Friday, August 26, 2011

No Grils ALlowed

Over on Fansci, Barbara links us to this charmingly portentuous bit of work, published (oh where else) in the NYTimes.

Robert Lipsyte, who apparently writes books for boys about boy-stuff like football, is of the opinion that literature is being ruined by (you guessed it) the infiltration of girls.

See, back in the good old days, when those rotten girls kept off his lawn, I guess, it was men who wrote the books: men like Hemingway and Steinbeck.

And when YA fiction got invented, well. Men were still writing it: Paul Zindel, Robert Cormier, John Donovan. If an occasional girl did slip it, she had the decency to pretend she was a man: S. E. Hinton, M. E. Kerr. And she wrote about men, and about manly manly things.

Now! All these "young female novelists fresh from MFA programs" are writing books with "overwhelmingly female" imprints! (Whatever that means. Mr. Lipsyte is a writer, but half the time I can't tell what he's talking about, except that he doesn't like girls. That comes across clearly. For instance, he claims all the books he loves from those "good old days" which are entirely about "men," written by "men" about "male" problems are "not gender specific." However, books being written today, by "young female novelists" which contain girl characters -- not even entirely girls, mind you, they just have girls in them -- are "simplistic" girl's books.)

Lipsyte seems to believe it is the fault of the women and the girls that boys do not read; or, more specifically, that girls read more.

He reminds me of the conservative thinkers who are all in a knot because more women are enrolled at and graduating from universities now, and doing better at those universities, than are their male counterparts; and more young women are doing better at academics in high schools as well lately too. This, too, is the fault of women, I will have you know. (Or specifically, feminists!) We have, nefariously, corrupted the academic that boys can't win anymore.

I suggest to you, rather, the fault lies elsewhere -- perhaps with the culture itself? The culture that tells boys (and girls, but to a lesser extent) that reading is a stupid activity, a sissy activity, not something a Real Man would waste his time on?

A culture that says reading isn't as important as video games and football and American Idol?

A culture that does not, in fact, seek out, pay, and publish decent writers or their books? So that it is only crap writers of either gender who end up in the bookstores? (No, I'm not entirely serious with this last one -- but yes, 98% of what is ending up on the shelves these days, you gotta wonder what they're thinking at the big publishing houses.)

A culture that thinks teaching students to score well on a ridiculous standardized test is much more important than teaching them to love books?

Students reach my freshman classroom never having read an entire book through in their entire academic career: in their entire life. That's got nothing to do with "young female novelists from MFA programs," Mr. Lipsyte. It's got to do with misplaced priorities in American culture.

Or maybe it just is American culture. Sports, guns, God, and NASCAR, yeah? What do books have to do with America, really?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Sports, guns, God, and NASCAR . . ."

So you have lived in the South for a long time now?