All entries for Saturday 20 May 2006

May 20, 2006

Man Books

I've just finished reading Notes On A Scandal by Zoe Heller which I picked up for two quid from Oxfam the other day. To be honest when reading the back and looking at the front cover I thought the themes probably wouldn't appeal to me, but I saw it had been nominated for the Man Booker Prize so gave it a go. I had assumed that the Man Booker Prize is a varient on the normal Booker Prize for fiction that chooses novels designed for men, either to encourage more men into reading fiction or to get them to read books that aren't stereotypical "mens books". I didn't enjoy the book and I thought it was definitely written for women, and when my mum told me today that the Man Booker Prize is what the Booker Prize has been called since the company Man got involved that explained this books nomination.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about in this entry is "man books". I've read several books that are often called "woman books", a term which i think can be used without demeaning a book nor saying that it will be enjoyed exclusively by women, without meaning the slightest offence to men who do enjoy them, but which describes a book which on the whole will be more enjoyed by women than by men. Some of these I have found to be very well written, such as Notes On A Scandal or The Fortunes Of War, yet I have not enjoyed them where many of my female friends have. I can recognise similar traits in them, for example they often describe peoples clothing and appearance in far more detail than I find interesting and they may have a narrator who is well described and likeable but who I find it hard to relate to. I can see that these are examples of "woman books" that are also very good books.

I find it much harder to recognise good "man books". There are authors like Tom Clancy who write books about guns and violence that I find quite entertaining but I wouldn't for a second suggest that they are excellent books, while I enjoy them enough they lack character development or adequate scene setting. Presumably there are excellent books that have limited appeal for women but I really can't think of any examples and can't see what traits they would have, does anyone care to enlighten me as to what makes a good "man book"? Is there an active ingredient of a good "man book" rather than just the absence of ingredients that appeal to women?

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