If this were a proper review, I'd start by introducing Maddox to the readership. However, it isn't. If you don't know who Maddox is- visit his site. There's enough to keep you reading for hours on end, some of it truly hilarious. There's also no point in paying to read an unknown author when there's a vast supply of free sample material online. The first "buy or not" decision comes as soon as you read his site. If you don't find that funny, there's absolutely no point in reading this book.
To everyone who is already instantly familiar with Maddox: when this book was announced it seemed like a huge event, especially as the man himself gave it plenty of tongue-in-cheek over-hype. If you're expecting the medium of a book to expand the scope and quality of his humour, you'll be dissapointed. The Alphabet of Manliness is not funnier than his site, and neither is it significantly different in overall style of humour.
So what is it? It centres entirely on one of Maddox's avenues of humour: manliness. Disguised as a glossary come self-help are 26 comic articles on everything from Chuck Norris (the geek staple) to Urinal Etiquette, aided by loads of well-drawn pictures (by pro artists rather than the hand-drawn stuff Maddox uses on his own site) and some faux-mathematical charts. And that's it really - a couple of hundred pages of funny walk-throughs to machismo related subjects. Essentially you're paying for a concentrated and portable dose of Maddox rather than something new or innovative.
The principle problem with this is that it narrows Maddox's humour down to a pretty limited set of topics. There's no room for his disgusted rants against most of popular culture, no hilarious film reviews, no dismissal of children's art/idiotic mail. Very little of his observational humour on a variety of iritating everyday things get a look in (although the Irate entry provides a condensed version).
One thing that is important to note is that The Alphabet of Manliness is not part of this American resurgance of machismo in reaction to metrosexuality. If anything, this is a parody of those values: a grossly exaggerated charicature of macho fuelled by the fact that Maddox is someone who would like to smash up the mundanity of life. He recognises the stupidity of masculinity as much as the subjects he attacks with it. Don't be put off by the notion that this is for macho men and it's about macho men. All the humour is derived from male-orientated topics, but there's nothing here to turn away feminine readers. All you need to get a good laugh out of the knowledge that all the offensive content is not genuine or malicious. And the acceptance that you're just getting a monstrous entry of his website in book form rather than something revolutionary, of course.