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#121 Christian

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 06:25 PM

Christian, the most interesting author on your reading list is Haruki Murakami (I've never read him before), but out of all the quite intriguing and philosophical looking things that he's written, I'm not sure if a book about running marathons would the best way to begin him. Why were you thinking of that one? You just like jogging or something?



Hmmm, I was just thinking of re-reading one of my Murakumi novels - he might be a good writer for us to start with...

I'm up for it. The book on running was simply a suggestion based on what I'd written elsewhere earlier -- that I'm jogging for the first time in my life (at age 40!) and am training for some late-in-2011 runs. Nothing huge -- a 5K and a 4-miler -- but something I think I might actually be able to achieve. I wanted some encouragement. At the same time, I committed to the Haruki Murakami Reading Challenge, which requires that I read just one Murakami book in 2011. What We Talk About When We Talk About Running seemed like a good fit -- kill two birds with one stone -- but I don't think it's one of Murakami's acclaimed works.

No, those would be the books that Andrew earlier mentioned he's already read (right, Andrew?). I can go digging back through the thread, but maybe I'll just ask you here, Andrew: Is there a Murakami book you were thinking of reading? You've recommended The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Did you finish Kafka on the Shore?

My only concern now is that Murakami doesn't really fit the "pulp fiction" angle a few of us were taking. But since Jeremy suggested reviving the A&F Book Club, I'm willing to let him steer the ship for our first selection.

Any objections?

Edited by Christian, 06 February 2011 - 07:16 PM.


#122 Andrew

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 07:33 PM

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.

I also started his oral history of the subway terrorist attacks, Underground, which is masterfully composed, but I found it so repetitively horrifying (it was giving me nightmares) that I felt I couldn't continue with it.

Edited by Andrew, 06 February 2011 - 10:30 PM.


#123 Ryan H.

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 09:50 PM

I could be persuaded to go with NORWEGIAN WOOD. Regarding PLATFORM, I have to say it seems a bolder choice than Murakami, and the one thing that makes it ideal for this kind of group is that it seems certain to be the kind of book to incite passionate reactions. I wouldn't expect to like it--from what I've read about PLATFORM, it seems a bit too Palahniuk-esque for my tastes (for the record, I despise Palahniuk)--but were we to go for it, I'd certainly read along.

Were I to select something myself, my tastes would probably run to works a bit more established. Something by Nabokov, perhaps. Or Joseph Conrad's NOSTROMO, which I've had on my shelf for far too long.

And it occurs to me that, given the themes of faith running throughout his body of work, the works of Anthony Burgess might provide a fairly stirring starting point, too. Say, for example, EARTHLY POWERS.

Edited by Ryan H., 06 February 2011 - 09:52 PM.


#124 Ambler

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 06:16 AM

After the damning NYT review of Platform posted earlier in this thread, I feel obliged to provide a link to Julian Barne's review in The New Yorker.

As Ryan says, Platform polarized the critics. I'd argue that's exactly why it's a such a good choice for a discussion. Whilst I don't object to re-reading a classic such as Nostromo it seems slightly pointless discussing books that are generally accepted to be of exceptional merit.

#125 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 01:31 PM

But since Jeremy suggested reviving the A&F Book Club, I'm willing to let him steer the ship for our first selection.

Here, I'll at least take this rabbit trail to another thread.

#126 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 12:17 PM

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.

#127 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 01:11 PM

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. :)

#128 Christian

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Posted 19 March 2011 - 03:27 PM


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, 19 March 2011 - 03:28 PM.


#129 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 21 March 2011 - 02:00 AM

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.

#130 Ryan H.

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Posted 23 March 2011 - 05:11 PM

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.

#131 Christian

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Posted 24 May 2011 - 05:15 PM

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.

#132 Christian

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Posted 20 July 2011 - 07:44 PM

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.

#133 Christian

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Posted 12 September 2011 - 06:55 PM

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, 12 September 2011 - 06:56 PM.


#134 Christian

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Posted 07 October 2011 - 07:40 PM

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).

#135 Christian

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Posted 09 December 2011 - 10:17 AM

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.

#136 Christian

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Posted 17 December 2011 - 04:55 PM

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, 17 December 2011 - 04:57 PM.


#137 Christian

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 10:28 PM

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, 19 January 2012 - 10:28 PM.


#138 David Smedberg

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Posted 19 January 2012 - 11:17 PM

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, 19 January 2012 - 11:18 PM.


#139 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 11:17 AM

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, 24 January 2012 - 11:54 AM.


#140 Jason Panella

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 11:40 AM

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).