Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Mens all in a Watershed

***Edited again to add: I'm going to close this on April 27th, after which I will post a highly scientific report on my findings. So, comment and be a part of the arbitrary-arity!

***Edited to add: Seriously? Nobody besides Matt wants to be a part of this highly important poll?
I may have just lost my faith in the internets... or maybe no guys read this.

According to this (via Bookslut), a informal study by the Guardian, men are only touched by boring, crappy books written by other men. Women, on the other hand, like a wider variety of mostly boring books, pooped out by both genders.

I have a feeling most of the guys I know would say they had a watershed moment after reading Neuromancer or Mao's Little Red Book. Well, they probably wouldn't say "watershed".

So men in tryharderland, what would you say? The comments are open to you.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't ever use the word watershed. (When I say the word, I imagine a shed with water dripping thru the ceiling! Don't ask me why.) Anywho, I read the article, and agree that Camus's "The Stanger" is great, fantastic, earthshattering. (It's also titled "The Stranger" not "The Outsider." This is Amerca Dammit!) But, I've equally enjoyed books and short stories by women like Chopin and would say so if somebody asked me. I may not be the best man to speak for other men though.

P.S. It's funny Haper Lee is the only woman on the men's ist since Capote bragged that he wrote half of it!

Anonymous said...

Well, the shameless promotion at 50 Books has netted one poll respondent.

When I was growing up, I read several novels by Louisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls-Wilder. Plus, I was but a wee lad when Finn MacCool by Morgan Llywelyn was the first book to make me cry.

So, I would describe all three authors as authoring books that provided "watershed moments." (Evidently there's a subtle difference in meaning between British and American usage?)

I consider myself more profoundly influenced by only Hemmingway and Tolkien. However, it's also worth noting that my writing has been most shaped by Ingalls-Wilder.

Mike said...

I'm a guy, and I read, and I read your blog -- but I'm also gay so I thought that might cancel me out.

Anyway: Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass when I was a kid; Anna Karenina in high school; War & Peace, The Woman in White, and The Forsyte Saga as an adult.

Carrie said...

oh mike, why would being gay cancel you out? Unless by "gay," you mean "female," which would be totally weird.

Anonymous said...

I liked Neuromancer when I read it for class, and I was one of two people in it who understuud what was going on weel enough to talk about it (so, one of three people to actually read it, probably), but... I wouldn't say "watershed moment."

On the other hand, when I read The Bell Jar for the same class (and it counts as reading it, because though the class forced me to, it was A Book I'd Been Meaning To Read, and the class requiring it finally afforded me the time), I actually felt some connection to it. Neuromancer was awesomely geekey, and nicely plotted, and impressive, and good imagery, and sure I'd read it again, but there wasn't the emotional and truthful feeling I got from the Bell Jar.

And I will never read Tom Clancy, who I think represents the "boring, crappy books written by other men" genre better than Neuromancer, anyway.

My favorite book I actually own right now is Bee Season, the one book on my (severly lacking) shelves written by a woman.

And Samantha Bee's "Sorry to Interrupt..." bits in America: The Book are some of the best parts.

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head I'd say Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, or at least certain key books within.
I couldn't really call it a watershed 'moment' though, probably more a watershed event, as it happened over a while. But there's certainly a world view and empathy in those books that syncs up with my own, and given the age I started reading them, it's fair to say they've done quite a bit to shape that world view.

Also, I know it's painfully predictable, but I'd just be lying if I didn't say Catcher in the Rye.

And, at an age when I thought I was past watershed books, Youth by J.M. Coatzee. Because it so precisely nailed negative traits I recognised in myself, it made me more determined to evolve out of them. Certainly didn't feel 'good' after finishing that one though.

Anonymous said...

Okay so they're not novels, but I do remember some fiction from back in the day that made a big impression.

First, Dubliners by James Joyce. I don't know why, but this is the first fiction I remember truly enjoying--for better or worse, it marks the beginning of my transition from math guy to humanities guy.

Secondly, while I too liked Catcher in the Rye, I more remember Franny and Zooey and the other Glass family stories having a pretty profound influence on me later on in high school.

And I suppose Sartre's Huis Clos should go on the list. It kicked off my love of French literature, which in turn shaped a lot of what I did in and around college.

So yup, lots of books by men. But in any event, I'm definitely one of the men discussed in the article who finds the whole exercise a little awkward, since I don't tend to think of novels in relation to watershed moments in my life. Non-fiction maybe, music certainly, but novels not so much.

Francis said...

The most influential, "watershed" books in my life were:

Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn"
Vonnegut's "Cat's Cradle"
Shelley's "Frankenstein"
Golding's "Lord of the Flies"

Anonymous said...

I never listed the "watershed" books:

Age 7: Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary

Age 10: The Witches by Roald Dahl

Age 13: Anna to the Infinite Power by Mildred Ames

Age 16: On The Road by Jack Kerouac

Age 20: Dirty White Boys by Stephen Hunter

Age 23: The Storm by Kate Chopin (In terms of writing, she's influenced me more than anyone)

Age 25: The Stranger by Albert Camus