I’m writing from a position of some prejudice, since Maddox has a site that has some similarities to Ruthless but is about 100 times more popular. That doesn’t bother me, though. I like his site. So while I am jealous of his success, that is not why I say that this book is ultimately disappointing — an ankle-breaking crossover leading to to a sagging finger roll destined for rejection. This is more an alphabet of being a 17-year-old boy than an alphabet of manliness. I found it to be very funny, partially because I maintain a 17-year-old’s sense of humor. I’ll say up front that in terms of actual laughter, this is an elite of the “humor” section of the book store, and I recommend it strongly. The account of manliness, however, is just plain weak and holds this book back from greatness. Of course, I will focus on these shortcomings.
“B is for …” I forget, but it isn’t for booze, the best chest hair fertilizer of all. Yes, the book contains a few mentions of exotic people such as pirates drinking, as though guzzling down rum were in the same ball park as killing a man with your peg, but that is hardly sufficient. Liquor is a key component of cartoonish, swashbuckling masculinity. Drinking someone under the table and drawing labia and pussy hair around his mouth is no less noble a victory than kicking his ass with your fists. And discovering that The Terminator malfunctions after four shots would be no less an indictment of his mecha-manhood than discovering a she-male folder on his internal hard drive. The minimal hooch talk is part of a faint odor of lapsed Mormonism that permeates the book. There are ridicule-free mentions of church attendance, as though this were a normal part of life for the hairy-knuckled berserker. Maddox is also from Utah and brings up things like Adam and Eve. Each thing is innocuous in itself, but I got kind of an overall feeling that it was tolerable for a uber-duper-mensch to believe in religion, which is completely for pussies. “Will I get to see my dog and grandma again in heaven?”=pussy.
“B”is for …” I still can’t remember, but it isn’t bitches, either. The book has a boyish attitude about sex and women. Again, I have to mention that the this is a funny book, and particularly so when it is being misogynistic. However, there’s far too much stuff about sneaking a peak or copping a feel. My sexual history is not Wiltesque, or probably even the-guy-who-played-Boner-on-“Growing Pains”-esque, but the days when I could derive a massive thrill from having the back of my hand graze a woman’s hip are long gone, and I think that that happens for most guys fairly early in life. I hear it’s big in Japan, though. Ditto sneaking a peek. Do I check out women all day long? Of course. Do I feel as though I’ve achieved some grand transgression? Not unless I happen to be sitting with infinite patience at a red light in front of a middle school. Sneaking a peek is a trivial feat unless you’ve sneaked it not only past your target but past everyone around you, because they would probably form a lynch mob if they saw what you were ogling. What about convincing a girl to do anal or let you have a threesome? How about cajoling her into an abortion? These are subjects of manliness. The shyest of LARPers knows how to glance at passing booty with minimal chance of being caught and persecuted with dirty looks. Nobody needs instructions.
Also, video games are mentioned too much. I used to like video games, before I stumbled into poker, and I realize that many men enjoy them. But once every mention of escaping the female for some recreation involves a game console, we’ve fallen into the realm of nerddom. What about watching sports, or TV and movies that disinterest women by being good? Maybe you want to get some take out without having to share it with her or read a book without her interrupting by proclaiming, “I’m bored!” Maybe you just want to go out for drinks with your boys. But if half your leisure time is invested in any activity including the word “craft,” you are not very manly.
Part of the appeal of the book is that Maddox’s truculence has an underpinning of self-deprecation, and that allows it to be funny. If Maddox really thought that he were a modern-day pirate, he would be a moron. Nobody wants to read some anonymous schmuck thump his chest about how he could beat up Floyd Mayweather and sleeps with any woman he chooses. Instead, Maddox weaves in jokes about being an office drone who picks on children to make himself feel big and packs “three inches of dynamite.” But the fact that the book has a tongue-in-cheek approach shouldn’t have prevented it from delving into manlier territory.