October 7, 2013

Previewing this season’s manly books for men


It’s a truism of the publishing industry that any book with a dog on its cover will sell. (We’ve been known to try it ourselves here at Melville House on occasion.) But two celebrity memoirs out this season suggest that publishers are trying a new look: the mustache.

The first is Let Me Off at the Top!: My Classy Life and Other Musings, by the “award winning News Anchorman and poet” Ron Burgundy. Complete with muscular 1970s typography and, of course, that famous hair and mustache, the cover promises a paean to machismo. According to the jacket copy, Burgundy’s life “reads like an adventure story complete with knock down fights, beautiful women and double-fisted excitement on every page.”

The second book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, by the actor Nick Offerman, features an even more hyper-masculine cover and contents to match: “Growing a perfect moustache, grilling red meat, wooing a woman—who better to deliver this tutelage than the always charming, always manly Nick Offerman, best known as Parks and Recreation’s Ron Swanson?”

The books may seem remarkably similar, but Offerman is, by contrast to Burgundy, an actual person, and his equivocation on the macho posturing in this interview with Entertainment Weekly suggests he’s spent some time pondering his testestorone-fueled persona:

Why did you decide on having short guides to manliness strewn throughout? You write that you don’t believe you’re manly.

That’s more of a response to the world, that has for some reason decided that I am to be held up as an example of manliness or machismo. The first thing people say to me, infuriatingly, is ‘Why do you think people think you’re so manly?’ So I start the chapter by saying, ‘Look, I understand why on the surface you might think a Snickers bar is a meal — it’s packed with peanuts, it really satisfies, it’s got a nice thick dimension — but when you break it down, it’s actually a candy bar.’ And by the same token, I see the mustache, I use tools, I don’t suffer fools gladly, I don’t mince about in the public eye as frequently, so I understand why people would say, ‘Oh, that guy seems like he’s very manly.’ I’m quick to remind the audience that I’m, of my family and my community, I’m the one who went away to theater school to find a career in the arts. I have studied ballet, I have worn tights, I wear makeup every day at work, I love to cry openly at a Pixar film. So I don’t think I’m as manly as you think.

Unfortunately, Ron Burgundy couldn’t be reached for comment.


Christopher King is the former Art Director of Melville House.