The Male (Writer) Conundrum

Perhaps not conundrum. But last week my agent sent me an email that contained these lines:

I wonder if this one might be better off with a male editor, or someone with a slightly different sensibility?

This from an editor at a major publishing house. And this wasn’t the first time he’s received a response along these lines. A few weeks earlier:

this novel is a little outside my comfort zone as an editor. I wonder if it’s just a little too male for me and might be a better fit with a male editor

And then, just yesterday, an article appeared in Salon that basically said male authors, especially new ones, are having a real hard time right now. That outside of heavyweights like DeLillo and Franzen and Eugenides, male authors are having a difficult time across the board. This is admittedly an unpopular argument to make, especially since the likes of Jonathan Franzen are still making the cover of Time magazine. But we’ve heard for years how book readership overall skews heavily female. Men, in general (and in a HIGHLY generalized statement) don’t even like fiction anymore and hardly read at all. And perhaps the entire concept of fiction turns men off. Which is a crock but still. Stats don’t lie right?

Now, I’m not even close to giving up. Even though this novel’s trip has been long and arduous (my current agent? He’s my third one.) and seemingly without end. I remember years ago, at a writers’ workshop in beautiful Saratoga Springs, NY, a poet, looking rueful (as poets are wont to do) suddenly asked “Why do we write poetry anymore?” He was drunk, sure, but he was also very, very serious. And besides the usual, poetic answers, no one had a “good” answer. Good in the “this-makes-sense” kind of sense. Logical. That’s the word I’m looking for. And I wonder if today, some young dude, a fiction writer, would ask the same question. But not about poetry.

U2, back when they were just starting out and were young and Bono hadn’t yet had those ridiculous wrap-around shades tattooed to his face, sang the prescient line about a place and time where “fact is fiction and TV reality.” And we have come to that. We live in a world where real life is good enough to satisfy our fictional urges and Snooki inhabits a kind of fictional space even though she is very real (or especially because is she is very real – she, and the entire Jersey Shore, is honestly nothing more than today’s commedia dell’arte), and where our fiction has to be REALLY fictional, with zombies and vampires and ghosts and cowboys and aliens (or better yet, all of them at once). I write realistic stuff and I’m a man, both negatives at a time when neither is sellable. I won’t apologize for being a man. And I won’t apologize for first realizing I wanted to write while being mesmorized by Raymond Carver. So. Two strikes against me.

Because all the storytelling now is about selling product.

Sorry. Did I write that? I was just being cynical.

For years, after any meal in a Chinese restaurant, my father would reach for the fortune cookies and say “Let’s see what the Creative Writing graduates are writing these days.” In the spirit of his comment, I say this to the editor(s) and their response to my agent’s query: Fuck Off.

This entry was posted in Blog and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.