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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Sily coonts

Sily coonts

I just stumbled on this cheeky little thing: Why Do Young Male Writers Love Icky, Toughguy Deadbeats?

Because most male writers are dorks. Who wish they were tough guys. Because male writers are too confused by feminism and women in general to portray “real men” on the page, much less in reality. And Palahniuk is their role model? Palahniuk is gay. How the leader of the New Manliness turned out to be a mostly closeted homosexual is a source of endless mystery to me.

Take “Tool Academy,” by way of example. The perfect example, really. Because it reveals that the new women are men. All those peacocks greasing up their bodies, wearing thongs and preening, crying and apologizing. These contestants are not men. They are women with penises. Gender is a masquerade. Welcome to our reality, dudes.

I don’t know about you, but writers are not good role-models, period. The most ‘masculine’ writers I can think of, that I personally respect, are Henry Miller and Norman Mailer (Thomas Pynchon, Walter Mosley and Burroughs all come in close behind). Masculinity hasn’t changed, but it has been subverted by dominating women and the hordes of douchenozzles that bend to their every whim. And it probably has a lot to do with people needing to eat and therefore doing jobs they find morally abject. Being too effeminate or playing up the tough guy roles are examples of overcompensation by weak-willed people.

And the clenching moment, courtesy of Brian Hill:

Male writing is largely the domain of upper middle class (white) men who suffer from emasculation issues. I’m black, I write fiction. I come from a working class background (scholarship kid, NYU grad). Back when I was repped by William Morris, I remember going to NYC lit events and feeling like I should be bouncing at the front door. Kerouac and others like him didn’t come from the establishment and suddenly read FIGHT CLUB and decide they wanted to play too, but unfortunately that’s where most male writers come from these days.

Every hedge fund pimp I’ve ever known is struggling to finish a novel about how difficult it is to be a hedge fund pimp.

There’s also the crisis of masculinity itself. To me, it seems that my generation (I’m 31) defines masculinity solely through the pursuit of women. I love women. I’m married to one, but when the only rite of passage is reading “The Game”, then there’s a problem in the world of men. What is the male culture independent of the influence of women?

Which brings me back to gay old Chuck. How did a gay man become the icon of masculinity for the commuter crowd?

FIGHT CLUB is hip-hop for white men. (Although hip-hop is hip-hop for white men, but I digress…). Dick lit is fantasy fulfillment. It’s the ridiculous idea that even if you’ve been a sheltered, pampered, entitled prick for most of your life — a month doing sit ups and you can turn into Chuck Lidell. These books convince soft-natured fellas that they have a boxer’s pain threshold, an animal’s savagery, and a gladiator’s soul. Just like rap music convinces every black kid that being black somehow makes you inherently more badass than everyone else (it doesn’t), these books convince yuppies that they’re not fragile.

And just like black kids who watch Scarface and miss the fact that Tony Montana dies in a hail of gunfire, alone, addicted to cocaine and insane — the “man fans” miss the fact that FIGHT CLUB is about a narrator who is so shit-scared of asking out Marla Singer that he invents another personality in order to fuck her. FIGHT CLUB isn’t about a world without women. FIGHT CLUB is about a sub-culture created because of a woman. It’s not about empowerment. It’s an essay about how men can’t escape emasculation.

When men find motivations separate from their relationships with women, that’s when we get our balls back.

All in all, amusing and enlightening. And offensive if your nuts are rubber-banded or you secretly pander to the opposite sex.

Chuck Palahniuk will always have a place on my bookshelf. It’s just so damn entertaining. But these people Brian is talking about are all over my school -granted, they know more about the technicalities of writing. It’s what MFA programs have been producing for the last few years. I get submissions for Hobson’s Choice from these guys and you know what? It’s sad. Quite a lot of it is well-written. Just… weak.

I don’t know if Kerouac is such a hot example, though. I really don’t like much of what he wrote. Cassady on the other hand was pretty much on point, although I’m sure someone would be quick to point out the Ginsburg affair and how it emasculates Cassady, etc. (which, while relevant, is outside of the scope of my point). The fact that these young men are writing about love and sex in ways they have never come close to experiencing is what’s wrong with them. Oh, I think somebody wrote a novel about these guys, oddly enough titled All the Sad Young Literary Men.

But, if you step back and look at it, it’s okay. Because they’re young and so what if they have a crappy manuscript they’ve been revising and shopping around for six years? It doesn’t hurt anyone, least of all them. In fact, they’re okay. Hell, I haven’t finished a novel. I did start one, but just kinda realized my shortcomings about how to tell the story: my socialization has limited experience with hospitals (and specifically cancer).

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