Of all of the websites on the Internet, probably the most caustic, vile, and excellent website is Maddox’s “Best Page in The Universe.” Attacking everything he can think of, from Christopher Reeve to abortion advocates to pro-life advocates to music companies, this former telemarketing- company programmer has built an entire fanbase on vitriol and sarcastic writing. His style, in many ways, resembles George Carlin’s, with an in-your-face, no-holds barred sort of style that doesn’t so much laugh as, well, kick ass.
So, it’s obvious that this sort of writing style might be good for a book. Enter The Alphabet of Manliness. Maddox took a long hiatus from his website to write both this book and a comic book on a similar note, taking an obvious opportunity to make some money off of his website acclaim–which loses him money, since he uses no advertisements.
The Alphabet of Manliness uses a format that feels both unusual and cliched at the same time. As you might have guessed at the title, the book moves like a child’s story book, starting each chapter with a letter of the alphabet–for example, A is for “Ass-Kicking”; B is for “Boners”; and so on. As you also might expect, this style makes the book feel extremely contrived at times–for example, using Chuck Norris for the “N” chapter feels less like a Maddox idea and more like a last-ditch effort at producing a subject that begins with the letter N–and that’s very unusual for a man whose work is synonymous with unrestricted content.
As a first book, The Alphabet of Manliness isn’t terrible, with good illustrations, decent writing, and a clear manliness about it. Maddox shows unusual amounts of self-deprecating humor, with a typical section on hot sauce saying that fish like hot sauce–because when Maddox fed a fish some, the fish “started doing tricks like swimming on its side”, which seems to suggest, you know, Maddox being a dumbass for once. There’s also a good deal of entertaining work in this book, with sections on lumberjacks, pirates (“It’s considered impolite to rape”, Maddox warns them) and works on “zombies”, namely the ones you see daily at the office, not the ones that eat peoples’ brains.
But Manliness still isn’t even close to being the best book in the universe. For one thing, there’s Maddox’s treatment of women. Maddox’s website was always described as “an outlet to express [Maddox’s] frustration.” So, on his website, I give Maddox a pass on his treatment of women and children, assuming that he probably has a little brother that gives him crap and what people would probably describe as “girl troubles,” thus making him want to vent.
I’d give his book the same pass if it actually felt like Maddox was venting. There’s no anger in this book. The frustration shown in works like “I Hate Cameron Diaz” is nonexistent, and the writing is almost lifeless. Chapters on obedience-training women and other such topics make Maddox come off less as an annoying nerd and more like an ignorant bigot in his freshman debut, and some of the chapters border on sexual perversion that wouldn’t be out of place on “Lowtax” Kyanka’s Something Awful, especially chapters on “Knockers”, “Copping a Feel”, and “Sneaking a Peek”.
The problem Maddox’s book suffers from is a complete lack of everything his site stood for. Too much of this book is about attacking women and children, and even more is devoted to sex. Sure, there’s plenty of farts, breasts, and cursing in this book. But for those of us looking for a more scathing satire of something besides Internet pornography, this book is an extreme disappointment. And, in the end, even a team of illustrators, publishers, and plenty of money isn’t enough to stop Maddox’s middle-age spread.