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Hilarity Ensues by Tucker Max
Publisher: Blue Heeler Books
“I am led to the proposition that there
is no fiction or non-fiction as we
commonly understand the distinction;
there is only narrative.”
- E. L. Doctorow
This is but a more eloquently expressed version of the old saw, “everything is copy”. If only this guy’s adventures had mauled that maxim much the way his ‘narrative’ did my aesthetic sensibilities. Sex is so much a distracting part of his tale – a song sung over and over again – that I longed for an old 78 record which I could reduce to shards over my knee and get back to the business of mauling his manuscript. Yet I read through the entire book in martyred silence, hoping that ‘writing’, like sunshine, might dapple through the text, providing a respite or, better, a reason for the accompanying barrage of tripe, but to no avail. The author provides his own description in a post script, “With the publishing of this book, I’ve told all the great fratire style stories I have about drinking, partying, and f—ing.
“Fratire”, you may be wondering with hungry curiosity – or not – is a genre created by Tucker. It permits him to function through memory lane and re-romp with his Duke Law School buddies, their travels, proclivities and antics. In one interesting glimpse of autobiography, Tucker, commenting on ‘stories’ – which parade across the pages with the unrelenting clichéd, repetitive immaturity of a young girl’s diary entries – allows as how, “I recognize that the way I see the events in my life is not always precisely the way other people see them. Every story has three truths—my truth, your truth, and the real truth.” Upon reading this revelation, I envisioned a light bulb going on in a balloon over my head: Just about everything is a story. And our boy, my friends, can spin a saucy, albeit substance-less story.
Our trek is launched with the “Cancun Series” where we find our hero, not having attended any lectures in the first half of his 2L year, so engulfed in ennui as classes for the masses resume, that he snags a job with a travel agency that provides chaperons for college students sailing south for Spring Break. Tucker, salaried and supplied with room and board, dutifully keeps at least one bloodshot eye on his charges – a bunch of sheep that will drink any swill that is given them – while relentlessly going through the ‘Cancun Sampler’ box of sexual treats. An international box, so to speak, American sorority girls were included with the milk, dark and white confections. It was following one of his more prized conquests, that Tucker had his first ‘light bulb’ experience.
In the sharing, we get an intro that serves as glimpse two into ‘the Man’, “It was that night where it all clicked for me, where I actually understood what was going on and why. I went from being an above-average guy, to being, well … me. Tucker Max.” Far more riveting than his ‘awakening’ – to-get-anything-you-want-in-life-all-you-have-to-do-is-be-honest-fearless-and-have-fun – the intro was arresting. To use his own words again, “You ever do something as a kid that was so outside the realm of normal that your parents just stared at you, completely lost as to how to even react?” Reflecting on his self-evaluation, I recalled when I, too, learned ‘the Secret of Life’.
Came to me in a dream. “Lorane, we can’t do everything.” Would that Tucker had been just an occasional napper, some muse might have visited this wisdom upon him, hopefully sparking his acknowledgment of this axiom resulting in the skipping of this particular achievement. I believe by now you can handle the news that this masterpiece does not stand alone. Rather, it is but an apprentice-piece to the larger centerpiece which, seen as a family, has three siblings – “I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell”, “Assholes Finish First” and “Sloppy Seconds”. Fratires all, one birthed a screenplay. It seems during the filming, the author, present to preserve the integrity of his art, thought it a neat idea to insert his real phone number into the script, giving rise to a shocking deluge of calls and text messages in the thousands which our hapless revealer had not only to endure but render responses. What a guy. (Do we all cry on three now?)
Hardly. These morphed into “sexts” with which Tucker liberally seasons his already searing stories throughout the book. I shan’t burden you with the details lest we repeatedly run into the devil (that’s where he hangs, isn’t it? In the details?). I’m comfortable – and hope you’ll put your feet up and grab a snack – with moving on to a closer, more intense look at Tucker Max as doctor C. G. Jung might have (had the subject done some couch time and the analyst defied death.)
Much like his writings, Tucker is a mixed bag when it comes to labels and his psyche. Some features, however, I found not only salient but interesting – UNLIKE his stories. It seems safe as well as expedient, then, to be selective, including the obvious, saving the more intimate for another outing. Tucker presents as an introvert (reacts to rather than acting on the outside world), a basic psychological posture that gives rise to his apparent negativity, abrasiveness, seething retorts and hostile, sometimes destructive behavior. At the ready is his performance at a wine-tasting event hosted by a friend from law school for up and coming young professionals like her. In fact he likes her; he hates wine-tasting ‘types’. What to do. He tried to leave but she saw him and advanced gushing gratitude.
He felt “irritated as an unwiped asshole” because he was surrounded by “uppity, idiotic, pompous douchenozzles” going on about subjects they think make them sound ‘cool’ even though 1) they’re clueless about the topic and 2) truly dislike their audience. But their sincere and nervous hostess is naively pleased that her guests seem happy. They’re chatting it up, Tucker came (and he’s always amusing – AND smart) so all’s right in her deluded little world. On to the ‘tasteless’! The only way Tucker can survive in this “tsunami of suck” is by exposing the posers, ruining the ambiance – ‘puttin’ on the fits’. That evening he selected the loud, boorish ‘scarlet nape’ variety of daemonic destroyer.
At the first (Beaujolais) table, after failed, boisterous attempts at pronunciation, he concluded with, “Francois, tell Pierre he makes sum damn fine grape juice!” The next table was pouring a chardonnay and a cabernet. They asked his preference to which he proffered, “I ain’t sure, cause I like both colors of wine, red AND white.” Then, on to a great white. “I LIKE IT! Yew got a box’a thisin ik’an buy?”
In truth, he fears ‘performing’ but can always come through by reminding himself that he’s better than his audience. This “devaluation of the object”, as Jung says, is characteristic of his introversion and the hallmark of his relationships with people. This speaks not of malice. Rather, we’re dealing with a guy who functions out of and back into himself. He ‘visits’ words, people and things in a manner that precludes relationship, fellowship and ownership as others perceive these phenomena. His manner is pure ‘Max-manship’.
Typology also offers an auxiliary function. Tucker appears to have a ‘sensation’ type which usually centers on money. He was drawn to the rich and famous – in his way. The most notable ‘draw’ was also the most publicized. He’d had a prolonged, typically torrid relationship with the then Miss Vermont. He also had a website on which he opted to describe the relationship in damaging detail. Ooops. She hot-heeled it to a judge who was persuaded to rule in her favor, silencing Max’s site and story. Mind you Max typed nary an untruth and as the law flies, his ‘story’ does not rise to the bar as libel.
His long account of his relationship with the lady portrayed her as vapid, promiscuous and an unlikely candidate for membership in the Sobriety Society. The judge’s order, “forbids Mr. Max to write about. . . . has alarmed experts in First Amendment law, who say that such orders prohibiting future publication, prior restraints, are unknown in American law.” Moreover, suits proclaiming invasion of privacy don’t qualify for prior restraints. Big miss-step on the judge’s part; Miss Vermont wasn’t going to succeed at grinding her four inchers into Mr. Max.
Tucker showed the reader a thing or three about First Amendment law – to his credit. But as to a counter-suit, he hadn’t money or credit. Sensation types are generally good in their relationship with money. He has demonstrated his ability to eke out an existence – in Cancun, for one. His attendance at Duke was thanks to an academic scholarship. But he ‘hit the wall’ when he wanted to get back at his attacker. In the end, he borrowed seven grand from his Dad – in return for a promise to take the Bar and get a ‘real’ job as a lawyer. Intimidated by the attorney he retained, the matter was settled. Tucker’s Dad was repaid but he just couldn’t ‘do’ the lawyer ‘thing’, pursuing his illustrious career as an author instead.
Tucker’s dominant Archetype is that of the Mother – the nourishing function in particular. He was/is nourished by his success in his writing career. Of interest, however, he mentions – also in a post script – that he is finished with the fratire genre. Could he be moving on before the ‘genre’ begins to fail at nourishing him?
Mothers nourish children. Tucker’s ‘kids’ include his characters. He ‘inconspicuously’ trots them across the page he thinks without consequence. Best buddy “Hate” – a nickname spawned by his short stature, good nature and disillusionment when faced with the ‘not nicety’ in the real world, was a special project for Tucker and friends. They spent all of their free time figuring out ways to get the ‘Hate Volcano’ to erupt for amusement. The explosions were glorious in their magnitude and hilarity. In Tucker’s mind, they were successful. Tucker saw himself as a hero who was proud of Hate. Hate, apparently without any outward display, seems to have become confused, fearful. Ultimately, he married (a gal the old crowd didn’t care for) and moved across the country, having rare contact with his old ‘buddies’.
As to ‘real’ kids, Tucker was the only guy in the original crowd who didn’t even marry. One evening, during an outing with ‘Credit’, another pal who earned his nickname because he was Jewish, Tucker was toying with a ‘pickup hopeful’, discussing children. He off-handedly mentioned that he actually had a few kids. Credit, sotto voce, wryly commented, “… they’re just all in the dumpster behind Planned Parenthood.” One sees no evidence of his not liking/wanting children. It seems fair to say, then, that he loves them completely – in his way.
Given the unending parade of antics, gags, escapades/travels marching through this book, there must be some influence/force present of the Trickster Archetype. In the Trickster motif, Jung says, we find a “fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks.” The Trickster is the summation of inferior traits personally and collectively. True to form, Tucker is responsible for countless solo outbursts of erratic, disruptive behavior. He was also involved in similar outbursts with his pals.
A stellar example was described when the gang attended Golden Boy’s wedding. (Golden Boy’s a decent ‘hottie’) Tucker had invited Miss Vermont as his date, promising the groom-to-be good behavior across the ‘bored’. They all eventually sat down to dinner, with MissVermont passed out upstairs. Tucker’s table was at the back of the reception hall, quite obviously the ‘boisterous and embarrassing friends’ table.
Along with him and a vacant spot for MissVermont, there was “a motley crew of miscreants, drunks, and assholes: Golden Boy’s high school friend, “The Shepherd,” a 6’4” huge Irish Catholic guy who can drink like, well, an Irish Catholic. The Shepherd’s sister, PornStar, a hot redhead who had the eyes of a bad porn actress. A couple who were college friends of Golden Wife and already so drunk they were barely able to sit up.”
Strangely, Tucker was the only one of the law school group there. In no time at all, the gallons of vodka coursing through his veins combined with PornStar flirting to make him hit on all ‘Tucker-Max-Drunk’ cylinders. He had the table in tears laughing, telling them the standard stories, making fun of his passed-out date, etc. PornStar came to the wedding dateless, and at one point leaned towards him, and whispered something in his ear. Then, all of a sudden, he felt a tap on his shoulder. MissVermont.
“HOLY DRUNKEN WHORE BATMAN, IT’S MISS VERMONT!” She was putting on her best obsequious, ‘I’m sorry’ puppy dog eyes. It was not working.
Tucker: “What are you doing up? Are you OK?”
MissVermont: “Yeah. I’m sorry. I never drink.”
Tucker: “Well who could have guessed? I mean, people often pass out at wedding receptions … at 7pm.”
MissVermont: “Sorry. I felt better, and I wantered to come see you.”
Tucker: “You are either the smartest, most manipulative, most cunning woman I’ve ever met … or you’re an idiot!”
And there you have it. Tucker Max and company engaged in good behavior ‘across the board’ at the wedding of a good friend who had requested nothing more than that to memorialize his newly-blessed union. It certainly sounds like good, old-fashioned, ‘young-people’ wedding-attendance fun. Don’t know ‘bout y’all, but this would-be ‘scarlet-naper’ is sniffin’ the unmistakable ‘bouquette’ of a vintage bottle of “fondness for sly jokes and malicious pranks” decanted gently into a crystal ‘sevre’ containing ‘summation of inferior traits personally and collectively.’ True to form and function – garnished with ‘type’.
Mr. Max, I fear it is over ‘twixt you and me. Don’t even think of calling. It was not fun while it lasted and you can count on me not to be the reader lunging pathetically, seeking your autograph when your new book on ‘Advice’ is published. Nor, when I’m trying to impress a group of literati, will I drop the ‘Tucker Max Name’ so hard they will hear it in New Jersey. This because I’ve just surfaced from spending several days in an abattoir of ‘you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up’. Real life, tis true, never lets you down. It was a nightmare. Oh, and by the way, if your phone rings and one of your girlfriends answers, and the caller hangs up, don’t think it’s me, because it’s not.
Reviewer: Lorane Leavy
Born in 1945 Brooklyn, NY, I attended parochial elementary and high schools then vowed to see ‘beyond New York’. This trek landed me in Washington, DC and Georgetown University where I graduated with a BS in Nursing and an ‘MRS’ proposal which, after acceptance, led to some 44 years and counting of wedded adventure to Philip G. Leavy, Jr, MD. We have three children and six grands. Matriculating while gestating, I followed my original writing dream post partum and parenting – with a seven-year hitch as a litigation attorney. Family and ‘authoring’ remain my blessed Karma. Visit Lorane at her blog.