Who is writing and Who is reading fiction?
If you are a male novelist or you want to write novels so passionately it makes your teeth ache, then my advice to you, skip this piece.
Now, for sure, you will want to read it.
Okay, but please put away all sharp objects just in case you decide to open a vein. The overwhelming evidence indicates that women are vastly more likely to read fiction than men. According to In These Times “A 2000 survey found that women comprised a greater percentage of readers than men across all genres: Espionage/thriller (69 percent); General (88 percent); Mystery/Detective (86 percent); and even Science Fiction (52 percent).”
Those numbers can’t be ignored. They certainly aren’t ignored by publishers who must ask whether the book they are publishing will appear to the large audience of women, bringing in men. Or whether the book is a niche book for men only. If the latter is the case, it is likely that a publisher will give it a pass no matter how brilliant is the writing or the story. A mystery had targets only men readers is left with 14% of the male reading mystery reading public as the market. That could be a very slim market.
Where about the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Jack Kerouac or Henry Miller to mention just a few big literary names that once captured the attention of a large public? They are a vanishing breed, living outside of the limelight, without much attention paid to them or their books.
“Apart from sex with beautiful models, men are also socialized to seek out activities that confer status—which, these days, sadly doesn’t include reading novels.
According to novelist Walter Kirn, “If novelists have become culturally invisible—at least to today’s men—it’s partly because the life of a novelist offers few rewards to the traditional male ego. It’s not about power, glory and money,” unlike the adulation our culture reserves for rap stars, athletes and movie actors.”
What have we learned, class?
Male novelists are becoming the invisible man. They are a vanishing tribe living on reservations supported by grants.
No power, no glory, no money.
Translation: No sex
A life producing words and more words for a dwindling market headed to the oblivion barn where the horse and buggy are parked.
And as for the parting shot, what about reading as being fit for me? Climb into your time machine, cause it’s back to the past where there is no future. “Don’t look now, but we may be headed back to the 19th century, when the novel was considered a low-status, frivolous, pastime of ladies of leisure, unfit for real men.”