Fitfully amusing, ultimately annoying account of schmoozing and drinking on the liquor industry’s dime.
As Dunn never tires of proclaiming, he has a job many men would envy: “I get paid to crisscross the globe covering the adult beverage beat” for Playboy. His book blends memoir elements concerning his hardscrabble upbringing with magazine-style lists and primers (e.g. “Hangovers and How to Beat Them”) and, cleverly, 16 original cocktail recipes provided by esteemed professionals like Dale DeGroff. Dunn is at his most engaging when he’s humorously self-deprecating—readers may sense angst and self-doubt beneath his lucky-dog façade—or revealing cynical truths about the hedonism industry. “We booze journalists like to tell ourselves that we’re arbiters of some kind of high-minded gourmet sensibility,” he writes. “But the truth is the only reason we write about the good stuff is because rich people like to get fucked up on the good stuff, and they need someone to tell them about it.” Unfortunately, Dunn is not the sharpest writer, and he seems too preoccupied with his Playboy lifestyle to care—why craft prose that’s engaging or effective when you can brag about boorish behavior in Vegas and friendships with adult actresses and Tommy Lee? This results in a structurally incoherent, rambling narrative peppered with cardboard characters, constant asides that pierce the fourth wall and random repetition (an extended anecdote about having anal sex with an emotionally damaged woman by a Dumpster doesn’t really improve via emphasis). The book is replete with the misogyny of baffled adolescents (the women here are either unattainable nostalgic dreams or pornographic tramps) and downright hypocrisy (he mocks live-music venues and serious cocktail bars as pretentious, which clearly doesn’t apply to his industry pals who provided the drink recipes). By the time he gets around to bragging about his friendship with the late Hunter Thompson, readers will wonder why the author hasn’t developed the slightest insight into what made Thompson’s nonfiction special. Regardless, men who actually still read Playboy and Tucker Max fans may find this vicariously exciting.
Like a bender—starts out promisingly, becomes increasingly regrettable.