“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.
Here’s maybe another way of thinking about this sort of development:
My assumption is that this, and every other inevitable attempt to frame and market fiction as being “for men,” will have been prompted by the entrepreneurs behind them being told, over and over and over again, that men do not read fiction, men aren’t reading fiction, men aren’t reading much of anything but especially not fiction, fiction is not bought by men, men don’t read books, men read management books and military history but certainly not fiction, and so on forever.
Industries have a way of reacting to such reports with a combination of opportunism and really extraordinary capitalist insecurity. Some large and potentially lucrative demographic isn’t using your product? Why then you must be failing them, somehow. Clearly the problem is that you aren’t selling any products that pander, broadly and almost insultingly, to some caricatured and/or focus-grouped sense of what the demographic as a whole is interested in.
One classic recent example being when the Lego Group noticed it was not selling nearly as many Legos to girls as it was to boys, and endeavored to captivate this underserved market with … a distinct category of self-consciously girly Legos! “Legos for Girls!” That were pink! With princesses, and presumably pieces you could use as, I dunno, fairy wings, wedding veils, and unicorn horns.
The ongoing attempt to locate some kind of fiction that turns out to be what “men” like — the kind of fiction whose unnoticed lack was alienating some prototypical average-American-man from the entire world of fiction-reading — is essentially identical to that, especially when the logic behind it is, quite frequently, that guys are missing … action-adventure page-turners, hard-boiled prose about explosions and titties, and sports — tender stories about coming of age or the death of loved ones, as seen through the lens of sports, which are really a metaphor for life in a lot of ways, if you really think about it.
So whenever someone has an idea about publishing “fiction for men,” it doesn’t exactly read to me as a sign of men or men’s concerns trying to bully their way into taking up even more space in the world, or a way of marginalizing the work being done by women. The broad view would suggest it’s precisely the opposite. It’s a sign of the loss of this sense of men being the audience for books, the dominant and only worthwhile readers — and the birth of efforts to address men the same way industries have traditionally addressed everyone besides white men, with potentially ghettoized “special interest” niches, stuffed with pulp. It’s one small way in which male readers cease to be an Unmarked Category and become a marked minority. Possibly with Stratocasters and baseball bats on all their book covers, instead of high heels and cupcakes, or photographs of black couples with remarkably good skin.
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.
Though maybe I’m completely wrong about that, in which case let me know.