Tucker Max can hope all he wants, but when it comes to eternal damnation he doesn’t exactly have a choice. Unless of course one can think of another punishment for a man whose more tame offenses include hiding the crutches of a distracted cripple and crashing a car into a donut shop.
“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” published by Kensington Press, is 277 pages of non-stop drinking, debauchery and fornication. It’s a collection of stories that track a man from law school to a life of complete indulgence. With blunt honesty the author recounts the true exploits that garnered him women, cult infamy and a six-figure income. This anthology captivates the reader with its humor and complete absurdity.
There’s “The Austin Road Trip,” a quaint weekend adventure that left a hotel lobby covered in faeces and the Texas carnival industry in ruins. In “The Pee Blame” Tucker wets his own bed and somehow manages to get a complete stranger to pay for it. In the “Infamous Charity Auction Debacle” his drunken belligerence leads a respected law firm to offer him a golden parachute so they can be rid of him. When “Tucker Goes to Vegas” he takes ridiculousness to new heights as he impersonates a Christian rapper and goes without sleep and sobriety for 72 hours. And in “The Midland, Texas Story,” an intended vacation from his daily madness, he manages to somehow involve himself with a shovel-wielding, dog-chasing redneck and a mass grave filled with goats.
The ironic part of Max’s book is that he might not be the funniest one in it. His college buddies (think the Jackass crew with Ivy League brains) provide a foil for his insanity.
The standouts are Slingblade, a man whose pickup lines include gems like “fellatio won’t fill the hole in your soul” and “I go to the gym, you should try it sometime.” Who no doubt does Ignatius Reilly (Confederacy of Dunces) proud every time he opens his mouth. And “El Bingeroso,” a law school buddy who spent his elementary school days in Special Ed (his diagnosis was based on his propensity for eating paste), out-drinks Tucker at a 3:1 ratio. He livens up stories by drunkenly threatening redneck policemen and kicking trucks.
The characters are hilarious in and of themselves, but it’s the interplay between them that puts it over the top. The tone is conversational and honest, allowing it to remind any reader of things they’ve done with friends. It is in this that Tucker’s talent and the strong point of the book clearly lies; capturing the essence of comedic dialogue. He can carry a room, but so can plenty of others. His unique and valuable skill is the ability to recognize it in other people, and to have the balls to run with it. His narcissism permeates his entire existence, but in this case, he allows humor to prosper in any character, even when it outshines himself.
There are plenty of problems in this book, don’t get me wrong. And like the author himself, the book is not without its flaws. Max’s cleverness is at times sacrificed for boyish immaturity, as in “she was super-hot,” and talking in the third person.
It is not without merit to label him misogynistic, but I think it may be misguided. He sleeps with a lot of women but he’s not a player using deception to stroke his ego. Instead, he’s brutally honest and straightforward with what he wants. Coincidentally, it’s the bona fide womanizer himself – the one whose actions teeter on the edge of domestic violence – that ultimately tells women what they need to hear.
“Ladies let me give you some advice: Men will treat you the way you let them. There is no such thing as “deserving” respect; you get what you demand from people,” Tucker Max said.
His drinking is excessive, even amongst hard-hitters. But there is no reason for that to entirely diminish his credibility. I’m sure he’s the first one to admit that he has a problem, so let him deal with it on his own time. Substance abuse hasn’t stopped us from appreciating some of the greatest writers in history so why should it start now?
At times too, his stories cross the line. “The Worst Tucker Story Ever” is aptly titled, as it’s one of the worst stories I’ve ever read. Finding humor or even laughing at the absurdity of an abortion is difficult to say the least. It comes with a disclaimer but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. No doubt a book like this carries the innate risk of offending people, but even the relatively open-minded will utter a gasp or two through the course of reading it.
The critics can pan the immorality of this book until they are blue in the face (and believe me they will) but ultimately, his own logic clears him. In putting himself completely out there – depravity and all – he’s living proof to the success of his own model. I’m sure that at this point, you’ve concluded Tucker Max is an asshole of epic proportions. Rightfully so, but don’t let that cloud your judgment, or block you from appreciating the message of his book. Thinking that it is solely about alcohol and sex is to think that “Fight Club” is about punching people in the face.
Like most great works, the message is hidden and conveyed through entertainment and flash. Beneath deviance and sexual conquest, this book has deeper meaning within it. In each story Max bombards the reader with a single question: “If I can get away with all this shit, what do you have to be afraid of?”
Here we have a man who blatantly contradicts nearly every rule in the book, yet we continue to cling to our social constrictions. In caring wholly about himself, Max accomplished that which we all desire: success without sacrificing integrity and respect whilst ignoring the status quo.
You don’t even have to drink to understand the beauty of this message. Nor is it a requirement to sleep with everything that walks. In fact, that’s the opposite of what he advocates. You can love the antics, but you aren’t supposed to emulate them.
“All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do,” Emerson once wrote.
Greatness isn’t reserved for a select few and neither is honesty. Emerson presented a message of existential equality in which anyone, with the guts for it, can do themselves proud. So too, does Tucker Max, only beneath a tapestry of drunken bitterness and a lack of shame… The vastness of his kingdom may not venture far from a barstool and a mattress, but that doesn’t mean yours has to. The success of our greatest heroes didn’t come from playing the game or following in footsteps, it came from confidence and being true to themselves. Anyone can do what he does, that is strive to be the best possible version of yourself.
When Machiavelli wrote (with but a twinge of political correctness) that “because Fortune is a woman, it is necessary, in order to keep her down, to beat her and struggle with her” he wasn’t advocating an existence of timid complacency and reaction. Rather, like Max, he urged one to grab life by the throat and shake it for everything its worth.
Build your own life – because you can never match theirs – but build it as you please. What you lack in notoriety or fame, make up tenfold with passion. It doesn’t matter what you do, and Max stretches that maxim to its very limits, as long as you do it well.
You can miss this point entirely and still enjoy the book; there is plenty of entertainment here for the never-sober frat boy looking to relive his glory days. But there is no reason to stop there. Much can be learned from a man who achieved success and fame through channels almost entirely self-created. Forget all the self-help books because there is nothing more empowering than the refusal to subdue your personality for the sake of others. And that is what this book emphatically supports, a selfish belief in your own abilities and the tenacity required to fully utilize them.
“I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell” is in the purest sense a guilty pleasure read and it consists of every thing a decent human being ought to avoid. Even so, a valuable lesson rests between the lines: not only should you do what makes you happy, but if you do it well enough, someone might pay you for it.