiled

June 3rd, 2008 at 9:32 am

It’s so hard being a dead writer these days.

The receding economy pities no one. And that includes great authors who have long since passed, leaving them without their earthen haunts to haunt.

Edith Wharton’s Mount is in financial limbo.

Mark Twain’s home is also broke.

But there is hope:

Several “young people” who broke into “poet” Robert Frost’s home for a “beer party” are being required to take classes in his poetry as part of their punishment.

There is a simple solution in all of this: Throw beer parties at Twain’s and Wharton’s estates as fund raisers!!!

Invite “young people.” Serve “beer.” Have “poetry” readings. Tell Oprah. Inform Bill Clinton. Get Jerry Lewis involved. Call it an art show. Organize workshops. Encourage people to dress up like the writers and have prizes for best look-a-like.

With that solved, what would have the punishment been had these aforementioned “young people” had a “beer party” in the old home of Charles Bukowski?

Certainly no judge nor lawyer in their right mind would reinforce such behavior by further teaching it.

This should serve as a lesson to all “beer”-seeking “young people.” Only throw “beer parties” at the homes of those writers notorious for their carousing.

For reference, see Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide to Great American Writers.



Hunter S. Thompson’s Widow to Author (Another) Book About Late Husband

June 3rd, 2008 at 8:53 am

Anita Thompson, widow of late great scribe/cultural icon/all-around-fiend Hunter S. Thompson, is set to publish a book about the final years of her famous husband’s life.

Which is great.

I love Hunter S. Thompson. But this latest publication, Ancient Gonzo Wisdom by Anita Thompson, is following pretty close on the heels of the not-too-long-ago-published The Gonzo Way by Anita Thompson.

Is the HST market becoming a bit over saturated? There’s also the not-too-long-ago-published Ralph Steadman memoir, The Joke’s Over, and Gonzo: The Life of Hunter S. Thompson.

I just wouldn’t want anyone to get tired of HST.

Great writers are captivating in large doses. Treacherous beasts are best in small doses. So one must tread carefully with HST.



Author Scatters Cash From Plane to Promote Book

June 1st, 2008 at 6:13 pm

An Indonesian businessman flew over a sports field outside of Jakarta and released 100 million rupiah in small denominations.

He claims to have rather used the book’s promotional campaign money to help others.

But is he helping others? Or is he promoting his book? Both?

Will anyone use their money to buy his motivational book?

Talk about a “big give.” Take that, Oprah!