Guy Novels That Guys Don't Seem to Read ; 'Lad Lit' Offers a Lens into the Book Industry and Men's Lives - for Better or for Worse

By Christina McCarroll writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, August 5, 2004 | Go to article overview

Guy Novels That Guys Don't Seem to Read ; 'Lad Lit' Offers a Lens into the Book Industry and Men's Lives - for Better or for Worse


Christina McCarroll writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


You can tell a lot by the titles: books like "Love Monkey" and "Booty Nomad," stories like "What I Would Tell Her" and "The Last American Virgin," even an essay collection called "The Bastard on the Couch." The protagonists drift among jobs and relationships, wander through their 30s, flounder in quarter-life crises - fictional men who were supposed to spur a book boom, filling the shelves alongside "chick lit" like so many boyfriends for Bridget Jones.

Instead, after an initial flurry of media coverage and rapt attention, the heralded "lad lit" genre may be going the way of its heroes, with an uncertain future and a lukewarm response. Holden Caulfield, in a dour mood, might have called it "phony."

The most basic obstacle may be habit: It's hard to attract a vast male audience when men constitute as little as 20 percent of readers of novels for adults. That leaves women, and though many may pick up the books for a glimpse of the other side, experts say others don't want such an earnest look at the dark underbelly of masculinity. How delightful is it, after all, to see oneself in pages of meaningless hookups and failed love quests, another notch in a belt of relationship "upgrades"?

Granted, up to now there haven't been many tales of Joe Sixpack, told by Joe himself. But there may not be much of an appetite for them, either - not as long as most men cringe at spending time with an angsty midlife character like J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield.

"No male reader wants to be identified with a guy who can't get the girl," says Christopher Napolitano, editorial director of Playboy, one of just a few large circulation magazines that regularly prints fiction - mostly male-perspective stories - since its first edition in 1953. Playboy has published plenty of stories on men's internal lives - John Updike's fiction, for instance, along with that of John Cheever and Vladimir Nabokov. But "the same self- absorption and misery that [lad-lit] narrator is exhibiting on the page that make him a turnoff for women, also make him a turnoff for readers," he says.

So the main audience will have to be women, says Antoinette Kuritz, founder of the annual La Jolla Writers' Conference - women craving, if cringing at, "insight into men's psychic and romantic terrain. If you're expecting men to read lad lit, it will fail."

For years, the fiction industry has sprouted niche markets, far beyond the old categories of mystery, romance, and science fiction. There's African-American literature, gay and lesbian fiction, suspense thrillers, mom lit, "bridezilla" lit (women going after men), even a new genre for postmenopausal women. Christian publishing has soared in the past decade, and romance novels continue to be strong, making up more than 53 percent of all paperback purchases.

Lad lit, too - with early incarnations like Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" and "About a Boy," both of which became box-office successes - has taken off, in one sense, with legions of new titles. For a time, it was anticipated as publishing's next big thing. But any genre, by nature, has limits.

"Because books are so far out on the cultural margin, the publishing industry is understandably extraordinarily focused on finding a niche, a marketing hook, and an angle," says Steve Almond, author of "My Life in Heavy Metal," a short-story collection that fell neatly into the lad lit genre - though Mr. Almond didn't know it at the time. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Guy Novels That Guys Don't Seem to Read ; 'Lad Lit' Offers a Lens into the Book Industry and Men's Lives - for Better or for Worse
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.