In 2000, Tucker Max put a "date application" online to settle a bet. He won the bet and bragging rights by sleeping with one of his date applicants — a woman he also encouraged to jump out of his bedroom window naked so his friends would not see how fat she was. After graduating from Duke Law School, Max and his buddies passed the tedium of their jobs by swapping emails about their drunken exploits. Max realized that being a lawyer sucks, while getting drunk and having absurd amounts of casual sex with amputees, midgets and strippers is awesome.
He quit his job and devoted himself to getting his stories published. In 2003, a lawsuit by a former Miss Vermont over a story Max wrote provided the mainstream publicity needed to publish his first collection of stories, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. This book became a number one bestseller and spawned a literary genre: fratire.
Max's work reads like bar stories stripped of any literary flourishes — humorous tales of hooking up, drinking to excess, and disregarding consequences. For many critics, Max is a literary Neanderthal. But, like so many rebel writers before him, he was the first person to tap into a market and an attitude younger readers craved. I caught up with Max during the launch of his final book of fratire, Hilarity Ensues, as well as the release of Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers, which is available for free online.
The catch-22 of being famous is that women actively want to have sex with you, but you also attract fame whores who want to have your children. Considering that you have a law degree, do you think it is possible to have a potential fuck buddy sign a legally binding document freeing you from any financial—
Nope. Nope. It’s not. No, no, no. That’s not the way it works, unfortunately. You cannot do that. You can sign it, but it is utterly, completely, unenforceable gibberish. The law surrounding children is very clear. Pretty much everything that could potentially favor the child does, and that is probably the way it should be. I’m not arguing with that. If a woman contracts to not get pregnant — first off that is super weird. If she signs a contract with her boyfriend to not get pregnant, that is preposterous. You would be laughed out of any court that you tried to enforce that in, because what is the remedy? Forced abortion? Are you kidding me? That is never going to happen. Hopefully that is never going to happen in America... I have thankfully never been in that situation. I want kids but I don’t want them with a random girl. I want them with a woman I am in love with and committed to or whatever.
Have you and Neil Strauss, (author of The Game), ever swapped sex stories?
We don’t really trade sex stories, dude. That stuff is all in our books. I’ve read his book. He read mine. We don’t need to rehash those stories. When Neil and I hang out, a lot of what we talk about is the publishing business because he is a really smart dude and he knows a lot about how the sausage is made, so to speak. Most authors don’t really pay attention to the business of publishing, but Neil and I both do, so that is usually what we talk about. It is kind of boring shoptalk. Not cool sex talk.
Hilarity Ensues is billed as the final book in your series of stories about drinking and hooking up. How close did you get to completing the long sexual to-do list in Assholes Finish First?
Uh, I wrote in Assholes Finish First that the list is complete.
Oh, I thought you were saying it was complete in the sense you would not add any more types of women or sex acts to the list. I didn’t realize you had done all of those things.
A lot of people make that mistake. It says in the book that I’ve closed the list because it was just getting to be ridiculous. There is so much shit on there. It’s like, of course I could always pick up new things. But, you know, at some point it becomes a little foolish. I had more than enough on there and I had a good time, and it was kind of time to move on.
You receive a lot of criticism for being sexist and misogynistic. However, the book, A Billion Wicked Thoughts, systematically compared romance novels and porn, and found that romance novels also depict demeaning sex—
I actually have that book.
So why do you think romance novels are never considered sexist or misogynistic? Why doesn’t anyone ever criticize Twilight for promoting an unrealistic and potentially harmful image of love and romance to young girls?
Dude, that is a great, great question, and that is a question that should be asked of every single person who criticizes me. The answer is that the narrative behind romance novels is not that these books are evil or whatever, but that they are romantic... The facts are exactly what you just said. But, the media does not care about facts. The media never cares about the facts. The media cares about what the narrative is, and can we sell this narrative to people who will buy it. It is that simple.
For me, the most impressive thing about your story is how you walked away from a job as a lawyer to devote yourself to becoming a writer without any formal writing experience — how you built up credit card debt as a struggling writer, wrote offensive stories under your real name, and kept writing after you received thousands of rejection letters. However, out of all the things you boast about in Assholes Finish First, you still seem to be embarrassed about this period in your life when you were a struggling writer in Chicago. Will we ever see a story where you call out jealous writers or under-selling authors who think you just got lucky?
I mean, dude, someone can get lucky once, but you can’t get lucky the number of times that I have for as long as I have. Here is the thing, man. I don’t need to call those people out because I have already won. I have multiple number one bestsellers. I have sold millions of books. The New York Times said I invented a literary genre. I won. That is like someone criticizing Dirk Nowitzki for his play this season. The mother-fucker has a ring... Haters are always going to hate. You can’t let that shit bother you. Everyone who wants to hate on me has to do it from the outside looking in on someone who is hugely successful and who won at the game he was playing.
In 2003 you were sued by a former Miss Vermont for writing about her (the story of which is detailed in Hilarity Ensues). That was when the media first noticed you. How important is being sued or having your book banned in terms of publicity?
Huge. Huge. For me it was huge. What happened was The New York Times and the AP Wire picked that story up and it got blown the fuck up. That was huge.
So being sued for a struggling writer is almost like having a sex tape for a reality star?
Yeah, it was. It was the best thing that ever happened to me in terms of promoting my stuff and my writing.
Byrd Leavell ended up being your literary agent, but after the notoriety from the Miss Vermont incident, were you ever approached by literary agencies that initially rejected you? Did you ever respond by sending back their rejection letters?
Uh, no. I mean, no one really rejected me as an agent. There might have been one or two but whatever. It was more publishers that rejected me. You know, the funny thing is, man, revenge can motivate you for a while, but it doesn’t sustain you. It is one of those things that, normally by the time you succeed you have forgotten about all of that stuff... I can’t even remember who those people are right now, man. It doesn’t matter. They don’t mean shit.
In Assholes Finish First, the narrator’s voice begins to shift at the end of 'The TuckerFest Story,' when you have a moment of introspection about the nature of fame. From that point on, the narrator becomes a little less reckless and a little less narcissistic. The irony is, at that moment in the book, you are starting to become famous, and you have more of a reason to brag than ever before as well as more of a free pass to act like a maniac.
That is actually a good observation. Yeah. You’re right.
So why do you think you eased up on the throttle right as you started to get famous?
I didn’t ease up on the throttle. That’s not what it is about. It wasn’t a conscious thing... Now that I have four books out, you can read all four of them, and you can kind of see the whole swath. The second half of Assholes Finish First should have been, I don’t want to say its own book, but its own sort of thing... I think I might still be too close to that period in my life to objectively analyze what was going on and why. But you’re right. There was a tone there that was a little bit darker, a little bit angrier, and a little bit less joyous and happy… I think that when I wrote that section there was just a lot of the negative aspects of fame that were catching up to me that I didn’t like and I guess you can kind of feel that come through in my writing.
At The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, where you currently live, the comedic trio, Master Pancake Theater, makes fun of films for the amusement of audiences. As the co-writer and one of the producers of the film version of your first book, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, what would you do if the group asked you to attend a screening of your movie as the celebrity guest? Would you bring your bullhorn and talk over them?
Um, I don’t know dude. I got to cross that bridge when I come to it. I am proud of a lot of things in that movie, but it is not like that movie is flawless. It can be mocked. Every movie can be mocked. Even The Godfather, which is universally considered one of the best movies ever, can be mocked. I’m not above being mocked. That doesn’t bother me.
In Assholes Finish First, you describe the principles of sexual selection and the idea that women are drawn to intelligence and creativity—
I go over it briefly. I don’t get into the details.
I guess the abbreviated version is that, landing pussy is your primary creative force, your creative drive—
Yeah. Indirectly. I don’t wake up and think, 'Alright, I need some pussy so I’m going to write a story.' That’s not how it works. It is not a direct thing. The impulse to be prominent, or to do anything productive, or achieve anything, it all boils down to getting women to like us so they will sleep with us. Why do I care so much about writing and about doing a good job and becoming famous or whatever? Yeah, of course I care about the writing, and the art, and I like it when someone reads my stuff and really likes it. All that stuff matters. If that stuff didn’t matter, then I wouldn’t be a good writer. It's a paradox. If you think about pussy constantly, you will never be a good writer. But, if you want to get pussy, you have to think about writing.
Where I was going with that is that Hilarity Ensues ends with a story titled, 'Tucker’s Bachelor Party and Wedding,' and the epilogue is titled, 'The Retirement,' which I assume means you got married and you’re—
You didn’t take five minutes to look at that?
I haven’t received a review copy yet. I just looked at the table of contents online to get an idea of what is in it.
Oh, okay. I got you. No. I put that in there sort of as a misdirection. No, I don’t get married. I don’t even have a girlfriend. I’ve never had a bachelor party. What I say at the end is that these things haven’t happened. In my mind a few years ago I was going to end a book with my bachelor party where it would sort of be the culmination. But, it actually makes sense that I wouldn’t be married at the end of this, that I would end it like this and I would go on to a separate phase of my life.
The retirement is a retirement from fratire. I’m not going to write any more stories about all the drunk, crazy things I did in my twenties because I am not in my twenties and I do not do that shit anymore, you know. I mean, I still drink. I still hook up with girls, but I am not a crazy, reckless, unguided missile the way I was when I was 25. That is basically all it says. I’m going to keep doing all the things I love doing, but writing these stories isn’t going to be part of it because I don’t have any good stories left dude. Every good story I have is in one of those four book.
In a way it is kind of like the anti-chick lit ending, because chick lit always ends with a marriage or a couple getting together. Basically every romantic comedy, even in Shakespeare's time, ends with the protagonist getting married.
Right. Yeah, that is a good observation. It is the anti-chick lit in every way. That is sort of what fratire is. When Warren St. John wrote that article in The New York Times defining fratire, he said it was a response to chick lit.
Right, though I prefer your name for fratire: Dick Lit.
I agree. Dick Lit is better, but, we don’t always get what we want in life.
So I guess my last question is, what is next?
I don’t know, dude. I’m not going to stop writing no doubt, but what will I write, I don’t know. I can tell you there are two things I am fairly confident I am going to be doing. One is I’m going to do an advice book. I get so many emails from dudes who say, 'I need help with this.' They are always stupid, stupid questions that seem so fundamental at 30, but they are not fundamental at 20. I was an idiot at 20. I was a moron, and I get all these moron questions, and there is nothing out there that really addresses them in an honest, accurate, non-preachy way. I am especially equipped to write that book because I am coming out of that period and I have all the street credit in the world, and I’m not going to try to moralize or bullshit kids. I’m going to tell them the truth.
The other big project kind of fell into my lap. I got a call two weeks ago from the agent of one of the biggest, A-list movie stars in the world. He was like, 'Look. My client is a huge fan of yours. He’s doing an autobiography. Would you be interested in co-writing it with him.' I was like, 'Awesome. Yes.' Immediately I was in. It hasn’t been announced yet, and I can’t tell you on the record because they want to announce it in their own way. You’ll see it in the news and it will be in all of the celebrity blogs because this dude is big. I’m like kind of famous. This dude is A-list, huge, famous. As soon as you see it, you will be like, 'Yes. That totally makes sense.'
Read more by Tucker Max and check out his new books, Hilarity Ensues and Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers at TuckerMax.com.