Thursday, 14 May 2009

Book Review: I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, by Tucker Max (2006)

Before saying anything else (and there is plenty to be said about this book), I will confirm that I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell is the funniest book that I have ever read, and I have read a lot of books. A good half-a-dozen times, I was laughing so hard that my stomach muscles were starting to hurt. Tucker Max has the gift of writing, and he is able to recreate his life's many misadventures with genuinely comic delivery and a deft touch for conveying the characters, events, mood, and language of the moment. For any adults looking for comic relief, this book will deliver.

Tucker Max is an Internet celebrity of sorts, and his main claim to fame is that he has decided to live his adult life (so far) as irresponsibly as possible. For Max, this means the regular consumption of large amounts of alcohol, in order to find the courage to be at the centre of attention and to have the excuse to say anything to anyone (the more rude the better), and to have sex with as many women as possible. He reminds us several times that he's into the triple digits in terms of the number of women that he has had sex with.

For those men who define success in terms of the amount of alcohol consumed and the number of sexual conquests, Tucker Max is the poster child. For women who crave sex with anyone remotely famous, he is irresistible. In summary, he is the role model of the worst that humanity can represent: dull your brain with alcohol, fornicate like animals, and celebrate the legend that is in your own mind.

Life has a way of providing plenty of hints that you are on the wrong path. For Max, the hints are bold and many: he is so drunk that he soils a hotel lobby with his excrement; he is so drunk that he dances with his mirror image in a bar without knowing what he is doing; he is so drunk that he wakes up in a park covered with his own vomit and with dog poop dried onto his hair; he is so drunk that he parks a car inside a donut shop; he has so many sexual partners that two women end up in his room at the same time, one with cervical cancer (Max wonders why; she is only 20), the other a whore who has just had a late-term abortion.

Are these stories funny? Yes. Is life trying to tell Max that perhaps he is on the wrong track? Yes. Can he take a hint? Yes -- see the book's title. Will he ever actually grow up? Time will tell.

Wasted lives like this do not happen by accident. I read the book looking for the origins of the disaster, and sure enough, there it was on page 104:

I recalled a childhood colored by parental instability, multiple divorces, remarriages (seven between my biological parents), step-parents, constant relocation, loneliness and emotional pain.

That's all Max gives us about his upbringing, and it's enough. Does anyone want to argue about the lasting damage caused to kids by selfish "parents"?

Then on page 152:

At 21, I was possibly the worst person in existence. I had no regard for the feelings of others, I was narcissistic and self-absorbed to the point of psychotic delusion, and I saw other people only as a means to my happiness and not as humans worthy of respect and consideration.

There are hints in the book that Max does recognize the direct line connecting the miserable non-parenting that he received with the disastrous adult that he developed into, that he does understand that his alcohol addiction is to drown the self-hate that is caused by feeling worthless, and that the sex addiction is a futile substitute for meaningful human interaction. Just hints, but not yet enough maturity to act upon them.

In the absence of the alcohol over-consumption and the endless meaningless sex, Max will need to unlearn hating himself and learn to confront the agony that was heaped upon him by his parents, and he will need to learn to connect with women in a meaningful way, something that he was clearly never exposed to as a child. These are extremely difficulty lessons to learn for an adult, but hopefully, Tucker Max will get there one day.

He does have a terrific gift of writing that is worth nurturing and developing, and the sooner he grows up, the better he is going to get at it. He will then discover that the true joys of life are not found at the bottom of the bottle, although many funny but ultimately empty stories do reside there.

319 pages plus Appendices.

Published in Paperback by Citadel Press.

Ace Black Blog Book Review No. 20.

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