I’ve been reading Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey for a few weeks now, and I was only about 200 pages into it. Which is a sure sign that I’m not enjoying it too much, which is causing me to read a lot less than I should. So I took it back to the library and picked up The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. I’m hoping I can get more interested in this book.
I recently signed up for a book based social networking website called Goodreads. You enter the books you’re reading, want to read, and have read. It lets you rate them, recommend them to people and even offer to give away/sell them. Then you connect up with your friends (or strangers with similar interests) on the site to get book recommendations.
After I signed up for it I was looking at my “to read list”, and realized I kept a list of books I read for most of the year I lived in Santa Cruz. I read a lot that year. Then I stumbled upon this woman who is reading a book a week for a year and blogging about it, the 52 Books Project.
She just got done reading Keith Gessen’s All the Sad Young Literary Men, a book I read a few weeks ago and really enjoyed. She also enjoyed it. But what really stood out to me was this quote: “I probably shouldn’t mention it because I refuse to actually read any more than the excerpts, but The Average American Male (and its popularity) made me lose just a little hope in the male subset of the human race. All the Sad Young Literary Men redeems it, makes me realize that, while the average male exists, his existence necessitates the existence of above-average men. And there are men (possibly not only fictional) who think women are attracted to them because, “for all your problems you still read books, you were still a thumb in the eye of the way things were.” They have female counterparts, too.”
Now I haven’t read The Average American Male either. I haven’t even read the excerpts. But a friend recommended it to me, while we were talking about Bukowski (which I’ve learned to always be weary of reading anything anyone compares to Bukowski, because in my opinion it’s never as good, and almost always terrible, Fante excepted). I went out and read a review or two and realized I wanted nothing to do with this book. I hoped (and still do) that it was just perpetuating a stereotype about “the average American male”, but more and more I think it’s not just a stereotype. I obviously can’t speak for the book since I haven’t read it, but I have a feeling I know the general theme, and I just don’t like the idea of men, myself included, portrayed in such a way. And it’s a comfort to know that people recognize not every American male is like that. (Call me narcissistic, but I’m including myself in the “above-average men” category).
Looking quickly over the list of books she’s read, and those she liked, I think I’m going to follow along and get some reading ideas for myself.