Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Fiction for men set to rival chick-lit

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Men don't read as much as women, according to studies. Perhaps a new genre will bridge the gap.
Photo / Thinkstock
Men don't read as much as women, according to studies. Perhaps a new genre will bridge the gap. Photo / Thinkstock

Here's something a little bit silly: "Fiction for Men"!

Starting this month, Esquire magazine (the American edition) will publish a line of e-books with this very name and specification.

As elegantly described by editor-in-chief David Granger, the new genre will be "plot-driven and exciting, where one thing happens after another. And also at the same time, dealing with passages in a man's life that seem common."

Where one thing happens after another! That is indeed very exciting, and true to life.

It is also exciting that the experiences and voices of men will finally be recognised. A tiny beacon of hope in a society long dominated by women's views, and the artful expression of those views.

Of course, it's harmless really. "Fiction for Men" is a gimmicky term designed to trick people into thinking a new literary fad has emerged, intriguing them to the point of Paypal.

But it does feel just a little bit "Men's Rights", right? A tiny bit foot-stampy; 'They've got feminism and chick-lit - what have we got?'

(The answer to which might be, say, "The World"/"Literature")

The thing is, "chick-lit", or "Women's Fiction", only exists as a sub-genre because There. Is. A. Dominant. Genre. If books about women's experience were the standard, the term wouldn't exist.

What's more, such descriptors are generally used in a pejorative way by the literary world, to demean certain women's writing, pass it off as commercially viable but also intellectually crap.

Interestingly, Esquire's new venture has popped up at a time when gender and status are under the spotlight in the US literary world. Research by VIDA (an organisation for "Women In The Literary Arts") has shown women are vastly under-represented when it comes to both reviewers and authors reviewed.

This is nothing new, though. VIDA's research has thrown up the same results year after year. But that's exactly the problem, as has been pointed out numerous times by female authors who are successful, yet largely ignored by critics.

Like Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, who told the Huffington Post:

"If you write thrillers or mysteries or horror fiction or quote-unquote speculative fiction, men might read you, and the [Times] might notice you.

"If you write chick lit, and.... if your book becomes the topic of pop-culture fascination, the paper might make dismissive and ignorant mention of your book. If you write romance, forget about it. You'll be lucky if they spell your name right on the bestseller list."

Or Jodi Picoult, who - upon reading a glowing review of Jonathan Frazen's novel, Freedom, in the New York Times - tweeted:

"NYT raved about Franzen's new book. Is anyone shocked? Would love to see the NYT rave about authors who aren't white male literary darlings."

Perhaps it's a good thing, though? Research has also shown men aren't nearly as into fiction as women are. National Public Radio reported that men make up a mere 20 per cent of the fiction market across America, Canada and Britain. And research group AP and Ipsos found women read nine books per year, compared to men's paltry five. Women were more voracious readers in all categories except history and biography.

Also, how many guys do you know trotting off to Book Club?

Maybe "Fiction for Men" will bridge this gap; be the very thing to tip men over the edge and into lust with their Kindles.

Who knows. In the meantime, here's a video.

Follow Rebecca Kamm on Twitter.

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