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Guy Lit and the lack of Redemption

Michael Kimmel’s Guy Lit – Whatever looks at books such as Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision (2005) and others. The common bond in these books is the “destabilized, unreliable narrator” and we are informed that women readers don’t like books about such men unless at the end there is redemption.

“The characters in these books are as unmemorable and faceless as the men in the gray flannel suits they hold in such contempt. None will hold up like Holden Caulfield because what makes him so endearing, and The Catcher in the Rye so enduring, is that he actually believes his own hype. Holden believes that he and he alone is morally superior to all the phonies he sees around him. The purveyors of guy lit implicate themselves. They know how inauthentic they are. Salinger is at heart a romantic; Kunkel et al. are cynics. Holden feels too much; Dwight and the others feel too little, if anything at all.

And that may be guy lit's biggest problem: Its readers are unlikely to resemble the guys the books are ostensibly about. As long as the antiheroes stay stuck, and the transformative trajectory is either insincere, as in Kunkel's Indecision, or nonexistent, as in Smith's Love Monkey, these writers will miss their largest potential audience. For it is women who buy the most books, and what women seem to want is for men to be capable of changing (and to know that a woman's love can change them).”

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