Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story by Harvey Pekar

Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story
by Harvey Pekar
Art by Gary Dumm
Ballantine Books, 200

An unusual graphic biography for two reasons; it’s written in the first person although it’s not an autobiography, and Michael Malice, the subject of the book, is not particularly famous or noteworthy and most definitely not a nice person. Like Vogon poetry, everything he says throws his unpleasant personality into sharp relief. So, why devote an entire book to him?

Malice is a smug jerk, a self-styled intellectual, an Ayn Rand fan, and an “anarchist”. Throughout the book he bemoans the stupidity of everyone else unfortunate enough to cross his path, and crows about minor incidents where he scores points off others. He breaks up with his girlfriend when he discovers she has cancer, and delights in getting his many incompetent co-workers fired. This doesn’t stop him from being fired several times himself for questioning his superiors. Needless to say, he has very few friends. So, again, why devote an entire book to him?

Pekar’s work is based on the observation of personalities, pleasant or otherwise, and in a note at the end of the book he says “To familiarize oneself with his history and compare it to one’s own can lead to incidents of self-discovery.” This is true, and while the book is essentially a 150 page whinge, Malice has a definite grasp on workplace psychology, and also reminded me of people at university who would say things at parties like “I think I should warn you, I’m very intelligent”. Of course, a specific type of academic intelligence didn’t mean that they had a clue about the rest of life.

After graduation they would have nervous breakdowns upon discovering that the rest of the world didn’t really give a fuck if they had genius-level IQs… they were still smug jerks with no people skills.


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