This article in the New York Times is a truly moving and groundbreaking piece of investigative journalism detailing the plight of men who are members of book clubs. Apparently, men feel really ostracized from the contemporary literary world. I had no idea! Well worth a read if you have nothing better to do. But if you do, some choice quotes:
“Mr. McCullough’s group expresses its notion of manliness through the works it chooses to read. ‘We do not read so-called chick lit,’ he said ‘The main character cannot be a woman.'”
“The [book club’s] ‘About Us’ section says it was founded, in part, on the vision that ‘one day we could step out of the shadow of our mothers’ book clubs and proclaim that yes, we too, are intellectuals.’”
“For the International Ultra Manly Book Club, in Kansas City, the monthly meetings provide a space to explore literary depictions of what it means to be a man.”
“And yet the group has standards. ‘We are not allowed to suggest books that our mothers have suggested,’ Mr. Creagar said. ‘We had an accident one time. We read ‘Water for Elephants.’ It was a huge mistake.'”
These guys really have a point. Society has a hard time seeing men as intellectuals and arbiters of literary taste. Such a hard time, in fact, that more than half of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novels from the last 15 years have been books by men about men. In the same time period, 60% of Man Booker Prize-winning novels have been books by men about men. Seventy-four percent of reviewers writing for the New York Review of Books are men. Only 74 percent! And only 91 on Modern Library’s list of 100 best novels were written by a man. A truly appalling lack of representation.