12 July 2010

64. The Average American Male

The Average American Male - Chad Kultgen

I think that I usually enjoy the first novels written by authors more than anything they write later. Maybe that is because they have good ideas initially, put a lot into it to try and get it sold, and after that it has become a business rather than a passion. Just a guess, but the first novels do seem to be better.

This is not true for everyone, but most authors fit into two categories. There are authors who put a lot into a first book and then are never heard from again. There are also authors who reach some level of success with a novel and then use that "format" for years and years writing the same stories over and over with different characters in different places but the same basic story. Sure, then there are the guys and gals who can really write. I think Mr. Kultgen is one of those guys I will never hear from again, but this book was still different enough to make it worthwhile. If he tried to capitalize on this a second time it would never work the way it did in this book.

The author took all the stereotypical thoughts in today’s culture about what a male is supposed to be like and mixed them together. Take all the junk you see about men on Oprah, and movies, and sitcoms, and cartoons, and Dr. Phil...and create a character that really is what all these things say men are. What do you get? A self-centered guy who thinks about nothing but sex, video games, sex, movies, sex, music, sex, hanging out with friends, sex. That is what the protagonist in this book is like. This is a man who will do whatever his significant other wishes to dole out upon him in hopes of having sex once in a while. He wishes his girlfriend liked video games. He is so anti-long-term-relationship that it makes him physically ill. He is constantly evaluating every woman he sees.

The book is good because it takes the reader into this man's thought process. It was interesting to hear the thinking about what to say and what to do in order to reach the ultimate goals of the moment. It was fascinating, and at times it was disturbing to realize that I have had similar thoughts myself. Maybe that is why the author chose to never give this character a name. That way it could subconsciously be anyone, including the reader.

The internal conflict in the narrator when he is cornered into being engaged was quite funny. I totally identified with his reasons for breaking up with the girlfriend also. He wanted and ordered “plain scrambled eggs with nothing on them” in a restaurant with his fiancĂ©e and his future mother-in-law. They got on him about why he didn’t just order something from the menu. He realized that his life would be spent having that same argument and a bunch of similar battles that mean nothing unless you add them all together. Over the long haul he either relents and does not get what he wants or spends his life in a perpetual battle for his freedom to make even the most inconsequential decisions in his life. That internal struggle was very interesting to read and I was totally on the dude’s side with his decision.

I think this book was really fun, but it was not the greatest writing in the world. It seemed kind of juvenile at times. Maybe it was supposed to feel that way to solidify the stereotype? It was probably done on purpose. If that is the case then it was better than I am giving it credit for.

One other thing: Just about all books have “acknowledgements” where the author says thanks to all the folks who made things possible. This book had the best acknowledgements I have ever read and they are worth repeating…

“Mom, thanks for always encouraging me to write and be creative. I’m sorry the end result of that encouragement is something you will not want to read.
Dad, thanks for teaching me self-discipline and thanks for giving me a good education. I know this isn’t the same as playing pro-baseball, but it’s still pretty cool.
I love you guys and I hope this book doesn’t lose you any friends or anything.”

I thought that was funny. I also think he was being as honest as he could be…just like the rest of the book.


  1. This author had a second book come out last year and I think he has a third on the way, just to add some accuracy to the first part of your review.

  2. I did not mean that he would not continue to write. My comment was more about the quality of subsequent writing. This was one of those books that was a great idea and written well. Now, will that author keep running with a successful idea or is he good enough to move on and write something totally different?

    I could be wrong and he will write multiple great books. David Sedaris did. Chad Kultgen could. But to say Sedaris' way of story-telling and Kultgen's way of story-telling are equally marketable over multiple books is where I run into a problem.

    For Kultgen to continue to write he will have to persue another direction. I really don't see Average American Male II, III, IV hitting the shelves with any success.

    What I am saying is that for Mr. Kultgen to have staying power he will have to write differently. Since many authors get into a niche and stay there, I don't expect to hear from him again. That is unless he really is a great author and can leave Average American Male behind and write something different.

    I never said he would not continue to get published. He probably signed a contract saying he had to write more books in order to get the first one published anyway.