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Fiction for Men


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#141 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 06:57 PM

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, 24 January 2012 - 06:57 PM.


#142 Ryan H.

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 07:18 PM


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).

#143 NBooth

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Posted 24 January 2012 - 07:32 PM

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, 24 January 2012 - 07:56 PM.


#144 David Smedberg

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Posted 04 February 2012 - 09:08 PM

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)

#145 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 05 February 2012 - 12:56 AM

... 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.

#146 Christian

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Posted 19 February 2012 - 11:04 PM

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, 19 February 2012 - 11:05 PM.


#147 SDG

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Posted 01 May 2012 - 02:05 PM

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.



#148 Christian

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Posted 21 May 2012 - 11:47 AM

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....ction/?src=recg

#149 Christian

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Posted 28 July 2012 - 11:54 PM

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, 28 July 2012 - 11:54 PM.


#150 Christian

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Posted 17 August 2013 - 09:01 AM

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.



#151 Christian

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Posted 27 February 2014 - 09:34 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.

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.

 

So, this book is available for $1.99 for the Nook and Kindle.

 

Do the right thing, people. 



#152 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 10:47 AM

“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.

So, this book is available for $1.99 for the Nook and Kindle.
 
Do the right thing, people.


I just acquired it (a hardback printed copy, not on Nook or Kindle). I'll probably be able to read it this weekend. Thanks for promoting this. It sounds like fun.

#153 Christian

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Posted 07 March 2014 - 01:05 PM

Great! I hope you like it as much as I did.



#154 J.A.A. Purves

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Posted 11 March 2014 - 05:05 PM

I read it.  I'd give it a 3 out of 5.  (Or, in other terms, I'd rate deWitt's writing somewhere above Louis L'Amour but still below Charles Portis or Ron Hansen.)  Definitely enjoyable and I'm happy to own my own copy.  With two brothers of my own, I could relate to some of Eli's attitudes and emotions about his brother.  And the relationship between the two of them is described quite well.  Some of the arguments they get into makes you strongly suspect that deWitt has at least one brother of his own.  It has enough comedy in it to prevent it from being too dark.  But it's also too serious to just be a comedy.  When they make this into a film, they need to not make it only as a comedy.

 

It's strange how strongly pop culture can affect how you imagine what you read.  Unfortunately, I'll never know what it would be like to have read this without knowing that John C. Reilly is already making plans to star in and make this into a film.  Because I heard that before I read the book, my imagination was stuck from the very beginning imagining Reilly as Eli.  And not only that, but I've heard so many "lives of the cowboys" segments from A Prairie Home Companion for so many years that both Dusty and Lefty kept intruding into my imagining of Eli and Charlie.  The similarities were too close at a couple moments in the book that I couldn't shake the association off.  So I have no way of knowing if I would have liked the book more or less without those preconceived ideas of what the Sisters brothers sounded like.

 

It was quite enjoyable though.  Thanks for the recommendation.



#155 Christian

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Posted 12 March 2014 - 05:46 AM

I'm so glad you read it, Jeremy. I had hoped you'd like it more, of course, but I appreciate the way you can plow through a book in a couple of days and, without complaint, comment and move on to the next book. I need to "take a page" from your reading habits and make them my own. A book takes long enough for me to get through that, when it doesn't quite pan out, I end up feeling cheated of time and effort. 

 

I never listened to Prairie Home Companion growing up (still don't, and I've often wondered why it is that I never got into that show), so I didn't bring those preconceptions to the story. Nor did I know about

Spoiler
, although I'm not sure why that's in spoiler tags. Thanks for the tip!

 

I'd promise to re-read the novel, but my building "stack" of ebooks is calling. Maybe I should buy this novel again in e-form just to have it at hand every time I power up my ereader. 



#156 Christian

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Posted 20 September 2014 - 01:52 PM

Ron Charles points out that 9 of 10 books on the National Book Awards nonfiction longlist are by men.

 

In February, the National Book Foundation, which administers these annual awards, published a study showing that over the past 60 years, the number of women NBA finalists and winners has steadily increased every decade until they overtook men in the 2010s. Unfortunately, today’s nonfiction longlist — what we might call the Y-list — looks like a return to the good old days. ...

 

The judges for this year’s NBA Nonfiction Prize are Robert Atwan, Gretel Ehrlich, Tom Reiss, Ruth J. Simmons and Alan Taylor.


Edited by Christian, 20 September 2014 - 01:57 PM.