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Sure you can choose not to have an opinion on phenomenon like the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, and reality television, but if you don’t understand what they represent, one risks not understanding the culture at large—and, more specifically in the case of Tucker Max, a portent of fundamental shifts in book culture.
It’s important to know his works have sold millions of copies, most notably I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, which appeared annually on the New York Times Best Seller List between 20.
Evidently he now has a strong enough track record that he’s returned to self-publishing.
From Hilarity Ensues: “I worked in Cancun, Mexico for six full weeks during my second year at Duke Law School.” Or, from his debut, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell: “I used to think that Red Bull was the most destructive invention of the past 50 years. Red Bull’s title has been usurped by the portable alcohol breathalyzer.” What follows is a story about Max’s efforts to achieve a blood alcohol content level of .20. The fictional analog that comes to mind is Patrick Bateman, the investment banking serial killer in Brett Easton Ellis’s American Psycho.
Or, if you focus on the genre-fiction elements, a character less akin to John Belushi in the frat comedy classic Animal House than to the real life John Belushi.
Often drawing from projects incubated on the internet, the genre has regularly placed titles on old fashioned best seller lists since the middle aughts. In my imagination, most of these books are sold at college bookstores or in airports, where I first noticed him on the shelves.
(Note: You are excused for not knowing what fratire is unless you are in the publishing industry or have attended an American college in the 21st century, in which case you had better.) Max has said that Hilarity Ensues is his final contribution to the sub-genre, and has been selling his shift in sensibility pretty damn hard.
In any event, Max’s summary thoughts may mark the end of not just his latest book but his reign over the entire literary school known as “fratire” and the success it has brought him.
A designation of recent vintage, fratire is a strain of virulently misogynist, politically incorrect, supposed non-fiction books, usually written in the first person.
* Imagine, for a moment, a sewer in which small and glittering jewels of insight are hidden.
I entered Max’s world of fratire with such visions. Dismissal is a convenient way not to contend with his popularity, but doing so risks ignoring a cultural touchstone.
By this measure, Tucker Max’s third book, Hilarity Ensues, is a great read.