Saturday, January 2, 2010

Today's Male Writers are Pussies - UPDATED

Comments were particularly good for this entry so I've copy and pasted some comments and my response below.

I'm frankly astonished to read this article in the New York Times. But, of course, the books section has a separate editor.

A woman [I think many men underestimate how key women will be in restoring sexual balance in our culture... many of them crave a return by men to real masculinity] writes about how the last generation of famous, male, American novelists (Updike, Mailer, Bellow, Roth) were lusty, sexually aggressive and sexually interested fuckers. And how the current generation of famous, male, American novelists (Franzen, Wallace, Chabon, Eggers, Safran Foer), are like wounded little pussy boys who would rather wallow in their own sensitivity than fuck a girl hard like she really wants.

So these things go in cycles. I predict there is a generation now writing, about 15 years younger on average than Jonathan Franzen and David Eggers (God I hate him), who will write some of the most sexually aggressive, testosteroney literary fiction in history. I might even know someone who's doing that right now. Wink wink.

The Naked and the Conflicted

--end original post--

selected comments and my response follow.. —Dogen

John Smith said...

it's nice to think that we're some type of vanguard...mayhap one day some well-known chap might perchance mention his blogroll as having been influential in pursuing a forgotten literary tradition of masculinity. one can only hope...it is after all the beginning of a new calendar year.

Charlie said...

Doesn't one of the characters in Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated have sex with his wife through a glory hole because he somnambulantly beats her if they're not separated by a wall? And I think there's another character who has prodigious amounts of sex, starting at like 11 years of age. Some of these guys are far more interested in sex than the article implies. JSF wasn't so much not interested in sex as his characters had to deal w/ puritanical repression of the sex act, which makes complete sense given contemporary attitudes.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if I can agree with this. You can clearly pick out a few male writers that aren't pussy whipped, which would make your whole point moot. Example Tom Clancy or Brett Easton Ellis. "Sabrina don't stare at it. Eat it" Awesome fucking line.

John Smith: I can't tell if that is sarcasm or not. But at the risk of seeming foolish, yeah, it is nice!

Charlie: That's a good point, and one I should have addressed if I wasn't such a painfully lazy blogger. You are absolutely right, some of those writers (Franzen and DFW for sure) have some pretty sex-obsessed characters. I haven't read the Safran Foer scenes you reference (or don't recall them). But I do remember that famous scene in Franzen's "The Corrections" when Chip masturbates himself using the chaise longue in his apartment, and of course he has sex repeatedly with his attractive younger female student.

On the surface, this refutes the point of this post. But I think the NYTimes author does a good job of pointing up the difference between a zesty, lusty obsession with sex (earlier generation) and a hinky, self-recriminating obsession with sex (current generation). And I think this is the key difference. Certainly Bellow and Updike take on sex unblinkingly, and happily, even when it leads to pain or suffering for their characters. And the remarkable thing about Portnoy's Complaint is that features one of the most self-conscious, sex-obsessed and confused narrators in all of fiction, and yet you never get the feeling that Roth really has a problem with any of the sex. Contrast Eggers or Franzen, who may mention sex and even wallow in it, but with whom you always get the feeling that they hate themselves for being sexual men.

I recognize that I'm probably splitting hairs here, but such are the joys of literary criticism. No one can ever definitively prove me wrong! Anything goes! Huzzah!

((And we have completely left out the entire school of white, male, extremely influential literary fiction writers that have been called "American Paranoid"... specifically Thomas Pynchon for the earlier group, Don DeLillo for the mid-term group, and Chuck Pahlaniuk for the current generation, but this comment is long enough already... and it's an Evo-psych/Sex blog, not a litcrit blog, right?))

Anonymous: That's another good point. Any era will have plenty of writers on any side of a given issue. I could name also, to further your point, Chuck Pahlaniuk and Michel Houellebecq (though he's not American, of course... anyway, there are others). But I think that just further proves the point. Bellow, Roth, Updike, and Mailer were/are the GODS of their generation, according to people like the New York Times (all I mean by the NYT is the "cultural arbiters of the day... politics is irrelevant here... or it is only secondarily relevant; my point is, WHO do the current arbiters of good taste consider "great"?).

Today the GODS (as far as white, male Americans) are considered to be Franzen, Wallace, and Chabon (I don't think Eggers really pulls rank with these people at the same level, and thank goodness... I think Eugenides is working his way into this group, but if you have read "Middlesex" you understand how this only strengthens my point). It's immaterial whether these writers deserve their elevation. The point is... these are the writers that get elevated these days, the ones that rise to intellectual prominence in our era. These are the writers that reflect our times. Tom Clancy sells a hell of a lot of books, but very few people will read a Tom Clancy novel in 100 years, whereas lit-crit scholars (only a few, of course, but some) will still read David Foster Wallace in 100 years. I love Tom Clancy and I don't mean to rag on him, but it's fucking true.

Finally, incidentally, I have to say, I really really think David Foster Wallace was the best American writer of the last 20 years or so (white, black, male, female, purple, green, transgendered, vampire, hippopotamus, leprechaun, upside down, or inside out). Yes he has huge, gaping flaws. Yes "Infinite Jest" is almost unreadable. Yes, the NYT woman is right to say that he suffered from his generation's (and ours) unfortunate neurosis about male sexuality. But he alone of contemporary writers that I have read (and I humbly submit that I have read a LOT), DFW combines...

1) blinding, raw, scary, native intelligence of the Dante/Shakespeare/Rain-Man kind

2) a deep love of writing, the written word, the sound of words, the effect words can have

3) respect for the emotional experience of the reader; a desire to reach out to the reader and humbly engage him/her in emotional communication; an aversion to lecturing the reader or preaching to him/her (Pahlaniuk for all his talent lacks this). A humble and somewhat bewildered LOVE OF OTHER HUMAN BEINGS

4) the cojones to try new and weird stuff in his writing. Much of which doesn't work at all. Much of which does. The bizarreness that Harold Bloom marks out as the true mark of an all-time great (and yes, I am talking about the Milton and Melville kind of great here).

Combine #4 with 1-3, and you get some spectacular failures along with some of the most intense, evocative, generous, and astonishing writing of modern times. DFW was GENEROUS, that's the best word I can think of.

Anyway, no one is reading this comment at this point, but my point was that it pains me to group him with Franzen, Chabon, and especially Eggers, and ESPECIALLY that fraud, Safran Foer, because I consider DFW about five cuts above those others. But it's true, on the charge of being scared of his own masculinity, I think DFW was guilty.

God only knows how many such sins I myself am guilty of. I'm aware of about 87 myself, and I'm sure I'm blind to another 900. DFW was a better writer than I'll ever be, and might have been a better man (though how do you measure that? and the poor bastard offed himself with a wife and kid in tow, which is a black mark if you ask me, mitigated as it might be by his clinical depression). Anyway... DFW was a big-hearted enough son-of-a-bitch that I feel somewhat guitly even criticizing him. Ironic, I know, for those of you used to me pontificating on why this or that girl's hair did or did not meet my criteria for being properly yankable. What can I say? I'm a softie underneath it all.

Thanks for the comments, y'all.

17 comments:

  1. Of course the current male authors are ambivalent about sex

    They've been hit for 50 years about how sex and their desire for it is evil, they can't escape what they've been taught.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Interesting trend. So when are you going to guest post for us? :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Never heard of Franzen, Wallace, Chabon, Eggers, or Safran Foer. Am I missing anything?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm sure that whatever that generation scribbles out will come off looking as out-dated as beating your wife senseless before heading out to the country club to play a round of golf, smoke a cigar, drink bourbon then driving back drunk.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You're always so testy, ian.

    Have a drink or something... round of golf maybe?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Kunkel: “Feeling extremely uncouth, I put my penis away. I might have thrown it away if I could.”

    ReplyDelete
  7. ian you both sound and look like a total pussy. Always.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Talleyrand--

    They've been hit for 50 years about how sex and their desire for it is evil, they can't escape what they've been taught.

    Not that sex is evil. No not that at all. Serving women by bringing them to orgasm orally isn't evil but what all men should dedicate themselves to doing, if they can merit and earn that privilege through other outside the bedroom sensitive service, is more what boys and men have been taught these last 50 years. Oh and workshipping strong, aggressive women, whether in pants suits or female superhero / dominatrix high boots. Right Ian?

    What they've been taught is evil is male dominate sexuality, or any form of male dominance whatsoever, unless maybe it's black or brown male dominance. Certainly any white male dominance or really even leadership anywhere at all is evil, evil evil, and so "behind the times". Right Ian from Hamburg? Well it might be permitted in the sole case of leading the group including other white males to give way more and more, ever more, out of equalist duty in bouts of altruism status competition.

    That's what's been taught to guys and girls alike these past 50 years, explicitly in part, but more effectively subtly as subtext to an ever increasing extent, no end yet in sight, despite this hopeful post.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @theblanque: of those writers I would marginally recommend Jonathan franzen and heartily recommend David Foster Wallace. Avoid the others, especially gaping vagina David Eggers.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Kate Millet should go suck a big fat cock!

    ReplyDelete
  11. it's nice to think that we're some type of vanguard...mayhap one day some well-known chap might perchance mention his blogroll as having been influential in pursuing a forgotten literary tradition of masculinity. one can only hope...it is after all the beginning of a new calendar year.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Doesn't one of the characters in Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything Is Illuminated have sex with his wife through a glory hole because he somnambulantly beats her if they're not separated by a wall? And I think there's another character who has prodigious amounts of sex, starting at like 11 years of age. Some of these guys are far more interested in sex than the article implies. JSF wasn't so much not interested in sex as his characters had to deal w/ puritanical repression of the sex act, which makes complete sense given contemporary attitudes.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I don't know if I can agree with this. You can clearly pick out a few male writers that aren't pussy whipped, which would make your whole point moot. Example Tom Clancy or Brett Easton Ellis. "Sabrina don't stare at it. Eat it" Awesome fucking line.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I'm with Talleyrand. I somehow found my way through the desert/into the cave of awareness about what I was led to believe about men/women/relationships and what was actually the case. it was a painful realization and one that still brings sting on occasion. the conditioning process is a hard one to cast off.

    ReplyDelete
  15. For a writer with balls, check me out.

    DirkJohanson
    "The Balls Monologues"

    ReplyDelete
  16. "And how the current generation of famous, male, American novelists (Franzen, Wallace, Chabon, Eggers, Safran Foer), are like wounded little pussy boys who would rather wallow in their own sensitivity than fuck a girl hard like she really wants."


    Of course women would basically confine men to being nothing more than compulsively bound to "pussy begging". Women only see the world as how it relates to their sexuality so why wouldn't they attempt to confine men strictly to being perceived by such criteria.

    We all know that a woman holds greater capacity for power if her sexuality is left unchallenged. It sounds like a modern feminist shaming tactic, and personally I'm not buying it.

    "You're a wimp, you're a pussy, do what I say, blah blah blah blah". And lesser men will answer those chiding calls and bit right into their stupid little game.

    Men become slaves under such a system, don't eve r forget it.

    Those authors of generations past were still neck-deep in the lies that society perpetrated about women, and I would theorize that many of them parasitically fed off a marriage-centric society as "free agents".

    Women have always been obsessed with iniquity and this is just a tired old plea for men to return to their shackles.

    And as I said, the primitive, lesser men will do so willingly, and even defend their actions.

    ReplyDelete
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