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What We Read When We Don’t Read the Internet PRESENTS! Au Revoir, Pretty Horses; Or, Why I Don’t Read Man Books Any More

[Ladies, gentlemen: Tiger Beatdown is a classy publication, of sophisticated cultural leanings. Sort of! We do spend a lot of time talking about the Miley Cyrus! And the Taylor Swift, and the Judd Apatow movies, and who is the best feminist on NBC's Thursday night prime-time programming (there are so many choices). However, here is one thing that we rarely talk about: Literature. Which is sort of a strange omission, given that the one thing we know about You, the Reader, for certain is that you... well, that you read. That one is a given! Therefore, this week, we bring you What We Read When We Don't Read the Internet, a Tiger Beatdown THEME POST PARTY (again! And also, WOO) dedicated to the Ladies and Lit Thing. Leading us off: The Rejectionist!]

When I was younger I did that thing that some of us ladies do, the thing of working very hard to be The Girl Who Was Cool Enough to Hang Out With the Boys. Being that girl was an exhausting job, fraught with peril; it involved drinking a whole bunch, not talking much, constantly making sure the boys knew how much more down I was than other girls, and carrying around at all times one of the following three novels: All the Pretty Horses ,On the Road, or Junky (even at the highest pinnacle of my internalized misogyny, I never made it through Henry Miller). It was an unforgivable sign of weakness to read books about (let alone by) women, who sat around in kitchens popping out babies, harping on their menfolk, and doing the dishes. Women were boring! They were gross! Passive! Or just plain mean! They didn’t think much! They couldn’t possibly do exciting things, like drive cars across the country or drive spaceships to the moon, kiss girls, duke it out with their fathers in a sudden eruption of years’ worth of Repressed Sentiment, pursue villains craftily, or survive the streets of turn-of-the-century London as cunning and wily orphans. A professed affinity for Manfiction was a central tenet of this precarious Cool Girl identity; a Cool Girl was always ready to support the literary analysis presented by the dudes, even after consuming a fifth of bourbon at three in the morning.

What’s a manfiction book, exactly? It is indeed, almost but not entirely exclusively, a book by a man; but it is a particular kind of book by a particular kind of man, a Real Man, a virile, manly man, who gallops around on horses in between penning great works.

SOME MORE TELLING CHARACTERISTICS OF MANFICTION

1. There aren’t any ladies in it.

2. Male characters cannot communicate with their sons, brothers, and fathers. Or anybody else, really; but they are particularly hampered in inter-man relationships (this is important to emphasize regularly, because the only men who are capable of talking in polysyllabic phrases to other men are gay, and the only thing less manly than writing thoughtfully about women is writing about gays. An inability to communicate is the literary equivalent of the empty seat between two dudes in a movie theater). Instead of communicating the men will drink a lot, commit random acts of violence, beat their sons or pets, and drive around in trucks without speaking. These men do not have daughters.

3. There is at least one of the following: lots of poor people, cows, hunting, a farm, a blizzardy Midwestern town, terse silences, long journeys on horseback/foot, the dissolution of a marriage. The dissolution of the marriage is frequently followed by extensive scenarios involving the aging and not-very-attractive male character finding a newfound sense of purpose with one or more very young, very buxom, and very blond ladies with voracious sexual appetites. The poor people are never happy, as Authenticity can only be conveyed by poor people who are miserable and dissolute.

4. Maybe there are a few ladies in it. If those ladies are of color, they will be very sensual, with snapping black eyes. They will spend the bulk of their time preparing the delicious cuisines of their native cultures. Probably the adjective “fiery” will be used at least once in conjunction with this lady-character’s appearance. If the lady is a white lady, she will rest quietly for the duration of the novel, while a variety of man-types engage in fisticuffs over her person, trade her back and forth, or attempt to get in her pants, thus providing the manfiction with its Narrative Arc. The lady wears a pretty dress which clings alluringly to her figure, unless she is a Bad Lady, in which case she dresses like a slattern (i.e. wears pants). Bonus points if the lady smells improbably of floral shampoo at all times. If the lady is older than thirty she’s definitely a sexless, emasculating bitch, unless she is a predatory but sordid vixen.

5. Author cites the following as influential in interviews: Harold Bloom, Charles Bukowski, fatherhood (of a son), alcoholism. Author may have been married many times to one or more very buxom and very blond ladies with voracious sexual appetites, whose age is inversely related to his fame.

6. But in general, there aren’t any ladies in it.

As reigning high priest of manfiction Cormac McCarthy noted in a relatively recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, it’s hard to write about ladies. (“I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years. I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try.”) It’s so hard, in fact, that Cormac eschewed the ladies altogether in his most recent, Pulitzer-Prizewinning (ladies don’t win the Pulitzer) novel The Road. (Mom can’t hack the apocalypse and offs herself before the novel’s action starts, conveniently leaving the stage open for The Most Epic Father-Son Journey of All Time.) Why is it so hard? Is it that fulsome miasma of mystery that issues forth from our ladyparts? Our deep, fecund, and irrational thought processes, tied so inextricably to the miracle of childbirth? The moist cavern of our wombs? What makes us so damn inscrutable, ladies? Whatever it is, it’s so gnarly that only a heroic feat of man-writerly prowess can get a lady into a work of manfiction at all. It’s much more challenging, obvs, for man-writers to write about ladies than it is for ladies to write anything at all, which is perhaps why men who do (see: Atonement) receive such fawning accolades. When ladies write about ladies, it’s a total cakewalk for us–because we already know how ladies work, thanks to our nonstop access to the monolithic feminine consciousness; a consciousness that is, of course, identical from lady to lady, and smells a little bit like fish.

For years I read, and sometimes even loved, manfiction. I was well into my twenties before it slowly began to occur to me that the ladies who surrounded me — smart, funny, fearless, awesome; ladies who hitchhiked across the country solo, hopped trains, taught themselves homesteading, backpacked through the wilderness, played in bands, dressed sexy, dressed like boys; lades who, in short, unapologetically lived their own lives on their own terms — were nowhere to be found in the books I was reading. And I missed them. I didn’t want to keep pretending I was Philip Marlowe while my secret heart knew Chandler’s only option for me was to get prettier, grow out my hair, put on a sapphire-colored dress, and set to swooning. I’m not the first person to point out that a lifetime spent reading against yourself is both disorienting and miserable. So I don’t really read manfiction any more; not because it’s bad, but because it makes me tired and a little sad. A lady is not a dishwasher, a font of mystery, a vortex, an unknowable object of desire. A lady, like any other person, is just someone with her own set of stories.

[The Rejectionist is an anonymous assistant to a New York literary agent. She blogs at www.therejectionist.com.]

70 Comments

  1. Mittany wrote:

    Yes … that’s it exactly. It’s tiring. It takes a lot of mental effort to create the back story that explains why the lady must always be the object – and never the character. And here I thought it was always about the descriptions of the instrumentation in the cockpit that made me stop reading manfiction.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink
  2. lotesse wrote:

    I AM PASSIONATELY IN LOVE WITH THIS POST. And it was pretty much the best day of my life when I decided to give up reading Manfiction and just Wikipedia enough to get by – academia demands that we all be able to talk about the Dude Lit, but hell if I’m wasting my time reading that ish.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:35 am | Permalink
  3. Shinobi wrote:

    Oh good now I can cross TheRoad off my list. I pretty much don’t read anything that doesn’t have a female mc or author. Unless it is really good. Ivthought the road might qualify. Thanks for saving me.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:41 am | Permalink
  4. Victoria wrote:

    Part of what’s wacky about this whole genre is that most readers of contemporary fiction are women. Women will read this stuff. Men will not read whatever its feminine equivalent would be. Will. Not. So when a book comes out for the menz, and they like it, the whole world fawns, like: Look! We got them to read something! But if the dudes would just read something by a lady from time to time, they would maybe have a slightly less challenging time empathizing with the ladies. Instead, we get the huge cultural sensation of The Road.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:53 am | Permalink
  5. Kripa wrote:

    I think this is why I never got into The Stranger. Everyone gushes about it, and I’m kinda like, “Eh.”

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:56 am | Permalink
  6. Twyst wrote:

    I loved this post. I think this is now why i seek out women in the media i consume, comics, games, lit, movies etc. Living, even briefly in a world where dudes are awesome and women are at best, totally absent is SAD. and TIRESOME.
    So thanks for this post! :D

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  7. Ophelia wrote:

    I dunno, I liked The Road. I liked the atmosphere and tone of the piece, and I thought the part about the wife was probably one of the strongest points of the book.

    I was talking to a friend who thought it was a very masculine and selfish thing to do, keeping the boy alive for the sake of one’s self/civilization/whatever. I was skeptical, in that I didn’t know if the father had the right to kill the son even if he’d wanted to, but it was an interesting question. I think it’d serve really well as a foil, of sorts, to Beloved (gender, race, time, genre, etc). I guess I’m ok with “manfiction” that has emotions outside angst, rage, anger, self-pity, and unbridled sexual desire. Love fit the bill, for me anyway.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  8. Well said and thank you.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:24 am | Permalink
  9. Kat wrote:

    Okay, Le R., I completely see your point. So, I beg of you: give me some examples of beautifully written books about women and the shit they think and do. Please?

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  10. Courtney (Miss C) wrote:

    People write what they know. I’m not saying that men should only write about men, and manly bonding/relationships, but it doesn’t have to be seen in such an anti-feminist light. While the only Cormac McCarthy book I have ever read was The Road, I really enjoyed it, and it stuck with me for a long time. While I do agree that women characters should be more dynamic, what about all the books written for women, by women that revolve around shopping, trite romance, and bodily perfection/ obsession? Couldn’t this be worse in the long run than “manfiction”?

    @Shinobi: You don’t have to write off The Road just because one person told you it was “manficiton”. It’s a very good book, and while “Mom can’t hack the apocalypse and offs herself before the novel’s action starts, conveniently leaving the stage open for The Most Epic Father-Son Journey of All Time”, the story is still just as fantastic. McCarthy wrote what he knew, and didn’t write anything with the sense of purposly putting women off.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:54 am | Permalink
  11. Andrea wrote:

    You know, this post articulates a lot of things I never managed to actually clarify for myself, like why my fiction-reading has dropped off so sharply in the last few years, and why I love the few books I’ve found that have strong female characters so very, very fiercely.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 11:59 am | Permalink
  12. n wrote:

    Of course, the founding father of modern manfic was none other than Ernest Hemingway, the original mister short sentences, quiet suffering, etc. You think women are obscure. Try being that terse for a while. It’ll give you an inverse allergy to the dearth of anything possessed of or deserving a semicolon.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm | Permalink
  13. revolutionsheep wrote:

    I don’t buy the “people write what they know” line. It’s the ultimate excuse. I’m not a man; I don’t have to have any male characters (or the reverse, as we discuss here). I’m not black, I won’t have black people in my book. I’m not disabled, so blind people don’t exist in my novel. Or are stereotypes. Or whatever. Pretty sure McCarthy’s never been a cannibal, so how come he’s more comfortable writing about them than women? He’s probably never even MET a cannibal, and they get more screen-time. Just saying. It’s not like women are a mythical beast that dwell beyond the Mucky Swamps of Doom. Writers write what they pay attention to, and want to know, or simply imagine.

    What’s more, The Road may in fact be a very good book (I thought much of it was excellent, hated a lot of it, too) and still have major flaws. Flaws big enough that some people wouldn’t want to read it in the first place. Which is fine.

    “McCarthy wrote what he knew, and didn’t write anything with the sense of purposly putting women off”–he did say in an interview that he intentionally chooses not to write women. His explicit intent might not to be to alienate women, but his intent was certainly to exclude them, since he doesn’t write about them.

    As for books about women, etc, etc, in which men are props–it’s a similar problem BUT it’s not completely equivalent. Those books don’t earn the sort of slack-jawed amazement that these books do, for all the reasons mentioned before: expectations about gender in readership and authorship (and there are some amazing books that certainly fall into the “women writing about women” and “women writing about men” categories). Further, when’s the last time you saw a guy who felt like he had to read those chick-lit novels, and act like a woman, in order to be taken seriously and keep his friends? Methinks mostly in jokes about hen-pecked guys, which tells you something right there.

    On a final note, “something else is bad/worse” really isn’t a valid argument against “there is a problem.”

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  14. Sharelle wrote:

    The Road is bad science fiction—the world building makes no sense. I know it’s supposed to be all metaphorical and shit but honestly it just seemed lazy. McCarthy decided he wanted to write an intense father/son book and wiped the whole world in order to do it but made no effort to make it even faintly believable. That’s on top off the complete absence of believable women. I found it a shoddy, boring read. Still don’t understand how it won all those prizes.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:31 pm | Permalink
  15. Jezebella wrote:

    Last year I decided to quit reading male authors for a year. It was a New Years’ Resolution, and so I finally got around to starting my year of women authors last June. That year is up now, and you know what? It might turn into a lifetime of reading only women authors. I have a huuuuuuge list of books by women I didn’t get around to this year. The dudes can wait. I have a BA in English lit and read dozens of novels during those four years, about 90% by men. In the years after, good god, it was all Thomas Pynchon and Don deLillo and William Gibson and dudes upon dudes. Time for some parity.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  16. Sheer brilliance. Oh, I read all that crap too. For years. Until I discovered women’s fiction–books about people who resembled actual humans. Or what might be called “NOT d**k lit.”

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  17. Kathy wrote:

    …working very hard to be The Girl Who Was Cool Enough to Hang Out With the Boys

    This is so who I was in my twenties, and even into my early thirties. (Nice thing about growing older: you stop caring about impressing people — much.) It took me far too long to realize my guy “friends” only respected me as long as I followed the “man script.” (I’m not trying to make sweeping generalizations here, and I do have quite a few platonic male friends, just in my experience, more often than not, I was only a “friend” as long as I didn’t challenge too much.)

    Re: Manfiction
    I kind of naturally gravitate toward fiction created by women, so giving up manfiction isn’t really a challenge. Inga Muscio recommended doing just that — reading books written by women, watching movies and listening to music made by women — for a month. (Or a year? It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve read that book.)

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:00 pm | Permalink
  18. Alexa wrote:

    @Courtney: Admitting that you don’t write about a certain type of people because you don’t “understand” them is better than, say, telling the world that you don’t write about women because they’re of no interest to you as people. The problem with the former is that if, by that logic, you only write about the people and things you “understand,” the result is a fictional universe where the only characters with any depth are people like yourself. In this case, men.

    If you take the word “women” and replace it with “Characters of Color,” “GLBT charaters,” “handicapped characters,” “characters of any culture/religion besides my own,” etc., you begin to see how this can be a problem (and still is, in many forms of popular media). Declining to write about anyone different from yourself because you don’t “get” them is othering.

    I do agree, though, that chicklit has the potential to be just as icky. Any genre that’s firmly rooted in stereotypes is problematic, regardless of the intended audience.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:19 pm | Permalink
  19. Raine wrote:

    “So I don’t really read manfiction any more; not because it’s bad, but because it makes me tired and a little sad. A lady is not a dishwasher, a font of mystery, a vortex, an unknowable object of desire. A lady, like any other person, is just someone with her own set of stories.”

    This. In Michael Chabon’s book Manhood for Amateurs, there’s an essay where he talks about his difficulty in writing female characters. On the one hand, I respect him for identifying it as a flaw. On the other…well, he uses a scene of him drawing pictures with his children. His sons are drawing superheroes, while his daughters are drawing something else (sadly I don’t remember what), and he talks there about how he doesn’t understand why his daughters like to draw the things they do (while he’s enthusiastic about his sons’ interests), and connects this to his inability to write fully-developed female characters. And after I read that essay I just felt incredibly sad, because it was like he was staring at mythical creatures. He couldn’t make the connection that girls’ dreams and boys’ dreams are both just dreams–they may or may not be about different things, but they’re built out of the same mix of emotions and desires and past experiences.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink
  20. CassieC wrote:

    What The Rejectionist said. Who wants to read you if you can’t write 51% of the human population? Not me, that’s who.

    And Tigerbeatdown is my goto website on literary criticism. My undying love for Sady began with those awesome Philip Roth posts. Sady, go read some Philip Roth, so we can laugh at your criticism!

    http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/01/08/sexist-beatdown-let-us-now-praise-famous-mens-boners-edition/

    http://tigerbeatdown.com/2009/01/31/adventures-in-reading-big-angry-philip-roth-edition/

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  21. Nicole wrote:

    This post just put into words something I’ve been annoyed about for years. Thank you, Rejectionist!

    @Courtney: What I find troublesome about making the “People write what they know!” argument for McCarthy’s The Road is that he wrote a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I don’t claim to know what Mr. McCarthy’s life is like, but I’m going to venture a guess that he probably didn’t grow up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but he HAS had women in his life. Is it really easier to create a post-apocalyptic wasteland than a believable female character?

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:24 pm | Permalink
  22. Abigail wrote:

    ladies don’t win the Pulitzer

    Ladies, including Edith Wharton, Harper Lee, Annie Proulx, and Jhumpa Lahiri, have won the Pulitzer 28 times out of the 84 times a Pulitzer prize for fiction has been handed out since 1917. Or, one out of every three winners has been a woman. Not perfect, but not bad either, and I would guess probably better than most literary awards.

    I realize that this isn’t your point, but it’s just one example of how broad a brush you’re using to tar such a huge swath of literature. I can certainly sympathize with the frustration you describe at the constant belittlement of fiction for, by, and about women. You see it every time a male writer brags about not being able to get through Pride and Prejudice (as though not being able to hack one of the best novels in the English language, which is maybe 300 pages long, is a badge of honor) or in the recent [classic nove] with [monster] formula (where the classic novels are almost invariably by women or about them). But not all books by men are the same. Not all male novelists are incapable or unwilling to write women (nor are all female novelists good at writing men). And there are books, like The Road, which are worth reading despite their author’s tone deafness when it comes to half the human race (though for my money a much better take on this story is Far North by Marcel Theroux, which has a pitch-perfect female narrator and was written by a man).

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Permalink
  23. Tiana wrote:

    But not all books by men are the same.

    The author of the post made sure to note that manfiction “is a particular kind of book by a particular kind of man.”

    I love this post to little bitty awesome-pieces.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink
  24. Victoria wrote:

    Robert Boswell’s work is a wonderful antidote to manfiction by a man, particularly American Owned Love. (He’s a friend and former teacher of mine, so I’m stumping here, maybe inappropriately.) I often use it to lead young men who resist books by and about women toward, if not all the way to, the water.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink
  25. Oh my God, I love this post. I did not think too much of The Road- McCarthy is excellent at crafting prose, but the complete lack of women annoyed me too. Does the Y-chromosome protect you from the Apocalypse or something?

    @Miss C: “While I do agree that women characters should be more dynamic, what about all the books written for women, by women that revolve around shopping, trite romance, and bodily perfection/ obsession? Couldn’t this be worse in the long run than “manfiction”?”

    Worse how? And for what? Admittedly, their literary merit can be less than someone like McCarthy or Roth, but I fail to see how that makes them “worse,” necessarily. I think the danger isn’t that women ONLY write those kind of books (because they don’t), it’s that only the manfiction gets recognized as worthwile and valuable. It’s just another way our society prizes the stereotypically masculine over the stereotypically feminine, and yes, it is due to sexism.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink
  26. Emmy wrote:

    The Rejectionist on TBD! Oh, man. It’s like chocolate and peanut butter up in here. I looooove this post, and I totally get the Girl Who Hangs Out With Boys thing, only in my teens it was a hint nerdier and yours truly suffered through ALL THE SIN CITY BOOKS, ugh. I liken the manfiction type to the dude music, where it prioritizes male experiences and stories. And some of those stories were honestly captivating to me, at one point! But I also used to mentally recast the main character as a woman, or genderless, so I could identify with him, and that’s an incredibly tiring thing to do for your whole life. I think women are more willing to empathize with a character that is of another gender, but when it’s a woman reading about a dude, over and over, it has this underlying knowledge that your own stories are not worthy of praise or discussion.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  27. Cat wrote:

    I love this post. As far as The Road goes, I was so amazed at the poor quality of the story, I didn’t really even think about the lack of women until you mentioned it. If a woman wrote a book with logical holes in it big enough to drive an Escalade through, it would have been relegated to the Harlequin section of Kmart.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink
  28. Arania wrote:

    Yes. This. Many years ago, I dated a manboy. He and his friends practically swooned over the cult of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady and how free and creative their lives were. They even thought they were being progressive by acknowledging the homoeroticism of the Beat movement and Cassady’s bisexuality. But when I pointed out how the “free and creative” Beat lifestyle was was only possible because the Beat boys relied on the financial and material support of wives and mothers — how much abandonment, bigamy, cheating, abuse and freeloading went on in the name of “creative freedom” — I was vilified because I couldn’t possibly understand the holiness of life “on the road” and the need for the (male) spirit to be “free”.

    Yeah, that relationship didn’t last long.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:04 pm | Permalink
  29. Megan wrote:

    I love this post! I hope Michael Chabon reads it!!

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:20 pm | Permalink
  30. Nomie wrote:

    I really hope that Manfiction doesn’t turn into another Dude Music.

    Also, thefourthvine over at Dreamwidth recently touched on something that I see as a thread here, which is: being part of the author’s intended audience is important. Fiction that treats women as important and equal participants in the world and in the plot is more likely to treat women as important and equal members of the audience. There are parts of thefourthvine’s post that are more about fanfiction and fandom, but I think most of it still applies. Here’s the link to the post.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Permalink
  31. hekatesgal wrote:

    Love love love this. I’ve read 2 1/2 HcCarthys and damnit I’m done my time. You forgot that Manfiction is often gruesome.
    The Road is good but it is not The Great Book. If you don’t want to read it, you can go on and live a perfectly respectable literary life.

    I don’t understand why Manfiction give reviewers such a hardon except that they are usually men so I guess they want to imagine they are watching people that are eating babies?

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Permalink
  32. Jenny wrote:

    “An inability to communicate is the literary equivalent of the empty seat between two dudes in a movie theater” – GENIUS!!!

    Jezebella, I read your last sentence as “Time for some party.” and I thought, hell yeah! :)

    I don’t tend to read a lot of “manfiction” but don’t mind dipping into it once in a while. Nothing wrong with it as a condiment, but it’s never gonna be my main course …

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  33. KATE wrote:

    I LOVE THIS POST, AND I LOVE THE REJECTIONIST.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  34. draconismoi wrote:

    Ah yes, the manfiction – particularly the scififanfiction – causes me great pain. I am a reader. I love to read! But you know what distracts me from a good story? Throwing said book across the room in rage due to overwhelming misogyny.

    It has gotten to the point where I don’t read dudely authors until I have verified they managed to write at least one book or short story that features a lady as the main character.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  35. Panghule wrote:

    Maybe you should have actually read Junky while you were lugging it around, because, of the many things you could accuse William S. Burroughs, one of them was not squeamishness when it came to writing about his fellow gays.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  36. I feel like Hemingway’s status as a dudely icon is being missed. ;)

    Seriously, great post.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 7:03 pm | Permalink
  37. marginal wrote:

    @Panghule: … but perhaps a squeamishness when it comes to writing about WOMEN which seems very much to be the point of the post.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  38. Erin wrote:

    “McCarthy wrote what he knew”

    Umm, McCarthy wrote about a hopeless post-apocalyptic world where humankind is slowly dying off. I’m sure he can stretch his imagination a bit to write a female character.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  39. Molly wrote:

    Yes! My personal pledge, a couple of years ago, was to (largely) stop reading white-dude fiction, and it had a fantastic lightening effect. It means I still get to read things like Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes (with a female protag, natch) or Helon Habila’s work, but can skip out entirely on the white-dude-as-center-of-the-universe shelves.

    Honestly? I like reading much better these days, finally back to loving it as much as I did when I was a kid … and when I was a kid, most of my books were about girls and girl stuff. Huh. Iiiinteresting.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink
  40. Sophie wrote:

    it involved drinking a whole bunch, not talking much

    This, and the whole discussion of lady-as-object in Manfiction, really brings me back to a recent realization I had, which is that in my youthful social circle all the girls who were liked by the boys I liked had some kind of reserved mystique about them, and every time I came away from an interaction with one of said boys feeling like an idiot, it was because I’d talked a whole lot and been honest about things I thought and felt and just generally failed to be an object of feminine mystery. I cannot help but think that this idea (cherished if not admitted by the intelligent males of my acquaintance) comes directly from the oblique treatment females get in most fiction. Apparently a truly attractive female never shares her true thoughts (or, one might say less-charitably, never has any).

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Permalink
  41. Carolyn wrote:

    Oh, Le R! You have brought me to a new and wonderful place! Thank you! Also too, as Sarah Palin says, and so I mockingly took up the habit, and NOW CANNOT STOP, I was The One Girl Amongst Boys, but lacked the dedication to take the effort to my reading habits. I admire your discipline.

    Monday, May 31, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Permalink
  42. Brimstone wrote:

    “I don’t claim to know what Mr. McCarthy’s life is like, but I’m going to venture a guess that he probably didn’t grow up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, but he HAS had women in his life. Is it really easier to create a post-apocalyptic wasteland than a believable female character?”

    Some people grew up with sci-fi/fantasy, and thus are more comfortable with those tropes then with, say, other people

    Not justifying it. Just saying

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:27 am | Permalink
  43. Hmnnn. wrote:

    If a guy had written a rant which included the statement “ladies don’t win the pulitzer” I’m sure there’d be a Beatdown on how this lazy dude clearly isn’t familiar enough with his topic, or doesn’t care.

    While this rant has a valid opposition to men defining quality literature, it seems to use attitude more than sense or awareness of privilege.

    For example: the essay begins by name dropping Junky and Burroughs, then snarks “the only thing less manly than writing thoughtfully about women is writing about gays”. If you are going to indulge a rant about literature, one should at least have read one of the three books one was always carrying around.

    “There is at least one of the following: lots of poor people, cows, hunting, a farm, a blizzardy Midwestern town, terse silences, long journeys on horseback/foot, the dissolution of a marriage. The poor people are never happy, as Authenticity can only be conveyed by poor people who are miserable and dissolute.”

    Good golly, not lots of poor people, rural settings and downbeat endings. Can’t have that. I guess Willa Cather, Carolyn Chute, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Dorothy Allison, etc. are dude lit, eh? It is true books about happy, middle class (and, one assumes, white) women are hard to come by.

    “I was well into my twenties before it slowly began to occur to me that the ladies who surrounded me — smart, funny, fearless, awesome; ladies who hitchhiked across the country solo, hopped trains, taught themselves homesteading, backpacked through the wilderness, played in bands, dressed sexy, dressed like boys; lades who, in short, unapologetically lived their own lives on their own terms — were nowhere to be found in the books I was reading.”

    Wow, that’s just…sad. Didn’t read Harriet The Spy in elementary school? Never looked past Chandler to Sara Paretsky, put down the Burroughs and picked up Kathy Acker? Or if the protagonist didn’t exactly resemble oneself, it doesn’t count?

    This essay is more about limited reading habits and learned biases. It’s probably just hasty ranting, but this graph implies one didn’t read any women authors until age 24 or so, or thought those works didn’t count as reading literature.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:54 am | Permalink
  44. Brava. Hilarious post.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 1:13 am | Permalink
  45. queen emily wrote:

    That McCarthy quote is so sad. How can any writer be considered a competent, let alone great, writer if they can’t even write a decent female character in 50 YEARS? That just says to me, “I am in fact a really really bad writer,” seeing as how 51% of the population is female and hence makes up rather a large portion of our social world.

    Brimstone’s right that some people just prefer SF tropes, but I mean McCarthy is really amazingly anti-feminist. I have no doubt that the apocalyptic setting of The Road is partly *because* it enables the father/son relationship without women or the social generally. Stripping it down to the bare essence or something I gather, which I think is again quite problematic, but.

    I love Jezebella’s idea of only reading female writers for a year, though.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 2:42 am | Permalink
  46. Jeb wrote:

    I really enjoyed this post, and I agree with many of your sentiments. During our literary educations, both formal and informal, it truly sucks that such a disproportionate number of the narratives we internalize early on are those we would traditionally think of as “male” narratives: violent cowboy shit, dominant-imperial shit, shameless boner escapades, and even Hemingway’s bruised-loner-grayfeelings stuff. We should really be doing all we can to fill not only the formal canons but also the informal canons (such as the selection of books revered by the circle of friends you mention) with great works that are written by women, those that are about female characters, and those of what is traditionally considered a “feminine” literary style. It makes me sad to think that someone could have shamed you or ostracized you for reading a woman or for criticizing Kerouac, who deserves all kinds of criticism.

    Reading these user comments, however, I’m afraid that here and there the tone seems a little broadly judgmental of both male readers and male authors. As a male reader, I can assure you that there are plenty of us who are like me: who love books by women and about women, and who do not in any way feel that “male” narratives are inherently superior or exclusively valuable. As for the authors: I am totally aware that there are hardass misogynist manfiction writers who have found success in the world while writing women only as vapid sex objects, and I have no interest in these dumb books, which are basically the literary equivalent of AC/DC albums, but at the same time I would hope that we don’t have to think of a male author as sexist just because he writes something that deals mostly with male characters or resonates primarily with a male-gendered audience. Obviously, if you are not interested in more male-oriented books, there should be nobody who tells you that you have to privilege them over female-oriented books or even that you have to read them at all, but having an actual self-imposed rule AGAINST reading them sounds kind of sad– as if you might be viewing masculinity as some malevolent force that has to be protected against. As a male writer (admittedly, one who writes male characters more often than female characters and whose work seems usually to resonate more deeply with male readers than female readers), this is not what I want to represent if there’s any way I can avoid it.

    Anyway, thanks for this great post.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 3:00 am | Permalink
  47. Shinobi wrote:

    Courney,
    I’d kind of already written it off and felt guilty about it.

    I feel like if there isn’t a female character with a name who is important I’m probably not going to like it. Not because it is not a good book, but because the total lack of women in said book will distract me from actually enjoying the book.

    First, I will spend the whole time I’m reading it going “WHY DOESN”T ANYONE HAVE A VAGINA AND A BRAIN AT THE SAME TIME?”

    Then I will begin to question whether I myself am actually in possession of both of these things, or am I just deluding myself into thinking that the men of this current reality could ever see me as more than a talking vagina.

    And then I’ll get REALLY REALLY ANGRY that there are men who exsist who see me this way when I clearly have a brain and it is bigger than theirs.

    Then I will contemplate the best way to exact revenge on these pitiful excuses for men.

    And after that it isn’t really about enjoying literature anymore is it?

    So sometimes it is easier to just not read stuff if it isn’t going to be like “THE BEST BOOK YOU”VE EVER READ EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE NO WOMEN IN IT” I will ultimately be happier and more fulfilled if I just go re read one of my Mercedes Lackey novels about chicks with swords on horses for the 53rd time.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  48. That WSJ piece is most illuminating. When asked about the book he’s working on now, McCarthy says:

    CM: It has to do with a brother and sister. When the book opens she’s already committed suicide, and it’s about how he deals with it. She’s an interesting girl.

    WSJ: Some critics focus on how rarely you go deep with female characters.

    CM: This long book is largely about a young woman. There are interesting scenes that cut in throughout the book, all dealing with the past. She’s committed suicide about seven years before. I was planning on writing about a woman for 50 years. I will never be competent enough to do so, but at some point you have to try.

    In other words, he’s finally writing about a woman — but she’s *dead*, and the whole point of her existence is to give a man something to angst about. The technical term for this is fridging. The technical term for my reaction is DO NOT WANT.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm | Permalink
  49. lizardbreath wrote:

    I may be a little late to this comment party but I wanted to add something (someone might have said something similar).

    I wonder if its easier for women to write a convincing, genuine male character than for men to write a female character, because damn near all the media we ingest is written from/for the male perspective. How could women not internalize it? Where as male writers are totally inept in writing female characters because they’ve essentially been given a free pass by society that says “you will never be forced to identify with anything that doesn’t have a penis that is used to have sex with women.” And this is not to let any (white, able, heterosexual)male writer off the hook. Just pointing out that we have fostered a culture that totally accepts laziness of privileged groups. End rant.

    Great post, as always!

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Permalink
  50. ...done wrote:

    @ Sophie~

    Apparently a truly attractive female never shares her true thoughts (or, one might say less-charitably, never has any).

    This.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 12:47 pm | Permalink
  51. Gayle Force wrote:

    The dudewriters that I don’t want to read all seem to write to try to make male privilege and power very, very invisible. So Hemingway’s white dudes all kind of feel sorry for themselves and are sad and terse, and THEY are somehow positioned as being oppressed in some way, even while they are being terrible to women. Or in McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, women are props, but each of the men has sad stories and hard backgrounds and are positioned such that they are powerless, despite the fact they go around being terrible to non-character, two-dimensional, never-described ladies. And that makes me sad and tired.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 1:18 pm | Permalink
  52. emjaybee wrote:

    I don’t have a ban on male writers, but I am also in the space where, having read them almost exclusively for the first 20 years of my life, I feel pretty good about avoiding most of them for the next 20 in favor of female writers. There are 20 gajillion books at your local store; as filtering mechanism “is it by a lady but not pink/doesn’t have shoes on the cover” is a pretty effective one.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Permalink
  53. Flutterby wrote:

    This post reminded me of an author I absolutely love, but haven’t been able to dig up any of his novels in a while. Christopher Pike.

    His main characters are almost exclusively female, and it’s just now occurring to me that maybe one reason I loved his books so much was because these lady-people were just…people. I can’t really describe it because it’s essentially an absence of everything you mention. They have sexual appetites, which are mentioned when relevant but never referenced gratuitously. They’re strong or weak, pretty or not-so-much, young or old. They just are, and it’s marvelous.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  54. Arania wrote:

    @JEB:

    “Reading these user comments, however, I’m afraid that here and there the tone seems a little broadly judgmental of both male readers and male authors.”

    Shorter JEB = “Your tone makes me nervous because it’s not worried enough about how you come across to the MENZ.”

    @JEB:
    “As a male reader… as a male writer…”

    Shorter JEB = “I am not like that, so I have the right to stand for all MENZ and mansplain to you how wonderful the MENZ are for being willing to read books with women characters.”

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  55. Raine:

    I happen to have quoted that Chabon essay in my review of Manhood for Amateurs. He wrote:

    The boys in our house spend a lot of time drawing men. Not the girls — the girls mostly draw girls, but if their theme requires it, they will draw a necessary boy, and they never seem to run into any difficulties, or rather, the problems they encounter have nothing to do with their gender or that of the figures they’re attempting to depict. The only trouble they have is the usual trouble with feet, noses, hands, poses, and proportions

    His point is that the boys (including himself) have a brain-block, the girls do not.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink
  56. Kirsten wrote:

    Awesome!! I went to the WSJ interview she linked to, and it really irritated me the way Cormac McCarthy talked about his son (notably, with no reference to the son being a child of TWO parents). Although The Road seems like the McCarthy novel I’d be the most likely to not hate, it strikes me that the heaps of praise he garnishes (and lavishes on himself) for portraying a loving father/son relationship is precisely *because* he’s a man, and GOSH, how daring for a man to love and devote on his (male) child! Whereas, of course, a woman writing about a mother and *her* bond with her child, no matter how beautifully, would be “business as usual chick lit,” because, ya know, women are experts on the business of chillin’s. Nothing new to say there. The most beautiful book I’ve ever read about a father and son love was written by a woman (Gilead). I guess Marilynne Robinson just gave that the old college try BECAUSE SHE’S AN AMAZING WRITER. PERIOD. I don’t always read along gender lines, but I do value writers that seem to genuinely care about other humans. E.M. Forster comes to mind. Shakespeare got it. A lot of male writers “get it.” The problem with manfiction is the idolizing of writers who don’t get it, who don’t really have very big hearts, and yet are celebrated for their “hard-nosed” approach to this spiritual meanness.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink
  57. Elizabeth wrote:

    I love this post!! And, @Lizardbreath, I think you’re spot on.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  58. Alicia wrote:

    “Didn’t read Harriet The Spy in elementary school? Never looked past Chandler to Sara Paretsky, put down the Burroughs and picked up Kathy Acker? Or if the protagonist didn’t exactly resemble oneself, it doesn’t count?

    This essay is more about limited reading habits and learned biases. It’s probably just hasty ranting, but this graph implies one didn’t read any women authors until age 24 or so, or thought those works didn’t count as reading literature.”

    @Hmmn: Part of the divine Rejectionist’s point here is that to the dudes she was friends with DID NOT count Paretsky, Ackerman et al. as reading literature. They are but pale shadows of the Great Authors, who were Dude Authors.

    In short, it is not the Rejectionist’s reading habits and biases which are limited. It is the idea that women’s literature is a lesser organism, fit only for women — the same way that women who make food are cooks, and men who make food are chefs.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  59. Courtney (Miss C) wrote:

    Just wanted to clarify: a writier writing “what they know” doesn’t necessarily mean that they are writing about something exact that they have personally experienced. The only thing I am having trouble with surrounding this article and a lot of the comments is the idea that we as women need to stop reading fiction written by men because, well, I don’t really know why. I think it is very very important to expose people and especially students to a wide variety of reading so they WILL read, but if we are truly going at this from a feminist perspective, couldn’t we be more positive about it? I am not claiming to be well-versed in the area of literature, but the simple fact that something is written by a man doesn’t have to mean that we can’t enjoy reading it. As for those writers who do choose not to write about women, or write realistic female characters, I don’t believe that it’s the author’s intent to put women down (most of the time). If we as women want the issue of male-dominated literature to change, certainly using terms like “manfiction” and swearing off all male authors is not the way to get the message across. I know not everyone on here fell into that particular category, but why not read/ give us some recommendations of some great female writers to read? Men have every right to write any kind of character they choose, the same as women do. Let’s stop pointing our fingers at all male authors for the harm being done, and instead funnel our energy into promoting good female-written literature, and acting to put THOSE works into our literature/ English classrooms.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010 at 11:49 pm | Permalink
  60. Denelian wrote:

    draconismoi;
    this is, at least in large part, in response to you.
    i grew up reading Sci-Fi. the first *novel* i wrote was “Have Space Suit, Will Travel” by Robert Heinlein.
    for a *very* long time, Heinlein was just about the only male author i WANTED to read in sci-fi [i read anyway; but given a choice, i gravitated to Heinlein. at that time, most sci-fi was back in the 50's, even if it WAS the 80's] because while Heinlein had MANLY MEN, he ALSO had PERFECT KICK-ASS WOMEN WHO DID THINGS.
    in “Spacesuit”, who was the real hero? Kip [teen boy] Pee-wee [tween GENIUS girl] or Mother Thing [alien female cop]? all of them. in Number of the Beast, the 4 main characters are split, 2 m 2 w, and arguably the WOMEN are smarter over all, and by the end of the book the undisputed leader is Hilda – a *very* small woman. with a will of adamantite.

    it’s coming back. John Ringo may have an anti-fan club [No, John Ringo, No!] but he ALSO has multiple books written almost entirely from a female POV, and my FAV book of his is Princess of Wands – an UF [sorta] whose main character is a MARRIED modern Soccer Mom who *ALSO*, in her free time, kills monsters from the Cthulu myth, takes on minions of Tiamet, and breaks up a “satanic” cult that’s more pathetic than anything. she KICKS ASS and *still* manages to [mostly] take care of her family. and while “wonder-moms” are, generally, created to shame women, in this case… after all, she didn’t realize she was a superhero until her kids were in Junior High, and it’s not like she can’t delegate to husband and the kids aren’t old enough to make their own food. she SIDELINES as a super-hero, it’s not her main focus [even if it's the books] and it works.
    and the majority of those who have read the book? are male :D

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 2:04 am | Permalink
  61. Octavia wrote:

    @ Courtney (Miss C):

    You just bingoed with the tone argument on this:
    “If we as women want the issue of male-dominated literature to change, certainly using terms like “manfiction” and swearing off all male authors is not the way to get the message across.”
    Hey ladies, stop sounding so angry! No one will take your clearly special-interest concerns seriously you emotional women, unless you’re super polite (P.S. What about the menz?!)!

    Aaaaand again with the ‘why don’t you spend your time on designated important things!’ argument. (http://hoydenabouttown.com/20080218.1460/antifeminist-bingo-2/) Because there’s only so much care to go around, why, we might just use it up on the ‘little’ things!
    “Let’s stop pointing our fingers at all male authors for the harm being done, and instead funnel our energy into promoting good female-written literature, and acting to put THOSE works into our literature/ English classrooms.”

    It really is possible to care about the ‘little’ things and the ‘big’ things, I promise. Women are constantly given the message that anger is not an appropriate emotion for us. We need always to try to win people over with honeyed words, smiles, to watch our tone lest we be read as emotional and our arguments written off as not nice enough, not moderate enough, not apologetic enough, or even hysterical. You back this up with “couldn’t we be more positive about it?” How about, if we’re “truly going at this from a feminist perspective” we say that actually, women are allowed to be passionate or angry or loud about subjects we’re interested in, if and when we want to be (without having to play the perfect educator role too)?

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 6:45 am | Permalink
  62. HB wrote:

    I’m with @Abigail and @Hmnnn. This post started off really speaking to me–the girl-who-is-one-of-the-guys phenomenon is really interesting, as it relates to pop culture and often, sports fandom. But women have won Pulitzers (Jhumpa Lahirir’s “Interpreter of Maladies” is a personal favorite). And, to be honest, usually when a man writes from a woman’s point of view, I’m completely annoyed by how unrealistic and shallow it is. “She’s Come Undone” by Wally Lamb comes to mind.

    I haven’t made a resolution to only read books written by women, and I don’t only enjoy films that pass the Bechdel test, but I do find myself attracted to those kinds of works more and more. We want to see ourselves reflected back at us in culture, that’s understandable. But I do still appreciate some dude-films and books, because they’re interesting in other ways.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  63. ladysquires wrote:

    I’m late to the party, but I just wanted to add that The Rejectionist clearly isn’t castigating the entire literary output of the male gender, as some have suggested in comments. There is a particular type of fiction written by men, let’s call it Backlash Fiction, that started emerging around the end of the late nineteenth century, when men started looking around and noticing that most of the best-selling authors of their day were women and started getting nervous. Their response to the “feminization” of literature (and the fact that women were starting to get rights, and stuff) was to begin creating works based on the performative masculinity of guys like Theodore Roosevelt (an asthmatic dandy with a high-pitched voice, by the by, until he reinvented himself).

    Man fiction tends to be set in pre-feminist utopias or in worlds entirely devoid of women (i.e. The Road). The “men just write what they know!” argument suggests that the elimination of women (or the relegation of female characters to sub-human status) is a politically neutral act, when in fact it was not, especially for Male Backlash Writers, whose creative choices more or less say, “We do not know how to deal with these woman creatures as humans with equal status to men. And furthermore, we feel threatened by them, so we want to imagine worlds in which they do not exist.”

    That doesn’t mean that your enjoyment of the other good things these books might be achieving needs to diminish. It is simply worth noting as a rather troubling trend.

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 12:49 pm | Permalink
  64. e.lee wrote:

    So, its actually okay to hate ‘The Road’? Yay!! thanks!

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 6:48 pm | Permalink
  65. Alex wrote:

    First Dude Music, now Manfiction… please tell me Bro Games are next! (Believe it or not, not all games are Bro Games! It’s true!)

    Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 7:22 pm | Permalink
  66. Betsy wrote:

    Dawn Powell. Best female writer in the 20th Century. Great female characters, great male characters, great characters in general. She was Hemmingway’s favorite living author. Read her, please! And make sure her books don’t go out of print. We should have read Turn, Magic Wheel in high school instead of Gatsby.

    Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  67. belmanoir wrote:

    Yes! And what I find so hilarious about male writers’ clinging to this inability to communicate as a sign of manliness is that GUYS, YOU ARE WRITERS. IF YOUR WRITING IS ANY GOOD THAT TAUTOLOGICALLY MEANS YOU ARE GOOD AT COMMUNICATING. WHO EXACTLY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE FOOLING?

    Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink
  68. M wrote:

    @JEB,

    I agree entirely. I mean, you’re a dude, who writes dude characters, largely for the enjoyment of other dudes. You know that there’s a glut of this out there already, and that it’s often shoved down our throats as the real kind of “good writing”. But how unfair, that women might be tired of it! Just because men tend to write swaths of shitty books about the same thing, over and over, target these books to each other, laud each other for the great “art” they’ve produced, all while writing women in the worst possible ways if at all and refusing to read or acknowledge women’s own writing as anything but trash… that doesn’t mean women can just *stop reading*! I mean, what sort of person, upon realizing that reading certain kinds of books by certain kinds of people are quite likely to make them feel like shit, would then choose to stop reading those books entirely? How sad! What if as many as 1% of those books, like yours, might not be quite as insulting, though still about the same old things and not including women characters or actually making an effort to appeal to women? They’d be missing out on a so-so book that doesn’t have too much overt misogyny in it — but written by a DUDE! My word! How could anyone limit themselves to reading only women and trusted men authors, knowing they could be creating such a hole in their lives?

    I wonder, as a writer, is there something you could maybe possibly do to help build a culture that has more books with good female characters, and more books that appeal to women in an intelligent way? Hmm… I thought I had an idea there but I’ve forgotten what it was. Probably wasn’t important, anyway. We should just be happy that a real live man agrees with us. At least in pretense! Enjoy your cookie.

    Saturday, June 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink
  69. Lucy Jane wrote:

    Getting caught up on Tiger Beatdown, and I have to say I LOVE this post. It takes me right back to being in middle school and trying to explain to my dad that no, I just couldn’t get myself to read and enjoy Bradbury. I feel like I should send him a link to this.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 1:58 am | Permalink
  70. sadielou wrote:

    I read manfiction. I am that Girl Who Hangs Out With Boys, and it’s not internalized misogyny, it’s that I actually don’t get along with most women. (Read that as paradoxical if you will.) I can’t gossip for shit, I’m a bit reckless and geeky and horny, and frankly I just have more in common with most men. Your homesteading, hitchhiking women? I’ve never met them. Maybe someday.

    Occasionally it’s disappointing when my favorite authors act like they just can’t conceive that some women are like them. James Joyce and Neal Stephenson (yeah, yeah, odd juxtaposition) have both irritated me on occasion. I’m Stephen Dedalus, not Molly Bloom. I’m more like the Rogue Hacker of fiction than his cardboard love interest. But, you know, I still love those books, because I’d rather read about characters who share my nature if not my gender.
    I like Kerouac (even though he’s shitty to women) and Vollman and Thoreau and Hemingway (even though they’re also shitty to women) because they’re the American individualist tradition, and I’m an American individualist. Albeit one with boobs.

    The obligation to have solidarity with other women is something I don’t like… because I’m a person first and then a woman. I know a couple gay guys and Native Americans who have the same attitude about their respective “groups.” In a past generation quite a few black people had that attitude. I just think that you can associate with, or identify with, whomever you prefer.

    Saturday, June 26, 2010 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

7 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] started a new series on literature this week – conveniently coinciding with my sudden immersion in the Book Review Blogoshphere. [...]

  2. The Dudeliness of Dreiser Studies « Shitty First Drafts on Wednesday, June 2, 2010 at 1:25 am

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  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Amanda Marcotte, Aditya Bidikar, Alex Raymond, Angela Conner, Lisa Grabenstetter and others. Lisa Grabenstetter said: RT @sadydoyle: The Rejectionist, on the rules of Manfiction (ladies: no, silent drives in trucks: yes), at TBD! http://tinyurl.com/2adn6p9 [...]

  4. Boring Books & Fierce Femininity « Women’s Glib on Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 5:39 pm

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  5. On… Real Bad Writing « From the desk of Miss Minx… on Wednesday, June 16, 2010 at 10:50 am

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  6. Ode to Reginka « Women’s Glib on Monday, June 21, 2010 at 6:08 pm

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  7. [...] What We Read When We Don’t Read the Internet PRESENTS! Au Revoir, Pretty Horses; Or, Why I Don’t…. "Some more telling characteristics of Manfiction: … 2. Male characters cannot communicate with their sons, brothers, and fathers. Or anybody else, really; but they are particularly hampered in inter-man relationships (this is important to emphasize regularly, because the only men who are capable of talking in polysyllabic phrases to other men are gay, and the only thing less manly than writing thoughtfully about women is writing about gays. An inability to communicate is the literary equivalent of the empty seat between two dudes in a movie theater). Instead of communicating the men will drink a lot, commit random acts of violence, beat their sons or pets, and drive around in trucks without speaking. These men do not have daughters." (Linked Sunday 2010-06-20.) [...]