Persiflage, on 24 January 2012 - 06:57 PM, said:
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:
 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."
 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."
 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.
 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.