Sunday best
2 May 2010
The Second Sex, a second time
17 May 2010

‘Men don’t read books’?

“If you’ve worked in publishing, you’ve heard the tired old maxim: Men Don’t Read. Try to acquire or sell a book aimed predominantly at men, and odds are you’ll be told Men Don’t Read. …  If you keep telling yourself something, regardless of its validity, eventually you’ll begin to believe it. So because publishers rarely publish for men and don’t market towards men, somehow that equates to our entire gender having given up on the reading books. Hence the mantra ‘Men Don’t Read.’ THIS MUST END.”

So writes  Jason Pinter in Huffington Post drawing on his experiences as a thriller writer and an acquiring editor in book publishing — where editorial meetings, he guesses, are dominated 3-1 by women.

Pinter’s Andy Rooney-ish screed drew a lot of flak in the blogosphere, summarized by Laura Miller in Salon thusly:

“… the pointlessly anecdotal refutations (‘My husband reads books, so lots of men do!’); the desperate straw-snatching (‘This is why no one will publish my masterpiece, “Rock Meteor and the Lector of G.R.I.M.E.”!’); the flaming gender paranoia (‘Evil feminists are trying to castrate us with their rosebuds-and-doilies book jackets!’); the reasonable but shortsighted rejoinder (‘If you can’t find something you like in the 700,000 books published every year, it’s your own fault!’); and so on. One blogger made the Möbius-strip-like argument that if today’s men were truly manly they wouldn’t be scared away from reading by its reputation for unmanliness.”

Miller thinks it’s worth asking “why there are so few men in publishing. Could it be the low pay, low status and ridiculous hours?” Book publishing, she says,  “increasingly resembles those ‘caring professions,’ nursing and teaching, where the joy of laboring selflessly on behalf of a noble cause — in this case, literature — is supposed to make up for the lack of profits and respect. And we all know who does that kind of job, don’t we?”

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