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November 03, 2009

Zdeno on Fratire

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Zdeno is back, this time discussing a literary genre that's new to non-twentysomething me.

* * * * *

In case my previous posts haven't completely strained my credibility among the sane and sensible of the Blowhard readership, I thought I'd finish the job today by venturing into the darkest, foulest, most wretched corner of contemporary literature.

The genre I refer to goes by the name Fratire , and it is exactly what it sounds like: Literature written by and for young men, celebrating contemporary masculinity in all its adolescent ingloriousness. The unrivaled king of the Fratirists is Tucker Max. No description could possibly do justice to Max's literary stylings, so I quote at length below:

From: The Absinthe Donuts Story

10:20: We station ourselves in the kitchen. A fat girl walks in. It's game time. "Well, say goodbye to all the leftovers."

10:21: Apparently, this fatty seems to think she can hang. The Medina Division made better tactical decisions:

Fatty "What did you say?"
Tucker "Can you not hear me? Are your ears fat too?"
Fatty [Look of astonishment, stares at my friends cracking up] "EXCUSE ME?"
Tucker "I'm sorry. Really I am. [I open the fridge] Would you like cheesecake or chocolate cake? Probably both, I'm guessing."
Fatty [Turns and leaves in utter astonishment]

Tucker has arrived.

10:23: Rich knows me from undergrad, and knows how to ride my hot streaks by provoking me, "come on man, you can do better. There are plenty of people around here to make fun of."

Express elevator to hell, going down. I give him my voice recorder and a simple order, "Don't miss anything."

10:26: I see a girl wearing two colored tank tops over each other. This is too easy:

Tucker "Hey 1985 Madonna, are you gonna get the person who did that?"
Girl "Did what?"
Tucker "Spilled 80's all over you."
Girl [Confused look]
Tucker "I know I'd be pissed if I looked like an extra from Desperately Seeking Susan."

10:29: Eddie points out a girl wearing the standard anti-globalization outfit. It is topped off with a "No Blood for Oil" button. Rich whispers in my ear, "You gotta get her. Come on man. Do it--for us...for your country." Eddie starts humming God Bless America.

10:29: I storm over. Rich says into the voice recorder, "Target acquired...we are weapons hot."

10:30: I introduce myself to her as Alger Hiss. She doesn't get the joke. Time to be blunt:

Tucker "Do you hate the World Bank?"
Girl "Uhh, umm, well, I mean, yeah, I feel that..."
Tucker "You don't hate the World Bank."
Girl "I don't?"
Tucker "No. You're mad at your father. You just want daddy to hug you more."
Girl "What?"
Tucker "You were a sociology major weren't you?"
Girl "NO!"
Tucker "What was your major?"
Girl [Pauses] "Uhhh, English Literature."
Tucker [Pause--to give her a look of contempt] "Did your parents send you a bill for college? How are those Marxist Literary Critique classes working out for you? You work at Barnes and Noble don't you?"
Girl "NO--I wor--"
Tucker "Shouldn't you be blocking an intersection right now? How many anti-sweatshop petitions have you signed--EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVE REEBOKS ON. Very-anti globalization to wear those with your animal tested Clinque make-up made in Nepal. Well, at least you're consistent in your shameless hypocrisy."
Girl "What a fascist piece of shi--"
Tucker "You ever wake up in the middle of the night because a couple of cats are clawing each other to death outside your window? That's what it's like listening to you speak."
Girl [A mishmash of stammered half insults]
Tucker "Seriously--If I stuck my dick in your mouth would that shut you up?"
Tucker "HEY--Don't blame me for the wound in your crotch." [As I walk off] "By the way, you owe us a rib."

10:31: I turn to Rich and Eddie: "She'll never recover from that. She'll never be the same. I've completely ruined a human being. Years of expensive therapy and costly drugs can't reverse that kind of damage...yeah, I have an upper management role in Hell reserved for me." Rich looks at me and says into the voice recorder, "Damage assessment: Total." I got the joke the next day.

From the perspective of Judeo-Christian morality, it’s all downhill from there. I recommend reading the whole thing. Once your done with that, follow it up with:

The Austin Road Trip: The Austin Road Trip

El Bingeroso nearly has a fucking aneurysm, "OH OH OH OH!!! WE HAVE TO GO, WE HAVE TO GO! Guys, The TEXAS-STATE-FAIR!!!"

It is the most insane morass of trucks and rednecks and cheap carnival trinkets I have ever seen. SlingBlade gets a funnel cake, I get a Slushee, PWJ falls in love with the "classic" (read: penis) cars, but it was El Bingeroso who really tapped into the essence of the Texas State Fair. He made friends with a fat, brown-toothed teenage redneck wearing a WWF Mankind t-shirt covered in mustard stains. The poor kid looked like he had the cultural I.Q. of someone who just staggered out of a sheep orgy. We see them standing over by some video game thing, and he waves us over.

El Bing "Guys, you see this thing? [pointing to the game] It is called 'The Shocker.' You hold these metal handles here, and it sends an ever increasing charge of electricity through you. As the wattage increases, so does your score, and if you can hold it all the way to the end, you win...something. And this guy, [Jethro], thinks he can do it."

Tucker "What do you win?"
SlingBlade "A free electroshock treatment, apparently."
PWJ "You can't hold that for more than a few seconds."
Jethro "Fuck dat; ike'an doit."
El Bing "OK man, give it your best shot. Here, we'll even put the money in."

As PWJ put the dollar in the machine and the redneck rubbed his hands together and mentally prepared himself, I pulled El Bingeroso aside. He was giggling like a Japanese school girl in a Hello Kitty store.

Tucker "Dude, who is this kid? What the hell is going on?"
El Bing "I saw him staring at this thing and I bet him he couldn't do it. He got all worked up. Dude--I've seen this thing knock out 250 pound guys before. They were outlawed in Nebraska! THIS IS AWESOME!"

The youthful redneck firmly planted his feet, rubbed his face, spit into his hands and then rubbed them together and then wiped them on his shirt. We started cheering him on,

Tucker "Eye of the tiger!"
PWJ "What does not kill you makes you stronger!"
SlingBlade "There is no spoon!"
El Bingeroso "YEAAAAHHHH!"

He muttered some inspirational phrases to himself, pressed the start button and grabbed the two metal handles. For the first few seconds he was fine...

Then his arms started shaking.
Then his shoulders.
Then his torso.
Then his head.
Then his mouth began frothing and spitting saliva everywhere.
Then this strange, guttural, animalistic groan emerged from him. Still gripping the handles, his whole body was in violent convulsions when an older woman pulled him off of the machine. He fell to the ground and she yelled at him,

"Jethro, git away from that'n thang. Thar makin funna YEW!"

I don't know if I have ever laughed so hard in my life. I was laying on the hot asphalt of the Texas State Fair, curled up in a ball, tears streaming out of my face as I held my stomach muscles and convulsed in laughter. I was able to look up and see the confused, blank look on Jethro's face as his mother led him off, wiping the spit off of his face, his arms still twitching slightly.

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

Not the most likable guy, you'd think. But you would be wrong. Max's website has received millions of unique visitors since it went up in 2003, and his book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell made the bestseller list in each of 2006, 2007 and 2008. On college campuses across the Western world, you can't open a car door without hitting a young man to whom Tucker Max is a God, or at least a hero. You also won't have much trouble finding people people who feel this is an excellent reason to drive around campus, opening their car doors. But whether your reaction to Tucker Max is one of admiration or visceral hatred, it’s clear the man has touched a nerve. His voice resonates. Why?

Having spent the last six years cruising through Max's 18-24 year old demographic, following his work and at times getting fully caught up in the idolatrous hero-worship prevalent among his fans, I think I’m qualified to answer that question. My first reaction to Max's stories, which I read in a single night after being pointed towards them by my freshman roommate, was awe. Here was a man whose confidence and disregard for society's expectations infused every story he wrote. In a popular culture constrained at every turn by political correctness, the caricature of a man drinking, womanizing, and insulting his way through life was like (to use a situationally appropriate metaphor) drinking my first Guinness, after a lifetime of Bud Light.

He is, by his own admission, not a technically exceptional writer. His life and exploits, while interesting and often hilarious, are not unique. His success is instead the result of being the only one to throw himself and his stories out into a literary world overflowing with writing catering to every niche that existed, save his own. The world is full of books about women being women. It's also full of books about men being women (I'm looking at you, Nick Hornby). But there are no contemporary equivalents to Hemingway, Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson. Young men in the early 20th century were simply not being effectively written to.

And it was not just the literary world that abandoned young men. The vast majority of males in pop culture – The titular character in Everybody Loves Raymond being the archetypal example – did not represent anything that men my age wanted to aspire to. We were told - in schools, pop culture, and the media - that masculinity was something to be mocked, or apologized for. Whatever criticisms can be leveled at Tucker Max, a lack of confidence is not among them. He, or at least the character he portrayed through his stories, moved through life on his own terms, without regard for the expectations of others.

So whether we, the first young men of the 21st century, aspired to cast ourselves in Max’s crude, drunken, lecherous mold or not, the universal message of the Tucker Max phenomenon was this: Don’t be afraid of who you really want to be. Figure out what it is you want, and then chase after it. It’s a surprisingly uplifting message to find, buried amidst stories of seemingly aimless debauchery, but judging from his success, I’m not the only one to have found it.

Questions for our live studio audience: What are your impressions of Tucker Max? Self-absorbed, infantile loser? Positive, if unorthodox role model and force for good in the world? Or both? Hopefully I'm not the only Blowhard in the under-30 demographic.

* * * * *

One again, thank you Zdeno for adding content diversity here at 2Blowhards.



posted by Donald at November 3, 2009


Self-absorbed, infantile loser?


Posted by: Tom West on November 3, 2009 1:04 AM

" I was laying on the hot asphalt of the Texas State Fair..."

This kind of mistake reveals his illiteracy. It's almost, but not quite, as bad as "between you and I". If he's going to score points off 80s girl, or anti-globalizationistifiers, or Texas rednecks, he's got to get his basic English down cold.

Other than that, he's a kind of punk writer, sexual splatterpunk. That can work, but only in small, small doses. His writing suffers from the same underlying solipsism, and the cowardice that underlies that, as the most neurasthenic lit-fic. Good writing requires an interest in the world and people, and a kind of sympathy with them (NOT COMPASSION) that allows them to speak for themselves. Max sets up victims, has them roll along his script (and no doubt edits out any inconveniently clever or even aggressive replies), and then displays his act of objectification and dehumanization for all to see.

Tucker Max only has one real character in his writing: himself, of course. Or his persona, really. And that's because he's a coward, and only writes what he thinks he knows, and he only knows himself, or his surfaces.

There's a big world out there to write about, but you have to have a modicum of generosity in your soul to be able to address it or even know it's there.

Sorry, Zdeno: Grade, F for failure of imagination, C for execution, dropping to D once you pass 100 words or so and realize you've already received everything from him he has to give.

Posted by: PatrickH on November 3, 2009 9:03 AM

If the existence of young men in the 18 – 24 year old demographic who find that Tucker Max's "Fratire" speaks to their own self-absorbed, prurient, homophobic, anti-woman, anti-fat, anti-anything but us, elitist fantasies counts as blog-worthy news, then perhaps soon 2blowhards will ask Zdeno to go undercover as a substitute teacher in a K-8 school to rip the lid off of the subculture of boys about to enter puberty and bring back tales of heretofore unknown fart, barf, shit, piss, and menstruation jokes. "Content diversity" my ass. Who could have imagined that Michael's postings on topics like whether internet porn is the new rock'n'roll would seem to have the gravitas of William F. Buckley in comparison?

2Blowhards has been my default blog for spirited discussion for a couple of years now. I have enjoyed wrangling about modernist art and architecture, the relative worth of lit-fic versus genre writing, and various sorts of political viewpoints about timely topics. So far the evidence seems to be mounting that Michael's retirement from active blogging on 2BH means this forum is becoming another lame exercise in a handful of (mostly) guys bitching that they want the world to go back in time to a (mythic) point where their very existence as White Men Living in the Free World conferred sufficiently high status that everyone knew they were morally and intellectually superior to the rest of the populace and deserved the power and admiration that came with their pigmentation and testicles as a natural birthright.

I'm not quite ready to disappear yet, hoping that a few new contributors will emerge and 2BH will again regain some of its past panache. If not, and if things keep heading in the current direction, then the Shouting One can gloat about the door hitting my ass on my way out as I leave, looking for more interesting and compelling comment threads elsewhere.

Posted by: Chris White on November 3, 2009 9:07 AM

In a few hundred years, literature like this will be indecipherable.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on November 3, 2009 9:11 AM

Chris, that's very, very un-progressive of you.

Mr. Griffin, one surmises Herr Gutenberg would greatly regret his invention, if given the foresight of even the century following his own.

Posted by: Savrola on November 3, 2009 10:54 AM

Yes, White, there is entirely too little time devoted to denouncing the phallogocentric racist hegemony at 2blowhards.

Thanks for counteracting the stale cowardice of Tucker Max with your fresh ideas! Down with whites, up with White! I can't imagine why young men turn to Tucker Max when they could read bracing and fresh commentary like White's.

Posted by: Pensans on November 3, 2009 11:12 AM

Savrola, it may not even take that long. Topical literature becomes irrelevant and incomprehensible very quickly. Read Walter Pater's "Marius the Epicurean" to see how quickly style can spiral into obtuse oblivion. If you can read it.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on November 3, 2009 11:36 AM

I'm less than shocked to find that Tucker Max doesn't strike a chord amongst the Blowhards readership. Apparently I didn't make it clear in the original post, but he doesn't really strike a chord with me either.

The point I want to make is that he resonates with college-age North American men (including a younger version of myself) to a great extent. You don't have to appreciate his writing to be curious about this as an artistic and social phenomenon.

The question isn't, "Is this guy awesome, or what?" Rather, I'm curious as to why Max, despite his artistic flaws, still manages to be the most successful contemporary writer for the 18-24 year old male demographic.

Posted by: Zdeno on November 3, 2009 11:51 AM

So far the evidence seems to be mounting that Michael's retirement from active blogging on 2BH means this forum is becoming another lame exercise in a handful of (mostly) guys bitching that they want the world to go back in time to a (mythic) point where their very existence as White Men Living in the Free World conferred sufficiently high status that everyone knew they were morally and intellectually superior to the rest of the populace and deserved the power and admiration that came with their pigmentation and testicles as a natural birthright.

God, you've got an awful case of the disease, Christ Whiter-Than-Thou. What is the disease? White Man's Burden? Lost forever in the 60s? A lame belief that you are the sole enlightened warrior in this world fighting for the progressive cause?

How did you learn to hate your own kind so bitterly? Where did you learn to inflate your ego so preposterously as to think that you're morally above your fellows?

You really seem to think that these awful eruptions reflect well on you. I don't know how you maintain that delusion. That's the most remarkable thing about you.

Posted by: Shouting Thomas on November 3, 2009 2:51 PM

It might be more interesting if the targets of Tucker's derision were a little more worthy, and if the the reason for the attacks was to strike a blow for the underdog.

Otherwise, I would put people who enjoy belittling others in an attempt to boost their own sense of empowerment and self-esteem into the infantile loser category.

Posted by: Gunther on November 3, 2009 3:05 PM

Tucker Max is a performer. Asking if he's a writer is sort of like asking if the Jackass guys are dancers -- well, they use physical movement to entertain people...

Agree with Chris White that the site is becoming more one-note, we non-cons we always a minority around here but the diversity of voices was sufficient to get an interesting dialogue going, in part because MB was a little unpredictable.

Posted by: MQ on November 3, 2009 3:36 PM


I didn't want to be the one to say it, but now that you did, I agree completely with your sentiments.

Readers eager for more Michael Blowhard might Google a fellow named Ray Sawhill.

Posted by: Peter L. Winkler on November 3, 2009 3:57 PM

Somebody claiming that Kerouac was also a loser:

Posted by: TGGP on November 3, 2009 3:58 PM

About time. Masculinity has been reduced to caricatures.

I can’t even watch prime time TV nor even cable channels like Sy Fy anymore. Today’s popular culture seems narrowly targeted toward pre-teen women.

Posted by: DeepThought on November 3, 2009 4:06 PM

Let this stuff satisfy its market and say little about it.

Even as a young man, I never felt that consciously masculine writers were, well, masculine. Hemingway, Hunter S. Thompson, Kerouac...there's something effeminate about blokes trying to evoke blokehood. Men's mags, men's's somehow reactive, even girly. All the rehearsing and self-consciousness of those "gaming" alpha males would make me nervous about bending over to pick up the soap in their presence.

There's only one direction a man can take. However much I've failed, I know it's the only possible direction for those born with testicles.

We are to be GENTLEMEN. Or we are to be nothing.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 3, 2009 4:47 PM

Chris, I do think one needs to take Zdeno's roving commentary rather less seriously. Quite frankly, I enjoy almost all the posts here, although Donald's posts tend to be too well thought out for me to have any meaningful commentary to add. I eagerly read (and learn from) each one though.

However, Donald's doing yeoman's work trying to help fill the blog, and if Zdeno's volunteering to stick his neck out so we have someone to bash, then more power to him. Besides, it gives us something to complain about. Remember, the amount of responses a post receives is in direct proportion to how vehemently one disagrees with the post.

Donald, if *you* want more responses, you're going to have to put considerably *less* thought into your posts :-)

Posted by: Tom West on November 3, 2009 6:14 PM

This is for men of 18-24? It's the kind of thing men had once outgrown by the time they reached that age. Ugh. I really hope that some writer for men comes along who is neither a kowtowing PCer nor a juvenile delinquent. I'm not surprised by its existence; in fact, I've been expecting something like Tucker Max to emerge for a long time now. I'm merely surprised that Zdeno, or anyone but TM himself, appears to enjoy it.

Chris White, I know you mean well, but you show a startling ability to grab hold of the wrong end of the stick. I have the lowest possible opinion of the kind of thing Zdeno cites here, but I do think that rhetoric like yours, above, is at least partly responsible for bringing it out into the open.

Not, please note, for creating it: brutal, dumbass young men are nothing new in the world and I don't hold you to blame for their existence. But if every attribute of ordinary half-decent masculinity hadn't been called into question and scolded into silence and suppression by political correctness, perhaps we wouldn't have left the field of masculine self-assertion (as Zdeno sees it) open to the jerks and ***holes. They'd be too ashamed to speak this way in the presence of their elders and betters. But their elders and betters have been silenced.

Sigh. I don't know. Perhaps I'm wrong. But just now I feel as if I have to blame someone for the existence of such trash.

Posted by: aliasclio on November 3, 2009 6:35 PM

I realize we are supposed to be open minded about the artistic value of the lowbrow and the commercial. But come on.

"whether your one of admiration or visceral hatred, it’s clear the man has touched a nerve" has been used to justify everything from snuff films to piss christ as art.

"But there are no contemporary equivalents to Hemingway, Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson." Tucker Max is not equivalent to those writers. Tucker Max is equivalent to O.C. and Stiggs.
Apparently every generation thinks they invented immaturity.

It's just childish comedy. Nothing more or less. If you enjoy it, just enjoy it. Why the need to assign social revelence to it?

Posted by: dzot on November 3, 2009 9:37 PM

The last couple years I taught high school (2002-2003), Chuck Palahniuk (Fight Club, Choke, etc.) was HUGELY popular amongst a very wide variety of my male students. Everyone from nerds to jocks passed his books around and actually talked about them unprodded by me, their English teacher.

Palahniuk is a genuinely masculine writer. He's profane, tough, willing to shock, a bit misogynist, but in the end, a pretty damn good writer. I know 6 years ago is a lifetime in internet years, so maybe he's no longer relevant. Tucker Max is certainly no substitute, but he has, indeed, found his niche. It's too bad because he offers absolutely nothing to guys. He's cruel to the weak, for one, something the aforementioned Hemingway, Kerouac and Thompson would have abhorred.

In short, Max is the idiot's Roissy.

Posted by: JV on November 4, 2009 1:07 AM

Just to add to the bonfire, I suddenly realized what Tucker Max's canon reminds me of.

If I recall correctly, there was a fad that developed in England a few years ago where someone would come up to a stranger and slap him or her, while the person's reaction was filmed by a confederate.

The results would then be posted to YouTube or the like to great merriment, and even greater publicity.

Made me shudder.

I think Tucker Max is probably right. Many victims of his assaults won't ever recover fully. The discovery that the existence of those who derive pleasure from the pain of others is *real* in a way it wasn't before will have a life altering effect, much like the first time someone is actually mugged at gun point - life goes on, but it will never be entirely the same.

Posted by: Tom West on November 4, 2009 6:50 AM

When MB would give in to his predilection for offering a post about something that included NSFW links ... Internet neo-porn as the new rock'n'roll, etc. ... I often found myself agreeing with Shouting Thomas. There was little new or different about the content involved, antecedents could be found back to sex graffiti on the walls of Pompeii, thus there was little of substance to be discussed. It was little more than an attempt to justify a guilty pleasure with high falutin' rhetoric.

The real topic remained the Internet itself, which has created the phenomenon of viral-ability, the potential for something to reach vast numbers of eyeballs due to the ease with which something can be forwarded on to others. When large numbers of a given demographic, for whatever reason, find themselves seeing something it begs the question of whether that something is of any real importance in the grand scheme of things.

Now, what does it really say if a video of Snowball the Dancing Cockatoo goes viral? Does this lead those who view it to ask how birds hear and understand music, or what it says about cross species communication? I suspect that for 99.9% of those who view it, it is simply a funny video their friend sent them a link to; they watched it, said 'Cool!' and moved on.

Offering mediocre writing that appeals to baser instincts among 18-24 year old men as a cultural phenomena worthy of serious consideration simply because the Internet enables large numbers of said men to read it fails to open any particularly interesting avenues for discussion, merely the same old topics.

In partial answer to aliasclio, let's just say that in this area I agree with Robert Townshend. We are to be GENTLEMEN. Or we are to be nothing. My default is to simply ignore this sort of self-consciously anti-PC spewing of adolescent male posturing. However, when it gets offered up as a thread topic or I encounter some Max Tucker wannabe tormenting an overweight girl or developmentally challenged clerk in the grocery store my childhood upbringing kicks in and I will, as a gentleman, call the perpetrator on it.

Why should I cede my conception of what it means to be a man to the likes of Max Tucker or Roissy et al?

I have every sympathy and respect for Donald in his efforts to keep 2BH thriving in light of MB's retirement from blogging here. So far, Zdeno has had the plus of generating comments, but the minus of doing so by re-plowing fields of inquiry that failed to be particularly fruitful in the past.

Posted by: Chris White on November 4, 2009 8:49 AM

"The question isn't, "Is this guy awesome, or what?" Rather, I'm curious as to why Max, despite his artistic flaws, still manages to be the most successful contemporary writer for the 18-24 year old male demographic"
Because this demographic is and always will be shallow and of little use except as cannon foder and cheap labour.Some are clever but they need, as we did, several decades to have enough wisdom to make anything they have to share worth our time.

Posted by: Olddude on November 4, 2009 10:04 AM

Yep; I'm with JV. Just a petit-Roissy, jejune.

Posted by: Caro on November 4, 2009 10:46 AM

"The world is full of books about women being women. It's also full of books about men being women (I'm looking at you, Nick Hornby). But there are no contemporary equivalents to Hemingway, Kerouac or Hunter S. Thompson. Young men in the early 20th century were simply not being effectively written to."

Very true.

I would say this is changing though. Bill Simmons (The Book of BasketBall, ESPN columns) and Chuck Klosterman (Fargo Rock City) are similarly unapologetic about their *unenlightened* tastes.

Posted by: Ed on November 4, 2009 12:36 PM

I must be getting old, as I found the except hopelessly childish.

Posted by: Peter on November 4, 2009 1:15 PM

Just want to say I'm enjoying Zdeno's posts.

Posted by: ron on November 4, 2009 3:01 PM

I'm only 50, not 200, years old, so I can't speak from firsthand knowledge, but it seems to me that in the good old days a man of 18-24 years of age was generally not the adolescent they are now. I'm thinking of my grandfather, who began work as a hired man at age 11. Or John Keats, who wrote his great poetry when he was just out of his teens. Or Isaac Newton, who invented/discovered calculus at age 24. A man of 18-24 used to be a full-grown, actual *man*, not a overgrown adolescent hooting at jokes at fat womens' expense. In the past a man would have punched out another man who insulted a woman like that. Now they publish accounts of it for young men to laugh over.

Boys growing up half a century ago had heros like the cowboys in the movie westerns, men like Gary Cooper's character in High Noon - men of personal honor, of honesty and strength in the face of adversity, men who unfailingly treated women with respect and took it upon themselves to act as the community's unofficial cultural policemen when a cad behaved like the Tucker Max protagonist. But thanks to the official liberal "don't be judgmental, everything is relative, nothing and no one is any better than anything else" mentality that these young men were taught from childhood, things like personal honor and self-control and integrity seem archaic. The question is how long it will take a critical mass of society to realize that adopting the liberal/feminist worldview meant the end of the traditional masculine virtues upon which a decent society is built?

Posted by: Mark on November 4, 2009 3:19 PM

In short, Max is the idiot's Roissy.

Roissy is the idiot's Roissy.

As you point out in the same comment, though, Palahniuk is the true successor to writers like Kerouac, in terms of the appeal to young questing males. Fight Club had an enormous influence. He's darker than Kerouac, but it's a darker time.

Posted by: MQ on November 4, 2009 3:25 PM

I think (and this is entirely my fault) that the point of this post was generally missed. I'm not saying click away, and revel in the awesomeness that is Tucker Max. I'm asking what it says about the literary world, and North American culture in general, that Tucker Max has achieved the success and notoriety that he has. Whether you approve of his writing as capital-A Art or not, he sold a lot of books, and was influential in the lives of a lot of young men.

I may do a follow-up post on this, but here's a cliff's notes version of my theory: Mainstream pop culture for our generation has made a sport out of ridiculing and vilifying the traditional male. Everything trait that men used to aspire to in their literary and onscreen role models - i.e., Robert's "We are to be Gentlemen, or we are to be nothing" - is now held to be negative. The parenting industry, schools, Universities, and the arts have been pumping us full of anti-male sentiments for our entire lives.

Tucker Max profited from being the first guy to be able to work around the standard channels for media distribution and used the internet to connect with young men who were sick of the status quo. His writing is flawed, and in another age would probably have gone unnoticed, but he succeeded because he was the only one writing to his market.

The next question would be, why does writing about "manliness" necessarily involve a life of unproductive debauchery? Certainly men of previous generations would see nothing particularly manly, and much that was childish, about Max's behaviour. Here is where the commenters who compared Max to a dull man's Roissy are accurate. Rightly or wrongly, many young men are finding that the world they live in does not reward traditional male virtues like hard work, sacrifice, marriage and devotion to their country. max and Roissy's response to such a world is to say, "Fuck it" and live a Dionysian existence of hedonistic self-absorption. Roissy at least recognizes the impact of such incentives on the future of our civilization, and seeks to do something about it, but they are similar byproducts of a given point in history.

So that's the direction I was hoping this discussion would head in, although in retrospect I realize my original post could have done a better job of nudging it in that direction.

@ aliasclio:

You articulated a lot of what I was hoping to draw out, thanks. Max is a role model because, for now, we have nothing better.

@ JV:

I'm a big Palahniuk fan, and every one of my male friends who I've pushed Fight Club on has loved it. I'm sure there are other good writers out there targeting young men, as well. But they do seem to have a hard time getting published and finding their audience, or wonder of wonders, into high school or University classrooms.

Incidentally, it was Max who first turned me on to Palahniuk through his reading list.

@ Ed:

Thanks for the book recommendations! I slightly enjoyed an earlier work of Klosterman's, Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, if memory serves. I'll try and check those out.

Thanks again everyone for a (mostly) productive thread!



Posted by: Zdeno on November 4, 2009 3:40 PM

Zdeno, the reason much of current literature isn't taught in high schools is because the subject matter is WAY to profane to be approved by a school district, and rightly so, in my opinion. Palahniuk is taught at the university level, which I think is the appropriate venue.

Klosterman is pretty good, although so steeped in current pop culture I can't imagine anyone reading him in 10 years time. Jon Krakauer has written some fantastic non-fiction that really appeals to young males. And I disagree with Zdeno on Nick Hornby. He's writing about guys in their 30s, and BELIEVE ME, he nails it. Could be a generational thing, I don't know.

I'm wondering if the Tucker Max phenomenon is even that significant. It's certainly not a literary one because the appeal is too fleeting. I'd bet my house on the fact that the people who buy Max's book will absolutely cringe when thinking about it 15 years from now. That's not the case with the aforementioned writers like Hemingway, Kerouac (maybe a little cringing there), Thompson, and probably not with Palahniuk. My feeling is the Tucker Max deal is strictly a fratboy rite of passage not remotely related to a literary movement of any kind. There have always been people like Tucker Max; he just happens to be chronicling his idiocies.

Posted by: JV on November 4, 2009 6:10 PM

Zdeno, there's nothing really new about Tucker Max. Back in the eighties, I noticed that comedy was beginning to acquire a genuine edge of cruelty, where we were being invited to laugh not at the powerful or pompous, but the weak, the vulnerable, the unfortunate. I noticed this with Porky's, and some later films as well. One reason I remember this trend is that my brother, a cruel, even sadistic young man, who had prospered and dominated in conventional teenage suburban culture, loved Porky's, retelling with glee some scene from the film involving the humiliation (I think) of a somewhat older female teacher. The source of his glee was that "winners" stuck it to a "loser", and that was precisely what gave him such pleasure in the film.

This comedy of cruelty and humiliation has become more and more popular in the decades since, and with the internet and reality television, seems to me to be the now dominant form of humour in our society.

Tucker Max is not in any way something new, something rebellious. He's doing what Porky's did, what reality television does, and on and on. He's not important or innovative. He is doing, as Townshend pointed out, what young men like to do in the absence of constraints...hurt people.

The execrable Sascha Baron-Cohen, aka Borat, does the same thing. Michael Moore's films get their appeal from the way Moore invites the audience to join with him in laughing at, and despising, the targets of his ambush interviews, with his victims often being the very working Americans he professes to defend.

This stuff goes way back. Back to when people used to laugh at the sight of baskets of cats being lowered alive into bonfires, or bear-baiting, or earlier, slaves being slowly roasted alive insid3e hollow brass bull statues, their screams of agony echoing to sound like the roar of an actual bull.

Tucker Max is the guy lighting the fire under the bull. He's the guy lowering the cats into the flames. Making fun of helpless deceived lonely women. And of stupid people. While pocketing the change from those eager for the show.

Nothing new. Rather old, actually. Original sin is implicated here. And that goes ALL THE WAY back.


Posted by: PatrickH on November 4, 2009 7:26 PM

I remember a high-school geography class in about 1976. We were in our mid-teens. The teacher was an ex-cop who had also lived a pretty Bohemian life at one point, so he knew how to bend a bit but also had considerable authority and the power of command.

Anyway, one day some young jerk with an attitude made fun of a girl who had a cleft-palate during a moment when the teacher was busy handing out papers or something like that. But he turned in time to catch the young guy hissing insults at the girl. And he looked at the boy. Really hard. And you could see the fellow shrink with embarrassment before all our eyes. Then the teacher said "Out. Now." The whole thing took perhaps 30 seconds.

I don't think teachers have been allowed to do that kind of thing for perhaps 15-20 years now - certainly not to throw students out of class at a moment's notice, and perhaps not to reprimand in public that way either. It's partly because of the loss of such disciplinary techniques that these boys learn that they can and ought to get away with their atrocious behaviour.

Posted by: aliasclio on November 4, 2009 7:49 PM

Hats off to Whomever is writing this Chris White character you have mastered the art of parody.

Posted by: swift on November 4, 2009 11:21 PM

This is supposed to be new, shocking, revolutionary? And what's worse, *this* is supposed to be the voice of my demographic? Dear god, I'm a 18-24 year old white male currently in college, also a fraternity member, and this garbage disgusts me. This is the kind of stuff that me and my friends deride as false impressions of what we are supposed to be.

I'm by no means a conservative, but if Tucker Max really resonates with young males (or anyone, for that matter), I fear for the future.

Posted by: Andrew on November 5, 2009 3:48 AM

If we're going the route of gratuitous insults ... swift isn't too swift, is s/he?

Posted by: Chris White on November 5, 2009 10:19 AM

Expanding on the point I made in my first comment on this thread. Here's a list of various male roles and role-models, created to channel men's impulses for the good of society, that have been derided and diminished in the last 30 years:

- Boy Scouts: paramilitary; homophobic; a comic caricature of "goodness"
- Soldiers: vicious thugs; tools of the state
- Police: racists; vicious thugs
- Gentlemen: sexists and classists; fussy and old-fashioned
- Husbands: sexists; boring; slobbish; fat; lousy lovers
- (Married) Fathers: vicious disciplinarians; uninterested in their children; pompous fools; blind to their children's interests
- Breadwinner: husbands who refuse to let their wives work
- Priests and ministers: child-molesters and hypocrites

There are probably many others but that's a good start. Now, if we imagine young men, often fatherless themselves, exposed to an unrelenting diet of this stuff at school, in books, in newspapers, on TV (there especially!), is it hard to imagine also that they might eventually wonder if there's *anything* good to be said about masculinity? And might eventually grow tired of watching their elders try to accommodate and adapt to this barrage of criticism, never to be thanked for it? And, finally, might decide to just do what comes naturally, since the idea of being a Good Man is so plainly risible?

Posted by: aliasclio on November 5, 2009 10:50 AM

"I don't think teachers have been allowed to do that kind of thing for perhaps 15-20 years now - certainly not to throw students out of class at a moment's notice, and perhaps not to reprimand in public that way either."

Clio, that's not true. I threw plenty of kids out of class at a moment's notice (I taught from 2000-2003), although that is never the ideal response, as it shows the kids that you can't handle them in class. Teachers are instructed to use the principal's office as a last resort, not out of fear of reprisal, but because it's a sign of weakness, in a way. However, if a kid is doing something ridiculous, out he/she goes.

Posted by: JV on November 5, 2009 11:54 AM

Clio, you make some important points, and you make them so well.

However, men must never perceive themselves as a group. To borrow a little from Mrs Thatcher,there is no such thing as male society.

When men try to standardise themselves in any way, whether as mobs, alphas, "gamers", fratboys or system-victims, their manhood is gone. But manhood can be retrieved in an instant by an easy acceptance of individual self, and a determination to project that self through chivalrous conduct.

Have no fear: I'm a slob who's largely failed in this regard. But this is an absolute. There are intellectual/relativist ways in which one can deny that the sun rises in the morning...yet the sun rises.

Chivalry is an absolute.

Posted by: Robert Townshend on November 5, 2009 4:04 PM

JV, your account of your experience as a teacher doesn't mesh with the things I've heard from various friends and family members who have taught in the Canadian public school system.

A friend of mine nearly lost his job for physically separating one child who was bullying another *in class*, by taking the offender by the shoulder and moving him away from his victim. There was no violence involved - my friend the teacher was the least violent of men and infinitely patient, but he saw a problem that had to be solved immediately, and acted. The Ontario school system does not allow teachers to touch their pupils under any circumstances at all, however (limited exceptions being made for the youngest children), and he got into terrible trouble for it.

Is it so different for you because you're an American? I might think that was the whole explanation, except that I've read accounts similar to mine of problems with enforcing discipline in some American schools. Perhaps much depends on the school district and the parents' support for teachers.

Another point that may be at the heart of the matter: the pupils I recall from my high school days who were thrown out at a moment's notice were *not* sent to the principle's office. They were being told to stand out in the halls because they were disrupting the class.

Posted by: aliasclio on November 6, 2009 3:01 AM

Clio, you're right about the no touching policy. That's true down here in the States, too.

Posted by: JV on November 6, 2009 11:27 AM

On the Wikipedia page on Frantire, a blogger who goes by Maddox is mentioned as one of the founders of the genre. I had completely forgotten about him, but in the late 90s/early 00s, his site, The Best Page in the Universe, was very popular and is often hilarious:

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it.

Posted by: JV on November 6, 2009 2:21 PM

Maddox was entirely different. Maddox was literate, for one thing. He had principles - he refused to put banners on his site (which would have made him lots of money, given its immense popularity) because doing so would have compromised his writing. Maddox's writing was not narcissistic. He didn't write of his own exploits, but rather criticized pop culture from a masculine perspective. Lastly, Maddox was actually funny. His humor derived from wit, not shock value or self indulgence.

Posted by: IVoIIIoVI on November 8, 2009 8:26 PM

Zdeno: :Young men in the early 20th century were simply not being effectively written to."

ITYM "21st century".

JV: "Tucker Max is ... cruel to the weak, for one, something the aforementioned Hemingway, Kerouac and Thompson would have abhorred."

Dunno about Hemingway and Kerouac, but in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Thompson (and his alter ego Dr. Gonzo) torment a hitchhiker, a teenage girl, and a coffee shop waitress, among others. Thompson's gonzo schtick is the direct ancestor of Max's.

aliasclio: I think you have hit it on the head. All the traditional masculine ideals have been systematically ridiculed and condemned over the last thirty years. The only thing left for a lot of men is rebellion against convention and propriety. The same forces that have attacked the authority of propriety now complain of male vulgarity and irresponsibility - but they have destroyed all the institutions that restrained it.

The effect is even worse in Britain; see the writings of Theodore Dalrymple.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on November 9, 2009 8:09 PM

I found this site on another forum and thought I would share it here. You have to see it to believe it. Its just wild!!!

Posted by: joubjerve on November 10, 2009 1:15 AM

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