Like most guys, heretofore your reading tastes have not progressed much beyond comic books, sports stats, IPA labels, espionage novels and fart-joke books. Your idea of a great weekend is attending Comic-Con or cow tipping.
Maybe writing the great American novel is not on your “to do” list, or even reading one, but there is still time to correct that “C” you earned in English Reading and Comprehension. Just be prepared — there are few male heroes in U.S.-centric fiction, too few Atticus Finches, at least in literary fiction — as contrasted with commercial fiction (think Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and John Grisham). The library shelves are quite barren. Grisham comes the closest of that lot.
Romance novels romanticize males, if you need that. I tried reading one once and did not make it past the first chapter, but my romance-novel-addicted-wife forces me to listen to passages all of the time. She may be trying to tell me something.
Here is a standard romance novel plot line: a reformed rake, rogue, war-decorated duke or lord, sports bad boy, wild-horse-taming Indian, mystical man, Civil War-scarred Confederate or Yankee, or American West-conquering when-men-were-men adventurer (pick one) is captivated by, then pursues a strong, usually chaste, seemingly hard-to-get, always-in-peril heroine. The mating dance proceeds with clashes, wit and repartee until near the end, and then climaxes with “The Kiss”. Ultimately, they marry, live in monogamous, halcyon harmony and have lots of kids.
If humor appeals, read anything by Carl Hiaason, David Sedaris or Dave Barry. For you weekend duffers, Hiaason published a nonfiction rant entitled Down Hill Lie.
If joining a book club appeals, I have bad news — you actually have to read 10 to 11 books* a year and mutter something reasonably succinct other than thumbs up or down, or “hated it”.
More bad news — you have to host at least one meeting a year. You could dash out and buy prepared grub or dial Grubhub an hour in advance, but where’s the challenge in that? (See my recipes in Guy’s Guide to Domestic Engineering.) Besides, if you failed to finish the monthly selection, you need to redeem yourself with the spread you prepare.
Our book club could more appropriately be called a Book, Culinary and Wine Tasting Club. After 20 years we could assemble a top-notch collection of recipes.
We usually open three wines, two reds and a white. This further enlivens the discussion. Better parting hugs, too.
If you are a male minority member of your book club, be prepared for the pre-discussion gabfest to range from the latest dog obedience school certificates, to the pros and cons of tile versus slate versus limestone kitchen countertops, to Downton Abbey.
After a few years, you too can discuss the subtle distinctions between postmodern and southern gothic literature. Your vocabulary will finally surpass 10th grade. This strategy, plus the daily crosswords, might replace some of those dead brain cells.
Not that you asked, but southern gothic literature usually deals with the struggles of those oppressed by traditional southern culture. Southern gothic authors include Harper Lee, Flannery O’Conner, William Faulkner and Carson McCullers. As for postmodern literature, I still haven’t a clue. They let me stay in the club anyway. I think it’s because of my cooking.
If your book group picks The Brothers Karanazov, call in sick. If you are having bouts of depression, don’t read anything by Sylvia Plath.
With my new novel, Blackberries Are Red When Green, I submit my primary adult, male character, Dutch Clemons, for your consideration. He’s not Atticus Finch, but he comes close.
I researched romance novels a while back and learned that romance paperbacks account for nearly 50% of all paperback sales. If my new book fizzles, maybe I should rethink my focus.
Try this plot line on for size: a half Native American playboy quarterback, Wolf Dakota, has led his pro team to three consecutive Super Bowl wins. The rumors of his off-the-field antics are not just rumors. A brawler, his high-paid agent and lawyers have kept him out of jail. He meets and falls for Veronica, the team owner’s daughter, and a veterinarian. Months later she is diagnosed with nephritis, requiring a kidney transplant. Wolf donates one of his, quits football, marries her and moves to a ranch in Montana where they raise a family, breed horses and battle wolf extinction.
I just killed some brain cells.
*My club’s book picks this year:
“Where the Crawdad’s Sing”
“The Night Circus”
“The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep”
“Old Man’s War”
“The Man Who Saw Everything”
“Salvage the Bones”
“A Heart So White”
“The Nickel Boys”
Check out my web site: Keith Frohreich