An excellent article on male novelists and how they write for female readers. As Jacob comments:
“With Franzen and Wallace, despite their brilliance there does often seem to be a kind of pandering political correctness, one that perhaps means well but often makes me feel they’re too self-consciously trying to differentiate themselves from less enlightened men. I’m glad this essay takes the time to try to tease this out. In these writers, at least for me, the self-consciousness always feels somehow connected with the lack of convincing physicality in their writing, a lack of kinetic or lyrical awareness.”
“Pandering political correctness” I like that phrase. I can’t read either one of those guys. Nor Updike. Nor Mailer. Among other subjects, I believe that men need to write honestly about what it feels like to be a man; in oneself, and in society, and about how we measure ourselves, how society measures us, how women measure us. The roles we are able to play today are very different from what they were half a century ago, when Mailer and Updike were writing. The economy was booming then, men had jobs that supported families, kept their wives at home with children. All of that has changed. Radically. Quite possibly by design. But I’ll refrain from value judgements about it.
The people who run things in this country have decided they don’t need us anymore. Men are increasingly embattled. The roles of men and women are changing. The balance of power is shifting. Once it was women who had to cringe. Now, it seems to be men.
Pandering political correctness speaks, to my mind of cringing. But it does not speak to me as a male. Our male authors need to say, How dare you judge me that way? What do you know of what I’ve been through? What makes you think you know my depths?
That is what the blues does for us. Sharecropper music. Increasingly, it speaks to me, as an upper-middle class Anglo who wasn’t needed anymore. That is what our novels need to do for us, too.