Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Men's Fiction

Esquire announced its intent to publish straight to e-book anthologies of "Men's Fiction", and I am cautiously optimistic.

I'm actually really for publishing "Men's Fiction" and labeling it as such. The editor hopes for stories "dealing with passages in a man’s life that seem common," which I think is a fantastic thing to do. Let's talk about boys being expected to fight. Let's talk about the draft. Let's talk about fatherhood. Let's talk about not knowing for sure if a sexual partner's offspring is also yours. Let's talk about the expectation of being the breadwinner, or the directionless feeling when that's no longer expected and one doesn't know exactly what is. Let's talk about being expected to be physically strong in the way women are expected to be physically beautiful. Let's talk about the intersections of masculinity and race in our society. All of these are valuable and important and potentially great stories that are generally pretty specific to men.

I think one fantastic thing about directing attention to the idea that there is specifically masculine fiction is that it helps put wedge between masculine fiction and general fiction being masculine by default. I like the idea of there being a gender continuum with delineated poles and a broad neutral ground in the middle where the subject isn't anything gender-particular, but rather the human condition. Not "women's fiction and general fiction", but "women's fiction, general fiction, and men's fiction".

I am, of course, also leery, because often when people say "men's (anything)" they mean either straight up pornography, or a sort of he-man woman hater's club business that tends to be pretty distasteful. But I'm optimistic that's not where this is going.

EDIT: Aaaand it's been pointed out to me Esquire has a long history of excellent fiction. Here's the highlights of the Esquire collected anthology 1993:

"The Snows of Kilimanjaro" by Ernest Hemingway; "The Death of Justina" by John Cheever; "Towel Season" by Ron Carlson; "Parker's Back" by Flannery O'Connor; "Adult World I" and "Adult World II" by David Foster Wallace; "Neighbors" by Raymond Carver; "Fleur" by Louise Erdrich; "A Man in the Way" by F. Scott Fitzgerald; "In the Men's Room of the Sixteenth Century" by Don DeLillo; "Rock Springs" by Richard Ford; "The Remobilization of Jacob Horner" by John Barth; and "The Things They Carried" by Tim O'Brien.

That's a really boss line up and I'd love to see them carry on in that tradition.

1 comment:

  1. As a woman, I would find stories that deal with the issues that you mentioned (from a specifically male perspective) to be interesting reads. I hope a lot of males would as well, and what is being billed as "men's fiction" is not simply another presentation of the two-dimensional caricature of what it is to be masculine that is already abundantly available in print and other media.