Tofu Hound Press recently released Dispatches From Hell: A Vegan’s Guide to Love, Sex, Relationships, and Other Suicidal Tendencies by Vulgar Vegan advice columnist Daniel Peyser. Two of our SuperVegans gave it a look. For another take, see Jamie Hagen’s review.
I’ve heard good things about Dispatches From Hell, and I love being able to promote another vegan’s wares. But much as I’d like to, I can’t say that I enjoyed the book.
If you’ve ever read his column, you know that Peyser is irreverent, and unapologetically so. And he likes to curse. None of which I have a problem with. But I couldn’t figure out why he (his editors?) chose to take the middle road and go half autobiography, half quirky self-help book. Doing things only to a degree always dilutes what could have been a stellar effort.
And that’s how I felt about the book, especially since Peyser’s how-tos aren’t really how-tos: He spends plenty of time telling us what to do but not how (maybe that’s because he’s not sure himself: He met his fiancée in college, she went away, she came back and looked him up, and the rest is history). When he does talk about the ins and outs of a situation, he races through them without really focusing on any one aspect.
Not to mention the fact that most of his “advice” isn’t vegan-specific—which was sort of the point, wasn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, there are times when he does hit his mark (as in the section on being a vegan mentor), but more often, I felt that what I was reading had been said many times before.
The thing Peyser’s fans love about him is his me-against-the-world ill humor (despite having found a vegan partner*, he’s still pretty crabby). And I think if he had just gone full throttle in that direction instead of alternately trying to be earnest, the book would have been pretty entertaining. (Having said that, I actually found the sections where he dishes about his failed relationships the most enjoyable parts of the book.) Anyway, who wants to take advice from someone who tells you that while dating omnis might be okay for you, he wouldn’t be caught dead doing it?** (Which may be the point, I guess, if you buy into his do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do shtick, but like I said, either be straightforward or be your obnoxious, condescending self, just don’t mix the two.) (Oh, and also, I don’t want to be told that what I’m reading is simply a product of the fact that the author is getting paid by the word. Way to make the people who actually shelled out for your book feel like a bunch of schmucks!)
So here’s what I think: Peyser’s not a bad writer; he just should have chosen one type of book and written that instead. For instance, if he’d penned an autobiographical misadventures-of tale in which he illustrated the perils of vegan dating via his own mistakes, it would have been a much more instructional—and amusing—read. He even could have devoted an entire book to his tightly held belief that vegans shouldn’t date omnis. But what I think would have worked best is if he had run with his whole cantankerous know-it-all thing and written the book he probably really wanted to all along, at the heart of which is probably something like: “I didn’t need to follow anyone’s advice to find love, but here’s what I think you should do. Now get out there and do it, you lonely losers!” Because what I fear is coming next is Dispatches From Hell Part 2: A Vegan’s Guide to Getting Married, Having Kids, and Retiring Early on Your Book Royalties. It will be filled with all the things you could do (but Peyser didn’t) to make those things happen. And he will still be pissed.
* Sorry, I neglected to mention that Jenna was an omni when they started dating.
** But he did (see *). Though he still advises against it.