Men and Fiction

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Men and Fiction

Postby Scott » 31 Dec 2009, 09:50

It's a troubling fact that less men are reading fiction than ever. Could it be there aren't enough male authors who excite men? What of Chuck Palahniuk, Elmore Leonard, Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy, et al? Are they not being pushed to the front enough, or do they tend to make their names mostly through film adaptations? We rarely see these guys representing modern literature, and Nathan's post about being Mr. and Mrs. Nice Author got me thinking: do they not have the temperament for the marketing game? I've seen a few interviews with the aforementioned, but for the most part they either remain brooding in secret or tucked away on Angry Author's Island for all I know. Charles Bukowski would have probably shot up a post office by now in today's literary climate.

So what say you all? Is it all in my head, or is Clive Cussler, John Grisham, Ken Follett and Dan Simmons all we've got out front these days? Steven King can't do it on his own, anymore, and it's showing. Not that there's anything wrong with what we've got, but male voices seem to be shrinking and I've got enough twee fiction to choose from to last me an eternity.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby trini » 31 Dec 2009, 15:14

Well there are all the action thriller guys, Lee Child, David Baldacci, Harlan Coben, Michael Connelly, James Patterson et al. They all spin a diverting yarn. My guy reads all of those. He also likes NZ author Maurice Shadbolt for some meaty historical fiction. Dennis Lehane challenges and confronts.

I recommend C.K. Stead's My Name was Judas for a literary treat. Stead is a wonderful writer, his language is sublime.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Terry Towery » 31 Dec 2009, 21:00

Some of my favorite writers are women (Toni Morrison and Anne Tyler to name two), and I generally don't care who writes a book that I like. If I like it, I buy it. But since I've gotten involved with writer groups, Twitter, Writer's Digest, writer blogs and this site, I have been stunned at how many women writers there are out there. And how few men.

I think it's a combination of the "angry, secluded macho male writer" thing that Scott wrote about coupled with the explosion of fantasy/vampire/angels/dragon-y YA and MG titles, which are most often written by young women (except for that very cool Jacob Wonderbar book coming out soon!). I also think this ties in with another post around here somewhere about how boys don't read much anymore (with the exception of my 12-year-old son, who reads constantly!)

Let's not forget someone like Neil Gaiman, who writes those big, sexy, scary novels that I, personally, love. I mean, there are guys out there writing some very good stuff. But it does seem to me that the vast majority of new authors are women. And maybe that's a good thing.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Nick » 31 Dec 2009, 21:23

Terry Towery wrote:Let's not forget someone like Neil Gaiman, who writes those big, sexy, scary novels that I, personally, love. I mean, there are guys out there writing some very good stuff. But it does seem to me that the vast majority of new authors are women. And maybe that's a good thing.


That just made me think of something. I mean maybe it's because I'm male, but I find I generally prefer the output of male authors, even if there seem to be more female names on the shelves at the local Borders. Perhaps it's a simple matter of men understanding what appeals to men better than a woman. Perhaps the men are genuinely writing better books (I would argue as such, though there are exceptions to every rule; and for that matter, we could get very nitpicky about homosexual authors). Food for thought.

Myself, I think come tomorrow I'm going to look over my collection just to get a rough idea of male vs female in my ownership. Pretty much just because I just placed the idea in my head.

But I do think there is some validity to the "Men writing better books" case, at least in certain genres. I have yet to find one woman (or other man for that matter) who writes a spy thriller so masterfully as John le Carré. I've yet to find a female fantasy author who has surpassed Tolkien in mein eyes, although there is very probably a bit of rose tinting going on there, what with him being the reason I ever decided to write in the first place. Who knows? Like I said above, food for thought.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Crystal » 01 Jan 2010, 10:25

For my husband his lack of reading stems from a lack of time. He works 60ish hours a week, coaches our son's football team, bowls 2 days a week,blah blah I could go on, and by the time he picks up a book it only takes a page or 2 for him to be happily drooling all over the wonderfully written pages.

One of my beta readers is a guy and let me tell you he is constantly bugging me for more pages. So I think it really depends on the man and yes, what you are offering them to read. I don't necessarily think men are better writers but I do think there is validity to the "men understand what men like" concept. Through brute force :) I have gotten my hubs to read my wip, and I have to tell you he does like it, but there are some scenes in it that are very "womanly" if you will, and he just rolls his eyes and says "whatever".

I am working hard to keep my son from falling into the trap of not reading, thank God for Diary of a Wimpy Kid, lol. I am hoping that with him finding something that sparks his interest it will be easier for me to get him to try other books.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Lorelei Armstrong » 01 Jan 2010, 10:45

Could it be that men's spare time is entirely taken up with video games and internet porn?
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Bryan Russell/Ink » 01 Jan 2010, 11:13

Hey, I don't like either. Must be why I'm a writer.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Crystal » 01 Jan 2010, 11:59

Lorelei Armstrong wrote:Could it be that men's spare time is entirely taken up with video games and internet porn?

I totally agree with this!!
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby D. G. Hudson » 01 Jan 2010, 12:35

In my observations, a truly intellectual man reads a lot and has a lot of reading interests. That could span various genres, non-fiction, and texts on physics. If the male happens to prefer the physical or athletic pursuits, then that might erode the time for reading. If men read the way they 'shop' (and this is a general statement) by grabbing any book off the shelf, or wanting something specific and only that, then they lose the chance to find new authors to read. You have to wander the aisles, online or in a bookstore. During the holiday season, I saw more men standing around at the bookstore, than thumbing through the books.

I think there are men who read a lot, but they aren't likely to advertise it unless they like to write. Somewhere along the line, men seem to have adopted the idea that it isn't masculine to be intellectual, or to read something besides mens' mags. I hope parents today understand the importance of reading as a form of self-educating, and instill this in their male & female children. One can acquire a broad knowledge base by reading.

I've always thought that male authors were more plentiful than female, and finding a good female author was difficult.(excluding romance, and erotica --which align with mens mags) More female protagonists have come to the fore, but they all seem to be part super-hero, excelling in areas which usually require more muscle. In the book, "The Road", the emotion came out strong and clear -- this guy cared, even in a world gone to hell.

We have to quit judging by caveman standards. Men who read a lot, are ultimately more interesting to talk to than the oaf who will bonk you over the head to show he likes you. There are many good books by both genders, but one has to look for them like the mushrooms Nathan mentioned in his last post. Happy New Year!
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Mira » 02 Jan 2010, 10:58

I think boys aren't encouraged to read like girls are; they are encouraged to go outdoors, play, be active - I'm generalizing here - and boys who don't may be teased for being bookworms, nerds, etc. There's a stigma for boys who read, I think.

That most likely carries into adulthood.

Not only that, but I've read that boys only will read books about male protagonists. For many men, I think that carries into adulthood as well. I exchange books frequently with a guy, and he really doesn't want books with a female protagonist.

As irritating as I personally find that, it is the reality. :)

Books need a makeover. We need a T.V. ad with some macho football guy, reading, then looking up, all upset, and he says: "Beth Dies??!!!!"

They did that in Friends, and it was hilarious. I'd bet some people went out and bought books after that.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby trini » 02 Jan 2010, 14:30

I do know it takes boys longer to get in to reading than girls. Boys move faster in numeracy and girls in literacy. There does come a point where they catch up with each other of course. But for boys to choose reading as recreation, I believe it is more likely to happen if it is modelled in their household.

My son and his friends are often exchanging books with each other. DS got a whole series out of the library to read this summer.

I imagine it is easier for a boy to relate to a male protagonist and I can see why they might stick with that but my guy is waiting for me to finish my Kathy Reichs so he can read it. I guess he has no problem with Temperance Brennan leading the way. He is currently checking out a Martina Cole novel. I haven't read her yet so I am interested in his review.

And on that, DG, I have no problem finding good female authors in the genres I read. Science Fiction, Crime Thrillers, Historical Fiction, Fantasy all have great gals writing.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby sphinxnihps » 03 Jan 2010, 09:32

This topic reminded me of another post, on an agent's blog:

http://agentinthemiddle.blogspot.com/20 ... 1534032281

Sometimes it's hard to link to her posts, but it is the What's Selling post. I think it is true that men tend to read about male protagonists, and if the trend is turning toward female protags, then no wonder men are reading less. Personally, I'm a female and I'm the odd one out--I want to read and write about male protags over female. But I think all it takes is a few good break out novels by men or about male protags to change the trend.

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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Jaime » 03 Jan 2010, 22:43

This is an interesting post. I just took a stroll over to our bookcase to see what assortment of books we have.

On my husband's shelves, there are a million Stephen King novels (yeah, that's right - a million!), Tolkien, Terry Pratchett, Ian Irvine (what appears to be all of his books, too), H.G. Wells, and C. S. Lewis, to name a few. The only female writer he reads is J.K. Rowling, and I'm not a Harry Potter fan, so I have never read them. The common theme in my husband's collection is that the books have male protags. The common theme in my books? Female protags.

My husband never used to read as a teenager, but now he reads every night without fail. Even his parents were surprised when I told them that he and his brother exchange books regularly, because neither of them showed any signs of becoming bookworms when they were younger (and his parents don't read books, either). We have already started building our son's book collection with classics from Roald Dahl and Dr. Seuss (although, Roald Dahl is one of our favourite writers, so we should steal them and place them in our 'big peoples' bookcase').

I believe that as writers, we write what we would love to read, otherwise we would bore ourselves to death during the process. There may appear to be more female writers breaking through at the moment, but that may just be a sign of the economic times right now. More people are working longer hours to make ends meet, and where families are concerned, it's the females who are at home with their children who may find the time to write (Rowling and Meyer included). I always wanted to write, and did so as a teenager, but then going to university and working long hours got in the way. It wasn't until I had my son 16 months ago that I decided now was as good a time as any.

Will I break through? Who knows. I just want to make enough money to be able to stay at home, be with my family, and continue writing. But either way, we'll be reading to our son. Maybe he'll grow up to be a writer :)
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby casnow » 04 Jan 2010, 07:57

There was an interesting article in the NY Times now about how male writers these days seem to have had their testicles removed - most literacists prefer cuddling to sex, and that they don't have the edge that a young Norman Mailer, Philip Roth, or John Updike had. They're protagonists are the type of guys whose shoulders you cry on. In other words, they're wimps.

I'm going to stereotype but here's what men like:
Men like to do things - we like action, whether it be drinking, fighting, screwing, driving, blowing things up, shooting things, competing, cooking meat, and winning
When men read we want to read about drinking, fighting, screwing, driving, blowing things up, shooting things, competing, cooking meat and winning

OR
we want to read about someone losing, but in the end the hero has to get drunk, then drive to where the bad guy is, shoot all his accomplices, blow up his house, car, etc, then fight him to the death... after winning he'll probably even screw the guy's wife before cooking some meat over the burning remnants of the bad guy's home - hence he will then win.

However, b/c most men like the above, we generally write about the above, which is for adults and not for kids - hence there just isn't much for little boys to read. So they go out in the woods with their Red Rider BB guns and shoot things, throw homemade pipebombs into the local fishing pond, and dream about the one day they'll get brave enough to talk to girls.

reading generally is second to all that.
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Re: Men and Fiction

Postby Scott » 04 Jan 2010, 09:06

Highly entertaining comments, casnow. And very good ones throughout. Thanks, all.
casnow wrote:However, b/c most men like the above, we generally write about the above, which is for adults and not for kids - hence there just isn't much for little boys to read.

This brings up another point for me. Because of a glut of female authors who perhaps have been home with children, I see a ton of YA. Who out there is writing for adults? Is it a sign of capitalism driving our efforts to the young, spending demographic (I don't remember having a fraction of the cash my nephews and niece have to buy things when I was growing up), or is it simply indicative of who is finding the time to write and what they know best?

I have a friend who reads my stuff who is always encouraging me to write for young boys, as well. Although, I can't possibly see any way to drag my nephews away from their umpteen electronic gaming devices to get them to read for recreation, as a few sitting copies of The Outsiders seem to prove. If men come into reading later on, surely they want something in which they see themselves that will also provide a little insight into what it means to be a man today.

An interesting perspective from which to begin a book, I think: "adult male literary fiction". The market clearly isn't clamoring for it, but there has to be a few outside of those I mentioned who can write about male interests while providing something that resembles real literature.
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