“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.’”
It’s a good thing we lady writers are busy writing books that are boring, and where nothing happens. We wouldn’t want too much excitement. We might faint dramatically. We might have to take to our beds for weeks on end. We are delicate things, we lady writers.
Let me admit that I’ve been slightly surprised and confused by the way this little newslet has been digested around the parts of the internet I’ve visited this morning — i.e., with a lot of eye-rolling and frustration, and a sense that there’s something dismissive here toward fiction written by women.
Observing efforts to create or market “fiction for men” will surely be every bit as embarrassing and queasy as watching products be marketed toward any other identity group — actually, judging by those commercials for the Dr. Pepper with 10 calories, it’ll be 90 times more stomach-churning — but in the long run, the sight of it happening is not a bad development at all.
I had thought today would be a day where I would not write about men and writing, because many men (not all men!) get upset and feel I am being “mean” when I do this. Inevitably they reblog things with lots of links to definitions from formal logic because they think I care about such things when really I am no regrets chicken dot gif about them. (I already know about your “logic,” sportsfans, and I have unsubscribed.) But Nitsuh and I are friends and so I know I can be relatively honest while also engaging in an actual conversation.
The problem is with the equivalency you draw at the end, here, Nitsuh. It is simply not the same kind of thing for books to be targeted “at men” as it would be for them to be targeted at other identity groups. Jami’s critique points out the distinction. Men often say this sort of thing about why they won’t read “women’s fiction,” which has in few instances given that term to itself, I might add. There’s not enough action in it. It’s slow. It’s not About Something because it’s not about “passages in a man’s life that seem common.”
In the hands of somewhere like Esquire — which has published a few articles I’ve enjoyed but beyond that seems no more serious about anything than your average lady magazine AND YET is nonetheless considered “serious” because guys write for it and like it — these phrases aren’t mere marketing tools. They cement, for the men listening, what men are already brought up to believe about themselves: that they are Men of Action, In the World, Good Men Going Through Hard Times, or whatever movie-of-the-week narrative men are being sold now. Like Jami, I guess, I simply wish that we did not live in a world where this kind of marketing-speak reinforced already irritating hierarchies, but no one’s electing me President of the Internet yet.
Michelle Dean is very smart.