Monday, 10 June 2013

Banks and Blokes' Books

Iain Banks, who died at the weekend, was not a writer I had read (or ever felt greatly tempted to), but he seems to have been a thoroughly nice chap, with many devoted fans and admirers. It occurs to me that his death, along with that of Tom Sharpe (who died last week), thins the already underpopulated ranks of novelists read chiefly by men, blokes even. Banks was one of the few whose books I'd see being widely read on public transport by persons of undeniably male appearance. Outside of genre fiction, novel reading - in Britain, at least - seems to have become an increasingly female occupation. All those book groups and reading circles - what's the proportion of men to women overall? Pretty small, I'd think. This feminisation of fiction is no bad thing in itself; perhaps it's just a case of the novel returning to its 18th-century origins as a form of instructive (or aspirational) reading for women. For me, I've never really read like a man - as has been remarked before, I do read an awful lot of women writers - but then I've never even been to a football match. But if I was a 'real man' with a masculine taste in fiction, I wonder which living English novelists I'd be reading, and whether these male-friendly writers are becoming an endangered species, or a niche form...

7 comments:

  1. Dont think there's many (any?) 'cool' english writers for men at the moment - it all seems to be american hipster faves like Pahlahniuck

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  2. Yes America's never been short of writers a Man can read in public without shame. Our literary culture is v different...

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  3. I like women authors who don't write women's books, like Beryl Bainbridge (and Hilary Mantel's Cromwell opus certainly fits that bill), and conversely, to take an example of a Brit lit male, I much prefer Ian McEwan's non-masculine books (Atonement, On Chesil Beach) to his masculine ones. 'Masculine ones' means high-concept and plot-driven.

    Dan Brown, now there's a man's author.

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  4. I understand cool metropolitan men go for Will Self. Mysteriously, he is Professor of Contemporary Thought at a London university. He takes a dim view, apparently, of "naturalistic fiction".

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