Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Average American Male

If you've been in a bookstore recently, you've noticed the influx of "guy" books, specifically tomes by Tucker Max, Robert Hamburger and Frank Kelly Rich, and seen pieces like this on CNN about Maddox, an internet writer whose book shot to #1 after he informed his mailing list of 143,000 (!) people of its availability on Amazon.

I like this. I like that these guys are getting attention, and I think the trend is only just beginning. I bought Frank Kelly Rich's next Modern Drunkard book for that reason. But as funny as I think these guys are, I'm even more happy with what their success represents.

For years, the maxim in publishing has been, "Men don't buy books." To which I reply, "Than what the hell are all those paper things that I spend far too much money on and take up all the space in my studio?" It's no secret that publishing is dominated by women. Not in a friendly way, but in an Uma Thurman against the Crazy 88's kind of way. I'm not being sexist, racist or homophobic when I say that there are startling few straight men who work in publishing. It's simply the truth. There was a great piece by Warren St. John in the New York Times a few weeks ago, and Kensington's Jeremie Ruby-Strauss had some insightful quotes on this. Bottom line, since there are barely any "guys" in publishing, there are barely any books for "guys."

Forget lad lit. That fad died before it started, and rightfully so. Lad lit presumes that every guy wants to be Freddie Prinze Jr. The reality is every guy wants to be Indiana Jones. You know what Indiana would say to Freddie if they ever met? Nothing. Indiana wouldn't be caught dead talking to him.

From the perspective of one guy (me), chick lit seems to take the stereotypes commonly associated with contemporary women (they're sassy, like good clothing and accessories, and pine for Mr. Right to pick up their cosmo tab at the bar), then turns the volume way up. Lad lit makes the assumption that you can just take the chick and replace it with a guy, or "lad." Not so.

What Tucker, Frank and Maddox are doing is offering real lad lit. They take the stereotypes commonly associated with "guys" (they like to drink, they like to have sex, they'd rather die than have a 9-5 job) and turn the dial to 11.

Not every guy wants to be Tucker Max, but a lot of people don't realize that once you look past the hype, he's actully a pretty darn good writer, much funnier and smarter than most people give him credit for. But the weird thing is, Tucker has female fans. Not just a few, but thousands. Check out his MySpace page if you don't believe me. I think he might be the first male writer to have actual groupies since Jay McInerney published BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY.

But I digress.

I'm happy these guys are doing so well. Not because I want to be them, but because they're turning an institution on its ear. Granted none of them have achieved the success of a Jennifer Weiner or Helen Fielding, but that's ok. They've made a dent. I think books that celebrate masculinity rather than shielding the world from it will only become more popular in the coming years.

And I think Indiana Jones would be happy about that.

2 Comments:

Blogger Bernita said...

And all this time I thought the guys were around in droves as both readers and writers.
Of course, they weren't literary writers and readers, they were writing and reading things like "Death Lands" series and Mack Boland.

11:26 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Guys are most DEFINITELY around, eager to read. All I'm saying is that guys like to read certain books which the vast majority of publishing doesn't enjoy or "get." So they don't publish them, despite the fact that there's an audience.

1:41 PM  

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