Stephen King has an article over at EW.com with the provocative title “Who says real men don’t read?”
It’s no surprise that somebody of King’s stature gets gigs like this. He takes an hour or so, writes a column, hits a button and off it goes to EW. Then he trots off to the bank with a check. And I’ll bet it’s not chump change, either.
I don’t begrudge King anything, you should understand. It sounds like writers’ heaven: Anything he cares to write, he can sell. After a while it must be tempting to test that hypothesis. A quick idea pops into your head, bang out five hundred words and voila, it shows up in print. Maybe it’s the most concise, insightful little gem on the appeal of writing mysteries, or it could be some nutty piece of misleading fluff about chicklit v manfiction.
As is the case here, where King might have decided on this particular column like this:
Hey, why don’t I set up some false dichotomies about fiction and readers, and then once I’ve created enough confusion and chaos, I can plug my favorite books.
I happen to agree with him that Lee Child has a really great series going with his Jack Reacher novels. I do not agree that this is manfiction. Women like stories like this. Women especially like Reacher. Conversely, not all women like Nora Roberts. Some women (and some men) might like both, or neither.
Yes, he ends that article in a pretty silly posture.
“reports of the male reader’s death have been greatly exaggerated. Women have chick lit; guys have… ‘manfiction.’ And publishers sell it by the ton.”
Yes, they do indeed sell your “manfiction” by the ton… not because there are unsuspected numbers of male readers, but because women read it too. Unfortunately, can’t say the same about men: they read less, and they don’t read much by women.
You summarized the silliness of that piece more succinctly than I did.
I keep getting a flashback to an aunt of mine who told me (circa 1970) that girls play with dolls, and boys play with cars, and that’s the way it would always be.
Of course it wasn’t that way, even then. And never will be.
So far, my recommendations for Lee Child have been to men I know, and none were aware of him. But while that’s a fact, it’s not an appropriate sample of male readers. Heck, they’re Canadian, so that’s not much of a survey at all! I wonder if silly is where you get with generalist opinions and the ability to print them.
Last summer when the last Harry Potter book came out, I remember several articles about how the books were great not just because kids loved to read them, but specifically, BOYS loved to read them. And hopefully they would grow up into men who loved to read.
From my own personal experience, I only know one man who read anywhere near as much as I do (but I only know a few women who do, too) and I particularly enjoyed trading recommendations with him, since it was a perspective I wasn’t getting with my other reading (and female) friends. He was the one who introduced me to Lee Child/Jack Reacher, but also to Wally Lamb, whose first two books are told from a woman’s perspective. He also recommended a book called either “Loosing Julia” or “Finding Julia” which was a love story set against WWI and the aftermath in the lives of two men who were in love with the same woman. I hate to buy into the stereotype, but I was surprised how much my friend loved this love story, him being a male and all!
My boyfriend reads quite a bit. He likes Philip K Dick, JG Ballard, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allen Poe, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, Jim Thompson, David Goodiss, Patricia Highsmith, HP Lovecraft, and so on.
I’ll have to tell him about that “manfiction” thing. He loves a good laugh!