One More Rant Before the Year's Out

Apparently, people are under the impression that guys aren’t reading.  Now, I’m sure that there is a warehouse full of marketing data somewhere–possibly an aisle or two down from the Ark of the Covenant–to back up this claim.  However, I think the truth is a bit closer to what Chris Goldberg states over at The Huffington Post:

“Where are the badass young male writers of today? Would Hunter S. Thompson or Kurt Vonnegut or Brett Easton Ellis or Jay McInerney or Alex Garland or Chuck Palahniuk even get book deals if their debut novels were written today? How can we make reading novels — and writing them — cool again for guys under thirty?”

The problem isn’t that there are no books for guys on the market.  The problem is there aren’t a lot of pretentious, over-blown novels that you’ll look cool reading on the train or sitting at a Starbucks.  It’s a biased statement based upon one group’s concept of what’s considered worthwhile literature.  This is similar to the problem that’s been discussed regarding YA novels, particularly by Jen and Diana.

I certainly have no problem finding books to read, and probably won’t any time soon, as long as James Rollins, Steven Berry, Jim Butcher, and Neil Gaiman keep writing–not to mention the offerings from Hard Case Crime.  Also, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of guys reading on my commute each morning.  I see names like James Patterson, Robert B. Parker, Vince Flynn, and Tom Clancy each and every day (admittedly, Mr. Goldberg does mention Patterson, alongside Stephen King and John Grisham).

See, I don’t think the problem stems from the authors or the publishers.  I think the problem comes from the public.  A public that is more concerned with appearance than with entertainment.  A public that “wouldn’t be caught dead reading (insert author or title here).”  A public that looks down on people who read for entertainment, thrills, and escape (which doesn’t mean you can’t find a deeper meaning in a book just because it’s also fun).  A public that, as a friend of mine once said, is clearly afraid of awesome.

I admit that the above is more than a little knee-jerk and ranty, but this is one of the topics that really raises my hackles.

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8 responses to “One More Rant Before the Year's Out

  1. What? No guys under 30 reading or writing?

    This week has just been full of this nonsense!

    I suppose I shouldn’t point to John Green (who is 31 now but was first published at the age of 28) or Scott Westerfeld or Neil Gaiman or James Patterson who all write novels for younger male readers. Hell, add John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow to that list. And all of them are super cool. At least in my mind, but I don’t know if I can call myself cool.

    The New Yorker was also talking about this stupid boys don’t read theory. Be aware: these links are not nice. They pretty much slam YA across the board and make teens sound like moronic idiots who aren’t really people yet.

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2008/12/book-bench-read-1.html
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2008/12/book-bench-read-2.html
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2008/12/book-bench-read-3.html

  2. “How can we make reading novels — and writing them — cool again for guys under thirty?”

    This does not apply to me. I read novels regularly and think they are cool. 🙂

  3. @Jen Oh, you’re totally cool. No doubt about it. Of course, I could be biased, since we pretty much like all of the same things. I can’t take this whole “some kinds of literature is better than others” stuff. It’s like ANIMAL FARM: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” Grr.

    @leafless I’m right there with ya (other than being a hair over thirty). But, I think you and I use “cool” with a lowercase “c”, and the article probably meant to infer “cool” with a capital “C”.

  4. Also, I know several guys under 30 who read. They like Neil Gaiman, Raymond E. Feist, David Webber, etc, and *gasp* some female writers.

  5. What? No…a guy would never read a book written by a female writer, especially if it had a strong female protagonist.

    Never happen. 🙂

  6. There is nothing wrong with a good female writer capable of writing realistic female and male characters. Far to many times female authors tend to make their male characters too afraid to be men.

    A good female author who is capable of writing believable characters of either sex is Emma Bull. Somehow she seems to be able to express a ‘male voice’ that doesn’t come across seeming like it was filtered by a woman.

  7. It goes both ways, I think. There are plenty of male authors whose female characters are clearly filtered through a male brain. It isn’t always easy to write from the perspective of another gender, even for otherwise excellent writers.

  8. Faust – I see what you’re reading now, and I just got done with it. You’ll have to let me know how you like it.

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