Tucker Max, Neil Strauss and the Evolution of Frat-Lit

I’ve read The Game by Neil Strauss. I’ve read some of Tucker Max’s short stories. I found both to be equally misogynist, funny, and entertaining – written as if only to show how deeply depraved men can be in the pursuit of sex. Both are objectively intelligent and charming guys who used their gifts for evil and made a boatload bragging about it.

Not surprisingly, both have grown up and written their own respective books about how they’ve matured into respectful relationship partners. I’ve read neither of their books, but Amber A’lee Frost does a great job reviewing both of them with a good measure of objectivity.

I particularly like her conclusion about what these books represent about our society – that if even men like these are evolving, perhaps men on the whole are, too.

It’s clear that Frost doesn’t want to like either of these men or their attempts at monetizing their personal growth. Yet, she finds redeeming value in both of them.

On Strauss’s new book she writes, “In no way would I defend The Truth as either a piece of journalism or a memoir. However, as he gradually approaches his appointed life lesson, Strauss develops as a person. He’s pleasantly vulnerable, as honest as a wallowing neurotic man can be, fairly bald in describing his own shortcomings, and—at times—even a bit endearing. There is nothing worth hating about Strauss. A bit sleazy? Yes. Mommy issues, sure, but nothing too far outside the realm of day-to-day gender anxieties. His foray into the world of pick-up artistry did not leave him a misogynist, or even particularly sexist—he’s mostly just anxious about women. In the end, he manages (spoiler alert!) to reunite with his ex-girlfriend, and not only does he seem to really love her, but he also shows genuine contrition and—yes—some emotional growth. To be frank, it was a little disappointingly well adjusted.”

On Max’s latest tome, she says, “The advice in Mate—despite its completely ridiculous premise that we’re all helplessly at the mercy of evolutionary psychology—isn’t just good, it’s shockingly good. Minus the tangents explaining how we’re all little more than idiot baboons subconsciously bent on the continuation of our idiot baboon lines, I would be perfectly comfortable distributing at least 95 percent of the material to young hetero men for their edification, mostly for the benefit of the women they would be pursuing.”

I particularly like her conclusion about what these books represent about our society – that if even men like these are evolving, perhaps men on the whole are, too.

It’s a completely different ballgame than 30 years ago – whether you want to admit it or not.

“The change in tone—in ideology, really—doesn’t mean that there’s no longer a robust market for manchild books. But it does mean that former self-advertised men on the prowl such as Strauss and Max now seem able to treat women as people, not as prey. This leads me to my theory on the great shift in bro books: maybe men are just getting better.

I can’t prove it, of course. Nor can I prove that these two famous authors are really indicative of a certain class of modern men. But I do think it’s entirely possible that they’re genuinely disgusted with their own brands. Strauss’s new book is ultimately a repudiation of his own selfishness and poor treatment of his girlfriend (now wife) and a testament to mutual romantic devotion; that’s quite a departure from his previous fuck-deride-discard body of work. For his part, Tucker Max seems to hate his fans, once referring to them in a New Yorker profile as “dudes who can’t spell ‘dude.’” Like Strauss, he got very deep into therapy and very consciously tried to reinvent himself. In the beginning of Mate, he is horrified to learn that young men have been using his humor books as guides to women. Strauss and Max are men who have not only moved on, but also partially renounced their ways; could it be that masculinity itself is adjusting to a more humane perspective on women?”

I’ll say so. Sure, you can find tons of evidence of selfish douches, irresponsible fuckwads, and narcissistic playboys. But now, more than ever, you will find men who listen to women, respect women, want intelligent women, and help out with housework and childrearing. It’s a completely different ballgame than 30 years ago – whether you want to admit it or not.

To read this interesting piece in full, click here. Your thoughts, below, are appreciated.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    GoWiththeFlow

    That was the most entertaining book review I’ve ever read.  Definitely worth the time.

    I was only topically away of Strauss and Max, and was never interested in reading the type of “dick lit” books they wrote.  Their evolution seems to be dramatic.  From pump and dump players to married with kids.  But I also thing it was predictable.  Just like the NYT article on the aging, lonely, marriage seeking bachelors of NYC. (I wasn’t surprised when it came out)  People grow up and grow into new challenges and societal roles; marriage and parenthood.

    A real big change in society has been a new semi-developmental young adult period where instead of marrying soon after high school or college graduation, people spend 10-15 years gaining education, job skills, and start becoming self sufficient and acquiring financial assets.  Of course Strauss and Max had a way more dramatic young adult period that most do, so the personal growth is that much notable.

  2. 2
    MilkyMae

    A frequent theme in chick-lit is “a hyper-masculine cad is seduced(or tamed) into a life as a sweet, devoted husband by a woman is search of true love”.  So dick-lit is the same as chick-lit without the unrequited love, horses and itchy loincloths.

  3. 3
    MikeTO

    This just proves women like assholes. Thanks?

    1. 3.1
      Emily, the original

      Mike TO,

      This just proves women like assholes. Thanks?

      Not assholes. Men who are their own person. Men with backbones.

    2. 3.2
      GoWiththeFlow

      Mike TO,

      Tucker Max and his wife were initially set up by a mutual friend.  She googled him and found out all about his unsavory pump and dump lifestyle and declined to go through with meeting him.  Tucker had to spend 6 months convincing her that he had turned over a new leaf (he under went years of therapy) before she would give him a chance.  If anything, it shows that an attractive, emotionally healthy, relationship minded woman will avoid assholes.

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