by Michael Gill
There’s a category of books that get sent to all the alternative newspapers in the country because the publishers of said books believe that we’re all total suckers for whatever wacky outrageousness they can print. Books that have come across the Scene arts desk recently include a slew in this category, from The Book of Beer Pong (Ben Applebaum and Dan Disorbo, Chronicle Books, 2009) to a children’s board book style gag gift called Penis Pokey Activity Book (Christopher Behrens, Quirk Books, 2009) which featured a die cut hole in the middle of each page—big enough, the designer presumes, for Roger Thomas to poke through. The picture book provides the context; and the ‘reader’ provides what’s missing, be it a banana, a sea serpent, or a bratwurst.
Margaret McGuire’s The Quotable Douchebag—a compendium of “spectacularly stupid remarks,” with 144 pages of large print quotations—teeters on the edge of this literary genre. It’s great sport to marvel at the ludicrous things people sometimes say, and in many of the cases here the words spoken do represent very high level douchebaggery which earns the speaker the title.
For example, talk show host Bill O’Reilly: “I’ve been in combat. I’ve seen it, I’ve been close to it. And if I’m—my unit is in danger, and I got a captured guy, and the guy knows where the enemy is, and I’m looking him in the eye, the guy better tell me . . . If it’s life or death, he’s going first.”
But of course Bill O’Reilly never actually even served in the military, and certainly was no combat veteran. Liar. Douchebag.
Then you’ve got his colleague Sean Hannity, leading public discussion down the toilet in his own special way: “I’ll tell you who should be tortured and killed at Guantanamo: every filthy democrat in the U.S. Congress.”
Party hack. Douchebag.
There are also elected officials like Dan Quayle, who’s quoted as saying, “The holocaust was an obscene period in our nation’s history. I mean in this century’s history. But we all lived in this century. I didn’t live in this century.”
Sprinkled among the quotations from people who earned the “douchebag” title by the relentless piling on of similar verbal garbage throughout their public careers are a few people who have said some stupid, egotistical things but who surely don’t deserve inclusion in a collection like this.
Sure, the novelist Milan Kundera said “I find myself fascinating,” and that betrays quite an ego. But hundreds of thousands of other people no doubt find him fascinating, too. He’s written 11 novels, including The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
Douchebag? I think not. Certainly not to be placed alongside Don “That’s some nappy headed hos there” Imus, which The Quotable Douchebag does.
The Quotable Douchebag is at least funny, even if it’s not the ultimate authority on who qualifies. Whether we agree with all the choices or not, McGuire gets props both for documenting some of the well worn examples of douchebaggery (Leona Helmsley ‘s “Only the little people pay taxes”) to revealing fragments that slipped by without much notice, like Justin Timberlake’s response when Rolling Stone asked what was the best thing he’d read all year.
“What,” Timberlake responded, “you mean like a book?”