The Emptiness of Modern Manhood: A Review of A Dead Bat in Paraguay by Roosh Vörek

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by Ferdinand Bardamu on September 25, 2009

If I had a loonie for every cubicle jockey I’ve known who’s huffed and puffed about quitting their office slave job and going on an trip abroad, I’d have enough money to do it myself. Roosh Vörek is one of the few men who had the brains and balls to follow through. After ditching his career as an industrial microbiologist and finishing his first book, Bang, Roosh took a trip through South America that lasted six months and took him to eight countries. Now, he has transcribed the events of his trip into a travel memoir. Don’t be dissuaded by his cliché-laden description of A Dead Bat in Paraguay as being about “suffering and pain and hardship and darkness” – Roosh’s book is a glorious triumph of low comedy and high adventure, a breezy and worthwhile read.

Unfortunately, as this is Roosh’s first foray into literary writing, his inexperience shines through at regular intervals. While he narrates his misadventures with a wry tone that readers of his blog ought to be familiar with, every so often he breaks voice to go on a sentimental missive. Take for instance, this snippet in which Roosh tries really, really hard to convince us that he gives a shit about poor miners in Bolivia:

Until the output of the Potosí mines cease to be profitable—and it is a matter of when, not if—these men and future generations who follow will die miners, much younger than is fair…I felt small for complaining about my relatively easy job at home that paid me a salary the miners could only dream of. How did I come to the conclusion that a professional job with fair pay in a modern building was actually torture?

My god, someone has it worse off than you! What an original observation! Please, shut the fuck up and spare me the bathos.

But aside from these trite diversions, A Dead Bat in Paraguay maintains a breakneck pace from beginning to end. The story begins in Washington, DC, where Roosh relates the story of his life and the factors that led to him giving the bird to the 9-to-5 life and heading to South America. The sequence of events will be familiar to longtime Roosh readers, both of his current blog and his previous incarnation as DC Bachelor, but Roosh fills in details about his career and family life that are new and interesting. In particular, his description of his close relationship with his sister is moving, showing a side of Roosh that we don’t see in his other writings.

An important part of any book is its diction, and on this front, A Dead Bat in Paraguay is as smooth and pleasing to read as a good wine is to drink. An acolyte of the Hemingway school of literary writing, Roosh shies away from flowery descriptions and overblown metaphors, relaying his story with an understatement that conveys imagery and emotion in its own way. His bone-dry sense of humor pervades his prose at almost all times, with lines like “I made love with the toilet.” Roosh is awfully fond of toilet humor in the literal sense – a lot of the laughs come from his loving descriptions of the painful, explosive bowel movements he had while on the road. No mere clown, though, he also retells the struggles of his journey with a bluntness that gets the reader invested emotionally. A large part of the narrative is Roosh’s attempts to hook up with the local women in the various places he visits, only to be met with repeated failure. His constant battle to adapt his game to the cultural idiosyncrasies of the women who he tries to bed is so compelling that when he finally meets success, you’ll want to cheer.

The frankness and honesty of A Dead Bat in Paraguay is a refreshing change from the fake, phony, and fraudulent memoirs that have flooded the book world in recent years, but it also hurts the book in some ways. Any good storyteller has the ability to bullshit with aplomb, and Roosh isn’t quite there yet. His emphasis on relaying the details of his trip has too much of a “just the facts, ma’am” feel to it, as if he was writing a college paper and not a commercial book. The weakness of this approach culminates in the book’s ending, which just sucks. In fact, it isn’t really an “ending” – the book just sort of stops.

In pointing out these issues, I don’t want come off as being too critical. In a literary world full of flotsam, jetsam, and other varieties of garbage, Roosh Vörek has produced something remarkable and memorable. Beyond its other qualities, A Dead Bat in Paraguay speaks to something deeper – the dissatisfaction so many men these days have with their lives. Writers sublimating their existential angst into grand adventures which they later published is nothing new, as we can see from this stanza from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

Childe Harold bask’d him in the noontide sun,
Disporting there like any other fly;
Nor deem’d before his little day was done
One blast might chill him into misery.
But long ere scarce a third of his pass’d by,
Worse than adversity the Childe befell;
He felt the fulness of satiety:
Then loathed he in his native land to dwell,
Which seem’d to him more lone than Eremite’s sad cell.

gotohellWhat IS different is that ennui with one’s existence is no longer confined to misfits like Byron. Last year, former Lonely Planet guidebook writer Thomas Kohnstamm published his own travel memoir, Do Travel Writers Go to Hell?, in which he stated similar reasons as Roosh for abandoning his high-paying corporate job in Manhattan to roam northeastern Brazil. In fact, Kohnstamm is mentioned in passing in Roosh’s book, though not by name (Kohnstamm achieved some notoriety when he revealed that he had fabricated parts of his guidebooks, even claiming he wrote the Lonely Planet guidebook to Colombia without having visited there). This concept of men being unsatisfied with their lives has become clichéd to the point where we now have “mid-life crises” and “quarter-life crises.” What is it about the modern West that sucks the joy out of being a man? To quote John Derbyshire:

The modern workplace has also been de-masculinized. I have spent many years working in the offices of big corporations, among the vast clerical middle class of the Information Age. It has often struck me how much more suitable this work is for women than for men — how, in fact, men seem rather out of place among the “tubes and cubes” of the modern office. No masculine values are visible here. The mildness of manners, the endless tiny courtesies, the yielding and compromising, the cheery assertions of labor-room stoicism (“Hangin’ in there!”) that are necessary to get this kind of work done, leave little outlet for masculine forcefulness. Such outlets as did once exist have been systematically sealed off by the feminists and “sexual harassment” warriors. Was it really only twelve years ago that my mixed-sex office in a big Wall Street trading house celebrated the boss’s birthday by bringing in a full-monty stripper to entertain us? Yes, it was. If we did that today, we should be the subject of a 60 Minutes segment.

The more boisterous manifestations of masculinity — physical courage, danger-seeking, the honor principle, belligerence, chivalry, endurance, small-group loyalty — which were once accessible to all men, in episodes of war or exploration if not in everyday life, have now been leached out to the extremes of our society — to small minorities of, at one extreme, super-rich sports and entertainment stars, and at the other, underclass desperadoes. There is no place now for a brilliant misfit like the Victorian explorer Sir Richard Burton, whose love of danger and of alien cultures led him to be the first, and quite probably the only, non-Moslem ever to penetrate the holiest sanctuary of Islam, the Ka’aba in Mecca — he even had the audacity to make a surreptitious sketch of the place while he was supposed to be praying. (Burton, by the way, was a holy terror as a boy — would be a sure candidate for heavy Ritalin treatment nowadays.)

With the government and society out to crush any expression of manliness beyond servile boot-licking, we are forced into feminized roles in order to survive. Any expression of true masculinity is suppressed. As men, we have allowed ourselves to be mentally and emotionally gelded by a culture that seeks to abuse us for its own immoral ends. But you don’t have to be a slave. Rebellion doesn’t necessarily entail ripping up stakes to settle in an alien nation on another continent. It begins when you become cognizant of the system and how to avoid being enmeshed in its grinder. The revolution begins with you.

In the meantime, feel free to give Roosh your greenbacks. He’s earned them.

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