Friday, September 21, 2007

Guest Post: A Male Weighs in on A Female Perspective to Boychik Lit and related topics

Well, some of my favorite female writers are women. There's Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Virginia Wolfe, and of course some others like the beautiful poet Anne Waldman. Have I misspelled some of these names? How condescending of me. What makes these women all better writers than I? Well, they've all got teats, for one thing. Most of them had to put on a brassiere before they could go out in public, or even to write, and put it on over both teats, and that's a hard thing for me as a man to imagine. Is this mild form of sartorial torture a character-building exercise? There's no man that's as manly as Heathcliff ... and to think some poor girl had to put on her brassiere and sit down at a writing table far out on the moors and imagine the curly-haired romantic cad. I don't think the suffering that kicked the creativity into high gear came from having to lean farther over the writing table than I would have, even if I had a writing table. No, the girls had to create men in their books so that women would buy them. This is admittedly a bigger stretch for me than for a woman, and perhaps that's the fount of their creativity. For me to create fascinating, believable men is as easy as poop. But for women? The girls worked for it with their brassieres on. Didn't they?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Guest Post: A Female Perspective

What's it all about, Alfie? Well perhaps it is about Alfie. If Chick Lit is a term used to denote genre fiction written for and marketed solely to women -- shallow, girl searching for Mr Right while shopping for the perfect diet and shoes--then I guess boychiklit or fratire would be exactly the same thing but written for and marketed to young men. So, cliché being what it is, boy avoids Ms Right while shopping for beer and sportscar. Don't all men want to be like Alfie? Don't all women want to be like Carrie? Only on TV surely. Is the gender divide so clean? Are we always so true to our stereotypes?

We're all from the same species after all, so surely I can enjoy a good, lusty read about boy things. Many of my favourite all time writers are male: Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, James Joyce, Cormac McCarthy, Peter Carey, Julian Barnes. Barnes'
England, England for example has some pretty racy male scenes, and we all know about Joyce. Does the fact that he can do such rich beautiful female characters like Molly make him any less 'male' in his writing style? Other writers like DBC Pierre, Mark Haddon and Martin Amis are all known for their vigorous, male oriented humour, and have the kind of rich blokyness that would make them number one on my recommended list for male friends looking for a fun read. What about Hemingway, or Steinback? Surely these writers are the epitome of strong, robust, male perspective literature.

Or is there something else behind the notion of a genre designed specifically to denote a book that is not substantial: maybe a bridge between a magazine, a TV show, and a book. Maybe it's like shed time. You've got to get away from all that introspection for a while and just mess about in the sheer mindlessness of blokeland: where women are delightfully simple, and men just wanna have fun, before all that responsibility comes crashing back down on you again.

This is probably the time to admit that I haven't read all that much in this genre. Nor do I want to reveal just what a quality snob I am. It may well be an affliction associated with my gender (I do after all like shopping for shoes), but give me a book with too many girl-chasey gratuitous boob scenes (
Bikini Beach: the book) or any kind of stock formula, and I'm afraid I'd be shelfing it faster than you can say puerile. Different strokes and all that. If the formula works and the audience is buying and enjoying the book, what difference does mindlessness make. But...surely a book can be lighthearted and funny, without resorting to cardboard characters, cliché heaped upon cliché, and tired, stock situations. How about, just say, a latelife crisis coupled with a strange mole on the leg and a pair of scissors (Haddon)? What about a successful Casanova who suddenly discovers his womanising is strangely flat and what he really needs is to find his missing father (Irving)? Surely there are male oriented subjects including things like beer, baseball, fast cars, pretty girls and even large breasts, that have universal appeal. Surely books can make us laugh and forget our responsibilities without diminishing the whole notion of what it means to be a human being. Why typecast ourselves? I would have thought that even the most male oriented plot (and to be honest, I’m not all that sure if gender distinctions like male/female are that helpful either – good writing is always interesting to me, regardless of the plot) can aspire to a deep theme, rich and powerful characters, complex plots, and exceptional writing skills, without losing the lightness, the sense of fun, or even the mid-life crisis, the beer or the sportscar. Just ask DBC Pierre. Or, for that matter, Bill Naughton (Alfie’s creator).

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. Her stories, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in many printed anthologies and journals, and have won several awards. She is the author of The Art of Assessment, Quark Soup, and Sleep Before Evening.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Quentin Cain Strikes Back!

Oh, sure, Gerald can dish it out. But can he take it?

Brother Cain has choice words about My Inflatable Friend.

It's not yet a rousing debate about what's fratire and what's not--but we're getting there!

Tucker Max, you dog. Where are you?

Monday, September 3, 2007

Kerouac Is Back!

It's the fiftieth anniversary of On the Road, and here comes bad-boylit author Quentin Cain with a series of road-trip novels narrated in the first person by one Slick F. Worthy, presumably Quentin's only slightly less reputable alter ego.

Quentin knows how to construct a sentence, spin a yarn, and engage an audience. So I'm suspecting he's not the dropout he claims to be. I read Notes from the "G" Spot: The Uncensored Diaries of Slick F. Worthy, and it is indeed a slick, sick, and funny hunk of prose. Never mind that Slick not only has the predictable predicament of searching desperately for the legendary spot--but also, like most of us most of the time, he has a hard time just describing what he thinks it is. It's the pursuit of that ration of individual happiness the Constitution guarantees us the unrestricted pursuit of. That it evades Slick's detection isn't so much a surprise as the extent of sexual suffering and kink twisting he's willing to endure to find it.

You will want to peruse these Notes, particularly if: 1) you are a ninety-five pound weakling who dreams about being an NFL almost-ran with no money whose rough charm keeps him barely out of trouble, 2) you are bedridden and can't take a road trip just now, 3) you avoid casual sex for fear of STDs or because all your pickup lines fail but you're curious about what might happen if you actually went home with a hooker, or 4) if you wonder what sense Jack Kerouac might make or not make of post-digital society.

Quentin promises another Slick novel sometime soon. But he might also do well to brag that he's descended from that other Cain (not the Bible guy--James M.). Then he could do a noir story and call it The G-Man Never Asks Twice.