Monday, August 10, 2009

Men write novels, women read them

According to an article in The New Yorker, the author Ian McEwan once did a survey in which he handed out copies of one of his books in a nearby park. Women accepted the books willingly and gratefully, while men were polite but negative. These actions led McEwan to conclude that "when women stop reading, the novel will be dead."

It has been documented elsewhere that men do not like to read novels. In fact, they seem to be ashamed to admit they are reading one, preferring instead long-winded biographies, doubtful social science and obscure polysci. But the major novelists, up to and including the present day, are mostly men. For instance, Trollope, Dickens, James, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Updike, Roth, Franzen. What does this tell us? It tells me that some men are imaginative and show us, in David Foster Wallace's words, what our fucking life is all about, whereas those male readers who one would suppose would be interested in any information about their psyches, reject any hint of self-analysis. Instead, the male gender mostly lives in some neutered book world of so-called facts, which may or may not be factoids. Whereas novels do not have to worry about libel or naming names, so with impunity can and do cover all issues concerning them and their fellow humans. Boys, let's have some rethinking here! Barbara Phillips

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