Kevin Leu’s book has made Hyphen Books Section history in having been started and rejected by over four reviewers. Staff writer Noah Cho backed out by saying in an email that “[f]or something that purports to be outrageous and satirical, it's actually kind of boring and, honestly, puerile (and not in a fun way).” So here I am, stuck with reviewing Berating Others on Your Way to a Lifetime of Happiness; That, and Dating around the World because I happen to be the editor who prematurely promised Mr. Leu a book review.
For the most part, Berating is a how-to-get-laid book directed towards heterosexual men, although it contains bits of advice for hetero females as well. Mr. Leu, who has worked as a TV journalist, decided to consider himself a kind of expert on women and started the popular blog Silicon Valley Bachelor which provided Berating with much of its material. The book consists of randomly ordered sections of about 3-8 pages that read like blog entries. Sections include lists (ex., “Top 11 Party Destinations/Cities in the Word”), made-up interviews (one with Salma Hayek titled “Secrets of 'Banging a Girl' on the First Date”), personal anecdotes (like when the author had to say ‘no’ to a “sure thing” because the person propositioning him happened to be a guy), and various musings over topics from the decline of Facebook to when it’s acceptable to fart around your new partner. The book also contains the more predictable, staple topics about dating like how to tell if he likes you and how to get over a breakup.
So here’s my bottom-line assessment: speaking as a feminist woman in her 30s on the verge of spinsterhood, I actually found the book to be pretty friggin’ hilarious. I’m serious. Either Noah and the other writers are much classier, evolved beings or they just don’t have my sense of humor (which you may now find in serious question). I actually cracked up, even guffawed at times while reading the book. I also learned quite a lot, especially about the shallow reaches of the douchebag psyche and how to outmaneuver douchey moves.
The following pearls of wisdom are only a few of the highlights in Mr. Leu’s book:
When it comes down to it, new ass is just a thrill that can’t be replaced with same ass.
[S]ome of those 50% marriages that don’t work out, is not because of incompatibility, but because a time came in one of the partner’s lives when they found out that they could (or did through infidelity) do better than their current spouse (looks-wise).
[U]s guys believe in something called “ROI” – which in the business world is called “Return on Investment.” We may not like a girl we go out on a date with, but the more we invest (cost associated in the date), the more we figure we should get something out of it.
[On what drinks to make to get a girl to shag you:] Remember, you have to think of drinks that are high in alcohol content, but difficult to detect. Wait for it. Wait for it. Chocolate Martini (vodka, crème de cacao).
[On fishing for women at karaoke clubs:] [T]hese places require people to dance or sing in front of people, which take the majority of the population out of their comfort zone. These are risks for people. People who take risks drink more, and people who drink more make bad decisions. YOU could be that bad decision.
While the hypersexualized, smooth player persona in the book indirectly defies stereotypes of Asian men as too nerdy to get laid, you also have to question whether this book provides a suitable alternative direction we’d like Asian males to take. Not that he’s trying to be, but the speaker in the book is certainly no ideal role model (at least for men who want to be upstanding, husband-material kind of guys).
For starters, the book is extremely sexist, promoting tired double standards by sharing tips with men on how to get sex on the easy on the one hand, but advising women to hold off on sex on the other. It’s also as if the book can’t really decide on what it wants to be -- a training manual for aspiring lotharios, or morale-building empowerment advice for women (as shown by sections like “Why Upper Echelon Men, Like Myself, Choose Independent, Picky Women”). Even the schmaltzchy, saccharine conclusion on love doesn’t really redeem the preceding trashiness, and in fact, comes off as being rather disingenuous.
Even if the book would purport to be satire or mere humor, it still poses dangers in the hands of genuine assholes and/or criminals. We’re talking tips on how to take advantage of drunk girls and date rape material here. Don’t even get me started on how parts of the book could be read as a trivialization of today’s rampant rape culture, which I’ll irresponsibly leave aside, at least for now. And while it may be stating the obvious, the book subscribes to the annoying, just-won’t-go-away stereotypical dichotomy of women as being either virgins or whores. Just as men are portrayed as mere sex-obsessed troglodytes, so are women categorized by Leu as quality or non-quality prey, depending on how long it takes to bang them.
Still, you have to credit the author for carrying off such a big project and successfully self-publishing his book. After all, one would have to be quite resourceful and persistent to not only write, publish and market one’s own book without the aid of more a experienced agent and publisher, but also to create a large following (even a guy friend of mine allergic to reading has gotten hold of the book). And although you really want to hate and slap the yellow out of Mr. Leu, you also can’t help but be somewhat impressed. Despite myself, I found his wit to be clever and well-timed, and have become quite envious of his well-traveled worldliness (if that’s what you can call knowing what race of women are the best in bed. I’m not telling -- read the book). But don’t get me wrong, I still would never date this bastard nor let any of my girlfriends date him even if the survival of the human species depended on it.
From an editing perspective, the book could benefit from better organization, copy-editing (found a couple typos and bad grammar in there), and a shorter title. But what the book should not at all change is its bangin’ cover. It features a photo of the hot author taking a kissy-faced selfie while sporting a back-turned red cap and an armband tattoo, and wearing nothing else (you’ll get the references later as you read the book). His waxed, bare chest rivals that of the sculpture I saw once at the Louvre of Adonis’ naked torso. Yes, indeed, Mr. Leu’s bare chest is that which lyric poems and nasty rap songs are made of. So yeah -- definite bonus points for the cover.
So all in all, despite the despicable, shallow, way-below-the-belt advice, I am, in the end, shockingly not-really offended. I forgive Mr. Leu because the book’s outrageous humor, which made me suspend my feminist principles, rescued the book from the outright suckiness that is bad self-help reading on sex and dating. I guess, in the same way that great stand-up comedians have done it, Mr. Leu demonstrates that if you’re gonna make people hate on you and your racist, sexist, age-ist, fat-ist jokes, at least go balls-to-the-wall and make your observations damn funny. And yes, I’m afraid, ladies and gentlemen, that this book manages to do just that. Maybe not for Noah (who now emerges in my mind as an upstanding, husband-material kind of guy that I should set up with my bestie), but at least for someone as base as I.