About an hour before I am scheduled to meet Drew Magary at a hole-in-the-wall Vietnamese restaurant to talk about his new memoir, I check his Twitter feed to see what kind of mood he is in. Not that I think that he will be anything less than pleasant and friendly, as most (but not all) people promoting a new book, movie or television show who I talk to tend to be. But Drew Magary has made an identity for himself – at least on the Internet – of being angry. Very, very angry. At scarves, Sports Illustrated's Peter King, at "Big Mayo," at the gun industry and at Jerry Seinfeld. Writing for GQ, the sports blog Deadspin and football-centric blog Kissing Suzy Kolber among other outlets, he has gained a devoted fanbase, with features like The Hater's Guide, The Insufferabilty Report and Why Your Children's Television Program Sucks. He employs SUCCESSIVE CAPITAL LETTERS as if he invented them. Even subjects as benign as Charlie Brown and the Williams-Sonoma Catalog are targets of his disdain.
Today he is ticked about sangria. I don't agree with his disgust for a cocktail I find fruity and refreshing. But, OK, I won't order it at lunch.
When I meet Magary, he is not the angry Internet troll one might expect. For one, he is quite tall. He is also extremely amiable – so friendly that he offers to share his pork dish with me (this was my first time eating Vietnamese). But his mild-mannered demeanor may come from the fact that we spend most the afternoon talking about something he clearly loves, his children, who are the subject of his new book "Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First Century Parenting."
"Anyone can write a parenting book. All you have to do is have a kid, and then, boom, you've got your irreverent parenting book," says Magary. "So it took me a little while to convince everybody to be like, 'Look, I can do this," – hopefully in a way that's interesting enough and different enough where it's not just, 'Hey, wacky punk dad talking about how sh--ty changing diapers is.'"
And in many ways, his children are the perfect material for Magary's crude brand of humor. There's plenty of penis jokes, made at the expense of both the author and his subjects. There's ample cursing (the best of which comes from his children's mouths). And there's his unsparing mockery of the parental-industrial complex. Though Magary dedicates "Someone Could Get Hurt" to "every other parent out there still trying to figure it out", those readers without children (myself included) will find his tales both hilarious and horrifying.
"My hope was to write something that at least, if you didn't have kids, it will be funny anyway," Magary says. "It wouldn't matter because you've been there on the other side."
But the episode that inspired Magary to write "Someone Could Get Hurt" is heart-wrenching. As he has detailed in his "Dadspin" series, his third child was born seven weeks premature and suffered a whole slew of other complications.
"I just had to get that out first," says Magary, who was initially planning a follow-up to his debut novel, "The Postmortal."
"I was talking to my agent, like, 'I have to write about this whole experience,' and he was like, 'Well, listen, you can't write a whole book about a sick baby.'"
He instead uses the painful ordeal, told in two parts, to sandwich the otherwise lighthearted book. He makes you cry before he makes you laugh and then he makes you cry again.
"So much writing you see is written for the person who is writing it," says Magary. "So I do my best to write something someone else will find entertaining."
Entertain he does: There are the stories of him trying to make his wife less paranoid about her pregnancy, of the insecurities arisen by being the only dad at his kids' Gymboree class, of his daughter's various costume phases, of how he tricks her into taking a bath (it involves a Mad Libs game with the word "butt"), of the unconventional anatomical location his son chooses to stick his toothbrush.
Though the book is explicitly about his children, he also writes about his DUI arrest a few years ago, and the shame he describes that's deeply grounded in his identity as a father.
"When I got arrested three years ago, I was like, 'I gotta write about this,' and I kept waiting and waiting and waiting, and part of it was I wanted to make sure if I wrote something I wouldn't get fired. I said to both my bosses [at GQ and Deadspin], 'I think I'm going to write about getting arrested. You won't fire me if I write about getting arrested?' And they were like, 'No, we've had writers do far worse,'" says Magary, "So I had had that in my head for a long time and I was happy to get it out of my system."
He also includes a chapter about an especially excruciating tantrum thrown by his daughter. If his son's complications serve as the melancholy blanket wrapped around "Someone Could Get Hurt," this episode may be its emotional core (and structurally sits at near the book's center). His daughter's fit inspires the familiar Magary rage, manifested here unlike in any other part in his book (though, rest assured, there are plenty of rants, obscenities and CAPITAL LETTERS throughout). He writes:
"The girl was still screaming and driving me to the precipice of madness, and I searched around in my mind for some kind of creative solution. I definitely wanted to punish her. I couldn't even recall what we were fighting about, which happens a lot when you fight with a child. The fight becomes its own reason for being. I wanted to prove my dominance over the household, to regain control. I wanted to WIN, which is foolish because there's no prize for defeating a f---ing five-year-old at something."
The chapter climaxes with a manifesto, which might as well be the battle cry for those experiencing "21st Century Parenthood," as promised by the book's subtitle. Parenting is an annoying, frustrating and enraging business. But "Someone Could Get Hurt" makes it clear that the annoyance, frustration and rage is all born out of love.
Throughout the book, he avoids using his children's names. He often refers to them as "the boy" or "the girl," as if they're just small strangers he has come across on the street.
"If I put the names in, then their my kids instead of yours – you, the reader," says Magary. "I just think it's more universal that there's a son and there's a daughter, I can plug my son into that."
He adds that omitting their names is also for his children's sake.
"I'd rather my kids control of their own name. When they're 18 they'll put their own names online and they'll make asses of themselves, and that's fine because they would have done it themselves," he says. "I'm someone who writes publicly, so I'm trying to have it both ways and I know that won't last forever. But I'm not going to help the process."
One does wonder what his children (now in the throes of a "Harry Potter" obsession) will think once they discover his writing: the crazy, rant-filled, crude screeds he is known for (he has also written a number of relatively more dignified but bombastic pieces, including profiles of Justin Bieber and Snoop Lion). But also the very personal and often embarrassing anecdotes from his children's very young lives – the fits, the fiascoes, the pooping, the vomiting – that make "Someone Could Get Hurt."
"I think it's OK. I'm close enough with my kids and have a good enough relationship with them, and I do enough as a father where I think they're going to be OK with it," says Magary. "It's not like you read the book and you finish like, 'Wow, this guy f---ing hates his family, just hates his them, just wishes they were dead.' Usually the love comes through. But I'm sure my son will be like, 'Hey, what do you got me pulling my d--k for?'"