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Fiction for Men

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I'm still a little disappointed that, under Image, we don't have more participation in the "Lit" area. (Maybe threads like this one scare women away? That's not my intention.) I'll take whatever discussion I can get here, but I'm open to ways I might engage people further, draw out some more comments in this area. What's it gonna take? Anyone have a suggestion?

I've been reading Johnson again, and have just started another Bolano book. I'll put my comments about those books in author- and book-specific threads.

Based on your recommendation, I've also picked up a copy of The Savage Detectives.

As I'm making an effort to post more in the Books Subsection at A&F, I'm starting to see what you mean. It seems like there are 20-30 threads being discussed in the film and music sections every day, while we're lucky to discuss even two threads on literature a day. It's not going to discourage me from trying to build up participation and more comments here, but looks like it's going to take a little more work than I thought.

Turn off the television and/or DVD player a couple nights a week everyone. Opening up a good book every evening or so is good for the soul.

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Persiflage wrote:

: Turn off the television and/or DVD player a couple nights a week everyone.

I don't have time to watch movies (and certainly not at home, where the wife and kids dominate the home-entertainment system). I'm too busy reading and writing about them. :)

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I'm still a little disappointed that, under Image, we don't have more participation in the "Lit" area. (Maybe threads like this one scare women away? That's not my intention.) I'll take whatever discussion I can get here, but I'm open to ways I might engage people further, draw out some more comments in this area. What's it gonna take? Anyone have a suggestion?

I've been reading Johnson again, and have just started another Bolano book. I'll put my comments about those books in author- and book-specific threads.

Based on your recommendation, I've also picked up a copy of The Savage Detectives.

As I'm making an effort to post more in the Books Subsection at A&F, I'm starting to see what you mean. It seems like there are 20-30 threads being discussed in the film and music sections every day, while we're lucky to discuss even two threads on literature a day. It's not going to discourage me from trying to build up participation and more comments here, but looks like it's going to take a little more work than I thought.

Turn off the television and/or DVD player a couple nights a week everyone. Opening up a good book every evening or so is good for the soul.

Thanks. And sorry for missing this until now.

Yeah, turning off the TV -- and the computer, or Internet-enabled devices! -- is a big part of making time for reading. But once you do get rid of that "clutter," there are other things to do besides read. Or, as is often the case, I find myself with time to read and I ... pick up one of the many magazines that quickly pile up. I like to go through all of them -- that's why I subscribe to them. No, I never read every article in every issue. But reading just the articles that interest me, across a few different weekly and monthly magazines, can consume enough time that it puts a dent in my novel/book reading. I feel oddly proud if I make it through a New Yorker short story -- or any article in the New Yorker, to which I subscribed just a few months ago. That's right: Knowing I have a magazine "problem," I added to it with another dense, frequently received magazine.

But those New Yorker articles can be fantastic. I also just finished with the latest issue of the Atlantic. As usual, I was initially disappointed when I first paged through the issue, but ended up reading a couple of the articles toward the back. This time, I also read two -- count 'em, TWO -- features! And they were very good.

Then there are the nights when I get the kids to bed, clear some time, get ready for bed (so I won't have to stop my reading several minutes before my usual bedtime; best to get that out of the way first, I've found), then get into my reading chair, or bed ... and fall asleep within minutes.

Hey, this happens when I sit down to watch a TV show or movie, too! All the time. Reading is no different.

But then there are times when I take public transportation. That's good reading time. Happened last night, in fact. Long waiting times for the Metro trains mean I got through a decent chunk of Kafka on the Shore, for which progress had been quite slow. Maybe I'll go update that thread.

I do appreciate that you've been actively feeding this forum, Jeremy. It's not as though your efforts have been in vain. You've generated several good replies (yes, I keep tabs on all threads here). I'm sorry you're feeling like the input hasn't paid off in ways you had hoped, but based on my tracking of this area over the years, I've detected an uptick not just of interest, but in quality of posts. Don't know that I could specify that in any way; it's just a feeling based on memories of activities here over the years.

Getting back to the original point of this thread, it may be that our Lit forum lags a bit because, as has often been stated here (often by me), A&F is mostly guys. And guys just don't read.

We're all agreed on that, no? ;) Most of the people in this world who do the regular, even heavy reading are female. You'll find a male every now and then that's an avid reader, but they're few and far between. This thread is evidence of that.

But don't let that get you down!

Edited by Christian

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I don't have time to watch movies (and certainly not at home, where the wife and kids dominate the home-entertainment system). I'm too busy reading and writing about them.

Speaking of which, I'm not sure how to look for it on here, but do we have a books thread for best books on the greatest film directors? I would very much like to compile some sort of list on who has written the best books on the works of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Andrei Tarkovsky, Kryzysztof Kieslowski, Martin Scorsese, Robert Bresson, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Wim Wenders, The Coen Brothers, Yasujiro Ozu, etc.

Yeah, turning off the TV -- and the computer, or Internet-enabled devices! -- is a big part of making time for reading. But once you do get rid of that "clutter," there are other things to do besides read. Or, as is often the case, I find myself with time to read and I ... pick up one of the many magazines that quickly pile up. I like to go through all of them -- that's why I subscribe to them. No, I never read every article in every issue. But reading just the articles that interest me, across a few different weekly and monthly magazines, can consume enough time that it puts a dent in my novel/book reading. I feel oddly proud if I make it through a New Yorker short story -- or any article in the New Yorker, to which I subscribed just a few months ago. That's right: Knowing I have a magazine "problem," I added to it with another dense, frequently received magazine.

But those New Yorker articles can be fantastic. I also just finished with the latest issue of the Atlantic. As usual, I was initially disappointed when I first paged through the issue, but ended up reading a couple of the articles toward the back. This time, I also read two -- count 'em, TWO -- features! And they were very good.

The New Yorker and The Atlantic have quite a few good writers worth reading. I enjoy their articles, as well as those of The New Criterion, National Review, and Credenda/Agenda.

Then there are the nights when I get the kids to bed, clear some time, get ready for bed (so I won't have to stop my reading several minutes before my usual bedtime; best to get that out of the way first, I've found), then get into my reading chair, or bed ... and fall asleep within minutes. Hey, this happens when I sit down to watch a TV show or movie, too! All the time. Reading is no different.

A common problem, especially after a good hard day's work. Best combated for an hour or two with a hot cup of coffee or tea.

I do appreciate that you've been actively feeding this forum, Jeremy. It's not as though your efforts have been in vain. You've generated several good replies (yes, I keep tabs on all threads here). I'm sorry you're feeling like the input hasn't paid off in ways you had hoped, but based on my tracking of this area over the years, I've detected an uptick not just of interest, but in quality of posts. Don't know that I could specify that in any way; it's just a feeling based on memories of activities here over the years.

No worries. I'm not quitting.

Getting back to the original point of this thread, it may be that our Lit forum lags a bit because, as has often been stated here (often by me), A&F is mostly guys. And guys just don't read. We're all agreed on that, no? Most of the people in this world who do the regular, even heavy reading are female. You'll find a male every now and then that's an avid reader, but they're few and far between. This thread is evidence of that.

A problem I noticed among friends long ago. Thus the acquired skill of slowly and carefully building up an appreciation of reading among friends who just had careless parents or horrible English/Lit professors. It's never going to be an easy fix. But it can actually be done.

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Speaking of which, I'm not sure how to look for it on here, but do we have a books thread for best books on the greatest film directors? I would very much like to compile some sort of list on who has written the best books on the works of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Andrei Tarkovsky, Kryzysztof Kieslowski, Martin Scorsese, Robert Bresson, Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Wim Wenders, The Coen Brothers, Yasujiro Ozu, etc.

This is by far the best book I've encountered on the work of Stanley Kubrick, but I don't know if you have any interest.

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Back to the controversial early part of this thread, in which my anecdotal argument that women read more than men was challenged repeatedly, here's this from today's New York Times:

Women also buy more books than men do — by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers

I guess the next step is to argue that women aren't buying books for themselves but for the men in their lives. Or something like that. But I'll stick to the premise: Guys don't read. At least not as much as women do.

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My wife saw me reading a Mark Bertrand book and decided to write an article about Christian fiction and male readers.

Money quote:

Men seem to like books in the suspense/intrigue, end times/prophecy, speculative/spiritual warfare/paranormal, and fantasy genres, says Germany, although she added that Barbour steers clear of anything “more than 50 percent geared to men. For all of our fiction, we assume a female is our main target audience. Even then, most of our suspense type books that we know a man would enjoy reading sell fewer copies than our fiction that is categorized clearly as romance for women.

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Men, do I have a book for you. I read about it somewhere -- can't remember where -- a couple months ago and put a hold on it at the library, which listed it as an "in process" item, or an item that was on order.

It arrived a day before the book was nominated for the Booker Prize. It's called The Sisters Brothers, and although I'm only about 50 pages into it, I wanted to plug the novel here and say that, although "Booker Prize" might call to mind dense novels that that take several minutes per page to absorb, The Sisters Brothers, authored by Patrick deWitt, is an easy read.

I'm sure it rewards close scrutiny; slow down with it and savor every sentence if you'd like. But I find myself quickly knocking out small chunks of the book, which is conveniently divided into very short chapters -- so far. That makes it an easy book to enter into and exit out of, and that, when you're just grabbing a few minutes to read before bedtime, makes the book very attractive.

I'm about 70 pages into a Theolonius Monk biography I'm enjoying, but each page of which takes me about four times as long to read as does a page of The Sisters Brothers. So I've found myself, the past few days, reaching for deWitt's book and letting the Monk bio wait.

Here's Ron Charles' review of The Sisters Brothers.

Edited by Christian

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Christian, I've read 4 of Murakami's novels: Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, Wild Sheep Chase, and After Dark. The last two didn't do much for me (I can't honestly remember an awful lot about either one), but the first two struck me as beautiful, haunting, surreal tales to which I'd gladly return. My sense is that either one would be an excellent place to begin for those new to Murakami, but I'm certainly open to reading his other works. Looking at the synopses on Wikipedia, Norwegian Wood sounds appealing, while Hard-Boiled Wonderland might be a bit too far off the beaten path.

An update: I'm not just over halfway through The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and having read Kafka on the Shore and After Dark (as well as the nonfiction What We Talk About When We Talk About Running), I'm perplexed by Murakami's fixations with sex and ... I dunno, the paranormal. Is that a fair description? I'm waiting for Norwegian Wood to be returned at the library -- I'm a few discs into that one. It, in combination with Bird, overloaded me with extended monologues in which a character lays out his or her background. Often these are female characters, but in one instance in Bird, a male character named Lt. Mamiya begins to tell a story about an earlier military experience. The chapter is titled something like "Lt. Mamiya's Long Story." It goes on. And on. And on. It's not uninteresting, just ... interminable.

And then the chapter ends, and the next chapter begins. Its title? "Lt. Mamiya's Long Story, Continued"!

That was a back-breaking moment, although I pressed on, unbowed. And I'm glad I did, although like I said, I wonder what, exactly, the point of this novel is, or will be. It's compelling enough to keep me coming back, but I find myself wondering why. What is it about Murakami that draws me in? The characters are rather sad and empty, but the phenomena they experience indicates some larger purpose to their existence. They have roles to play in an unfolding narrative. I could try to "baptize" these stories and put them into a grander Christian context, but for now I'm content to let these stories unfold and see what I can glean from them.

I've done all my Murakami reading since the new year, and it's been a whirlwind tour. I'm excited about 1Q84, although I'm not sure I won't have had my fill of the guy's writing by its release date (when I'll still have a ways to go with Wind-Up Bird -- I listen a few days a week for 30-40 minutes at a time, and that pace has taken me many weeks to get where I am now, with nearly half the novel still to go).

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Men, do I have a book for you. I read about it somewhere -- can't remember where -- a couple months ago and put a hold on it at the library, which listed it as an "in process" item, or an item that was on order.

It arrived a day before the book was nominated for the Booker Prize. It's called The Sisters Brothers, and although I'm only about 50 pages into it, I wanted to plug the novel here and say that, although "Booker Prize" might call to mind dense novels that that take several minutes per page to absorb, The Sisters Brothers, authored by Patrick deWitt, is an easy read.

I'm sure it rewards close scrutiny; slow down with it and savor every sentence if you'd like. But I find myself quickly knocking out small chunks of the book, which is conveniently divided into very short chapters -- so far. That makes it an easy book to enter into and exit out of, and that, when you're just grabbing a few minutes to read before bedtime, makes the book very attractive.

I'm about 70 pages into a Theolonius Monk biography I'm enjoying, but each page of which takes me about four times as long to read as does a page of The Sisters Brothers. So I've found myself, the past few days, reaching for deWitt's book and letting the Monk bio wait.

Here's Ron Charles' review of The Sisters Brothers.

Following up to highlight Tom Perotta's pick for favorite book of 2011:

Tom Perrotta, author of “The Leftovers” (St. Martin’s)

“The Sisters Brothers,” by Patrick deWitt (Ecco)

A novel that’s really stuck in my mind this year is “The Sisters Brothers” by Patrick deWitt. It’s an odd gem, a darkly funny picaresque set during the Gold Rush that has one of most engaging and thoughtful narrators I’ve come across in a long time. The fact that this narrator happens to be a hired killer — slightly less terrifying than his psychopathic brother — somehow only adds to the pathos and humor of his dilemma. The novel belongs to the great tradition of subversive westerns — “Little Big Man,” “True Grit,” “No Country for Old Men” – but deWitt has a deadpan comic voice and a sneaky philosophical bent that’s all his own.

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Once more unto the breach: Katherine A. Powers on The Sisters Brothers:

The Old West of The Sisters Brothers is a phantasmagorical netherworld populated by the lost and the damned: a weeping man, an abandoned boy, a witch, a terrible little girl, degraded women, mad prospectors, and bands of killers. There would seem to be something of the allegory about all this, especially as the lust for gold is the force that has given the landscape its dark glare. But the novel's fine literary qualities operate against allegory's oppressive portentousness and self regard: deWitt's prose combines decorum with limberness; details of material life are vivid and concrete; and the brothers' actual predicament, characters, and relationship with each other are central to the story and humanely developed.

Edited by Christian

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This will be my seventh post in a row in this thread. I think I understand the reasons why others steer clear of this discussion, but the trouble over "fiction for men" continues to bother me. So I cite supporting evidence for my thesis when I come across it.

Here's the latest, from an article making a broader point about the struggles of the male mid-list author.

As Weiner pointed out in the Huffington Post interview, “women are the major consumers of all fiction, commercial and literary.” She’s right. By just about every estimate, women buy around two-thirds of all books and 80 percent of fiction.

On the broader point, the author writes:

In short, midlisters are middle-class professionals scraping out a living — and being a midlist male author who writes about males is a distinct financial disadvantage. Not only will you not get reviewed in the Times, but you won’t get reviewed in the women’s magazines that drive sales, like People and O, the Oprah Magazine. Book clubs will ignore you. Barnes & Noble will relegate you to the back shelves. Your publisher won’t give you much support — if it even publishes your book in the first place. As a book-editor friend once admitted to me, “When we buy a debut novel by a man, we view it as taking a real chance.”

I expect these trends to get worse -- much worse -- before they get better. If they ever do.

Edited by Christian

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But do many men (outside of such rarefied air as A+F) have any particular desire to read more? I suspect that it is we who under-serve the market (i.e. authors) rather than they who under-serve us.

I have read, in discussions of the cruise ship that sank recently, that many of the men onboard acted less than gallantly towards the women and children.I suspect that as ideals of chivalry (and idealism in general) decline, so does reading among men. I'm not sure if I can articulate exactly what the connection is, but if the best-selling novels "for women" are romances, then wouldn't the corresponding genre "for men" be tales of daring and heroism? But sophisticated men, who read (as opposed to *gasp* watching movies) aren't "supposed" to believe in heroism anymore, and seem to have given up trying.

If I were a good enough writer to be trying to break into the market for tales of heroism, valor, or other staples of fiction "for men", I'd write screenplays.

P.S. Sorry if that came out a bit caustic, my cynicism is showing :P

Edited by David Smedberg

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This will be my seventh post in a row in this thread. I think I understand the reasons why others steer clear of this discussion, but the trouble over "fiction for men" continues to bother me. So I cite supporting evidence for my thesis when I come across it.

Here's the latest, from an article making a broader point about the struggles of the male mid-list author.

As Weiner pointed out in the Huffington Post interview, “women are the major consumers of all fiction, commercial and literary.” She’s right. By just about every estimate, women buy around two-thirds of all books and 80 percent of fiction.

It's not that I steer clear of this discussion so much as I've never ever had a problem lacking good fiction to recommend to all my friends who never read. But that's the problem, these guys don't read. Even occasionally when I convince one of them to read something finally, they'll usually take their time, later thank me, say that it was good, and then go on not reading for the indefinite future.

On the broader point, the author writes:

In short, midlisters are middle-class professionals scraping out a living — and being a midlist male author who writes about males is a distinct financial disadvantage. Not only will you not get reviewed in the Times, but you won’t get reviewed in the women’s magazines that drive sales, like People and O, the Oprah Magazine. Book clubs will ignore you. Barnes & Noble will relegate you to the back shelves. Your publisher won’t give you much support — if it even publishes your book in the first place. As a book-editor friend once admitted to me, “When we buy a debut novel by a man, we view it as taking a real chance.”

I expect these trends to get worse -- much worse -- before they get better. If they ever do.

I guess I also just have a hard time imagining my favorite "male authors" having this trouble. I believe Wendell Berry, Christopher Buckley, Stephen L. Carter, Clyde Edgerton, James Ellroy, Anthony Esolen, Ron Hansen, Victor Davis Hanson, Mark Helprin, Dennis Lehane, Cormac McCarthy, Christopher Moore, George Pelecanos, and Richard Price to all be good writers of the English language. In other words, start writing great stuff and you'll be noticed even if you don't make the best seller lists. Write middling to poor quality prose, and who really cares what happens to your writing career anyway? I doubt that George Pelecanos makes it into O, the Oprah Magazine or that Wendell Berry gets much time in People Magazine. But that isn't going to stop their audiences (male or female) from consistently trying to read whatever they publish next.

But do many men have any particular desire to read more?

Nope.

I suspect that it is we who under-serve the market (i.e. authors) rather than they who under-serve us.

I have read, in discussions of the cruise ship that sank recently, that many of the men onboard acted less than gallantly towards the women and children.I suspect that as ideals of chivalry (and idealism in general) decline, so does reading among men. I'm not sure if I can articulate exactly what the connection is, but if the best-selling novels "for women" are romances, then wouldn't the corresponding genre "for men" be tales of daring and heroism? But sophisticated men, who read (as opposed to *gasp* watching movies) aren't "supposed" to believe in heroism anymore, and seem to have given up trying.

If I were a good enough writer to be trying to break into the market for tales of heroism, valor, or other staples of fiction "for men", I'd write screenplays.

Oh, I don't know, like Patrick O'Brian, authors like Dennis Lehane, or even Bernard Cornwell, have their loyal, if small, male readership base. Both Lehane and Cornwell are interested in daring and heroism.

Edited by Persiflage

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I think my avoidance of the thread comes from the fact that pretty much all of the male friends I have are avid readers, though yes — many of them only read non-fiction (not necessarily out of any sort of dismissal of the genre, but because they have to stick with books in their academic field 99% of the time).

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This is by far the best book I've encountered on the work of Stanley Kubrick, but I don't know if you have any interest.

Yes, I'm interested. It's now in my Amazon cart.

Back to the controversial early part of this thread, in which my anecdotal argument that women read more than men was challenged repeatedly, here's this from today's New York Times:

Women also buy more books than men do — by a ratio of about 3 to 1, according to a survey last year by Bowker, a research firm for publishers

I guess the next step is to argue that women aren't buying books for themselves but for the men in their lives. Or something like that. But I'll stick to the premise: Guys don't read. At least not as much as women do.

I think you won that argument, by the way. Women read more books than men. Women certainly read more fiction than men. It didn't always used to be this way.

The trouble is when we start trying to draw conclusions from these facts. What does it mean that women read more fiction than men? Does this fact say something about gender differences? Books are marketed more to women than to men, but that's the market supply responding to consumer demand. The majority of reading by the modern day public consists of trite, cliched, poorly written best-sellers. But that's a distinct phenomenon not related to the gender reading gap once you look at the majority of reading of most men.

Edited by Persiflage

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This is by far the best book I've encountered on the work of Stanley Kubrick, but I don't know if you have any interest.

Yes, I'm interested. It's now in my Amazon cart.

Let me know what you think.

I'd also strongly recommend STANLEY KUBRICK, DIRECTOR: A VISUAL ANALYSIS, which I encountered over the course of the last year. Not always on-target, but has some very interesting thoughts to bring to the table (though the comments the book makes about EYES WIDE SHUT seem rushed and are rather uninteresting, given what has been said about the film elsewhere).

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The trouble is when we start trying to draw conclusions from these facts. What does it mean that women read more fiction than men? Does this fact say something about gender differences? Books are marketed more to women than to men, but that's the market supply responding to consumer demand. The majority of reading by the modern day public consists of trite, cliched, poorly written best-sellers. But that's a distinct phenomenon not related to the gender reading gap once you look at the majority of reading of most men.

These are good questions, I think. We can add these observations:

[1] The novel has a longer history of being a "women's genre" than it has of being a unisex or "masculine" genre. The earliest novels, like Pamela, seem to mark off the novel as the province of women. And let's not forget Hawthorne's "damned mob of scribbling women."

[2] Male neglect of fiction might be tied to assumptions about masculinity: assumptions that men are more "active," that they like "practical, hands-on" stuff instead of "emotional" stuff like novels. Thus, boys are socialized by parents and peers to seek approval through traditionally "masculine" endeavors like sports (I know, book-learnin' used to be a masculine province as well, but this doesn't seem to have been the case at least since the fifties). Nonfiction, as something from which you can learn, is "practical," and therefore "masculine."

[3] Similarly, women (even today) are socialized to seek approval through traditionally (again, "traditional" here means "post-fifties") "feminine" pursuits, and the novel--with its natural focus on reflection and its "impractical" nature--seems to fit right in there.

[4] Sturgeon's Law. The only reason the reading habits of a generation ago seem better is that we've deleted all the crap.

EDIT: Because I just have to plug David Peace again. I think I've gone over the edge into loony fanboyism, but I don't even care at this point. If we have to use an artificial dichotomy, I would put Peace pretty soundly on the "masculine" end of the spectrum, though of course part of what he's up to is deconstructing the sort of "masculinity" that seemed to be in vogue in the seventies.

EDIT EDIT: Skimming back through the thread, I see that most of these points have been made, either directly or indirectly. I think I'll leave these here for now, though.

Edited by NBooth

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I suspect that it is we who under-serve the market (i.e. authors) rather than they who under-serve us.

I have read, in discussions of the cruise ship that sank recently, that many of the men onboard acted less than gallantly towards the women and children.I suspect that as ideals of chivalry (and idealism in general) decline, so does reading among men. I'm not sure if I can articulate exactly what the connection is, but if the best-selling novels "for women" are romances, then wouldn't the corresponding genre "for men" be tales of daring and heroism? But sophisticated men, who read (as opposed to *gasp* watching movies) aren't "supposed" to believe in heroism anymore, and seem to have given up trying.

If I were a good enough writer to be trying to break into the market for tales of heroism, valor, or other staples of fiction "for men", I'd write screenplays.

Oh, I don't know, like Patrick O'Brian, authors like Dennis Lehane, or even Bernard Cornwell, have their loyal, if small, male readership base. Both Lehane and Cornwell are interested in daring and heroism.

I haven't forgotten that I still need to reply to you in the thread on Greg's book, but I must point out that it is partly your fault that I haven't :) because I have been riveted to the couch for much of today finishing Sharpe's Tiger by Cornwell, and have just finished it--it did not peter out at the end but was immensely enjoyable the whole way through. I can see that you've classified him as one of your favorite authors, and I wonder if you've read this particular book?

It was interesting to read a book about a roguish thief who serves his country well, just after having read The Thief. Obviously I enjoyed this book more--for one thing, it is much better crafted, both in its dramatic structure and its use of perspective--but it has its weaknesses as well, especially the degree of moral extremity (Sgt. Hakeswill is a twitching, slavering villain of the sort I would have expected of a much more melodramatic story--a hissable pervert and traitor in a story where even the tyrannous Tippoo is actually quite admirable). I learned about myself that while I cared about that, it was a forgivable flaw in a story that featured such persuasive and thrilling descriptions of great victory, narrow escape, and general derring-do. B)

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... because I have been riveted to the couch for much of today finishing Sharpe's Tiger by Cornwell, and have just finished it--it did not peter out at the end but was immensely enjoyable the whole way through. I can see that you've classified him as one of your favorite authors, and I wonder if you've read this particular book?

It was interesting to read a book about a roguish thief who serves his country well, just after having read The Thief. Obviously I enjoyed this book more--for one thing, it is much better crafted, both in its dramatic structure and its use of perspective--but it has its weaknesses as well, especially the degree of moral extremity (Sgt. Hakeswill is a twitching, slavering villain of the sort I would have expected of a much more melodramatic story--a hissable pervert and traitor in a story where even the tyrannous Tippoo is actually quite admirable). I learned about myself that while I cared about that, it was a forgivable flaw in a story that featured such persuasive and thrilling descriptions of great victory, narrow escape, and general derring-do.

Very cool. Yes, I've read and highly enjoyed Sharpe's Tiger. I guess I would first just say that if you liked it, it only gets better as you progress through the series. The Siege of Seringapatam makes for a good adventure story, but it is really nothing compared to the absolute craziness of some of the more famous and much larger battles later in the Napoleonic wars (that Sharpe, and eventually a band of friends, end up participating in). Second, there are different ways of reading through the series, but I would strongly recommend taking it historically/chronologically (especially since you started with the first one anyway) instead of randomly, or by any one publisher's numbering, or by following any sort of order that Cornwell actually wrote them in. Looks like someone on Amazon has a chronological list here. Obviously some of the books are better than others, but the story as a whole is incredibly well told.

Also, I'd assume the reason you started with Sharpe's Tiger is you read up on the series at least just a little, in which case I'd also assume you already realize that many of the stories have been filmed in a British miniseries starring Sean Bean. Sean Bean is perfectly cast for Sharpe, by the way.

It's a lot of fun, particularly if you enjoy suspenseful and well described military history. I envy you for being just at the beginning of it.

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I just finished Richard Stark's The Hunter and went to Good Reads to rate it. (4 out of 5 stars)

I mention this in the "Fiction for Men" thread because the user reviews on the first page of the Good Reads entry for The Hunter come from:

Steven

Mike

Greg

Dan

Kemper

Doug

Brian

Michael

David

Mooderino (gender unclear, but a 5-star rating)

Josh

Harold

Tony

Eric

Loren

Tim

Steve

Tyson

Jack

Patrick

John

Kyle

Pete

Roudebek

Chadwick

Kareeeeem

Todd

Amanda

Alex

Jason

--It looks like we have to go all the way to Amanda before we get to a female reviewer. So it turns out guys really do read, given a book that appeals to them! :)

Oh, and Amanda gives The Hunter 2 stars out of 5 -- tied for the lowest rating on the page.

Edited by Christian

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Art of Manliness: Men should read more fiction.

While many men have stacks of books accumulating on their “to-read” pile, chances are that pile is composed primarily of non-fiction tomes. For the past 20 years or so, the publishing industry has noted a precipitous decline in the number of men reading fiction. Some reports show that men make up only 20% of fiction readers in America today.

There are a lot of reasons thrown around as to why many men today don’t read fiction. Perhaps they had a bad experience with it in high school and swore they’d never read a novel again as long as they lived. It’s possible that the male brain is just naturally more drawn to the straightforward, fact-driven nature of non-fiction. And some have suggested that men are getting their storytelling fix from the many excellent narrative non-fiction books that have come out in the past decade (e.g., The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, Into Thin Air).

Whatever the reason, cognitive studies are beginning to show that men might be short-shrifting themselves by avoiding the fiction section in the bookstore and library. Today we make the case for why you need to put down those business books every once in awhile and pick up a copy of Hemingway.

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Esquire to Publish E-Books Devoted to Men’s Fiction

His definition of men’s fiction? Work that is “plot-driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another,” he said. “And also at the same time, dealing with passages in a man’s life that seem common.”

http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/20/esquire-to-publish-e-books-devoted-to-mens-fiction/?src=recg

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Gene Weingarten's latest column -- actually, a reprinted column from 10 years ago -- is amusing. Excerpt:

I seldom accept speaking engagements, but I recently got an invitation I couldn’t turn down. It was from the Men’s Book Club of Charlottesville.

Yes, you heard correctly, Oprah: a literary discussion group founded by, conducted by, and dedicated to the intellectual stimulation of ... men. I am sorry if this notion does not dovetail with some people’s image of my gender as a parliament of louts, boors and vulgarians. Wake up and smell the Kafka, ladies.

Charlottesville is nearly a three-hour drive, so I needed to time it just right. The Men’s Book Club conducts its meetings, start to finish, during halftime of “Monday Night Football.”

Edited by Christian

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The author whose book The Signal started this thread has just released a new novel, Return to Oakpine, and today's Washington Post review by Steven Donoghue is a doozy. He says the book is full of cliches, yet works beautifully:

 

It’s full of predictable, cliched overwriting — and yet it’s as stirring and memorable and utterly rejuvenating a novel as you’ll read.

 

I wasn't very impressed by The Signal, but this review reminded me of Carlson's Five Skies, so I've put a copy of that (and, yes, Return to Oakpine) on hold at the library.

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