• Reading Resolution: April Showers (of Men)

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in WBN News & Events     Comments 8 comments
    May
    3

    33rdAfter a rather lackluster March — three books, all dudes — I picked it up a little in April.

    Except for the “all dudes” portion: Five books in April, all by men. Three of them are technically for work, so that’s part of it. And also I’m partway into two books written by women, and given a few more days, they’d have made this list.

    But they didn’t. So I’m at 19 books on the year, 12 by men. Clearly I am lagging.

    The other half of the bet is going better: 11 of the 19 fit the minority and/or translated writer bill. Still, I’m not exactly killing it.

    (Here are January, February and March, if you’re new to this and curious.)

    What are you currently reading? And how is your reading resolution going? Let us know below.

    And now for the books.

     

    1) The Adventurist, J. Bradford Hipps (Macmillan)

    My review of this won’t run for another week or two, so I’ll have to hold off. But in brief: sharp intellect and funny writing overcome a somewhat stale office plot. For readers who like their protagonists funny and philosophical. Think The Moviegoer.

     

    2) Bottom of the 33rd, Dan Barry (HarperCollins)

    This is hands down my favorite baseball book, and I’ve gone through hundreds of ’em. I’ve read it about half a dozen times now, once per year since I discovered it, and a few years twice.

    The setting is a bitterly cold Easter eve in 1981 Rhode Island, where the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox and Rochester Red Wings play 32 innings, and around eight hours, of deadlocked baseball. By the time the game is finally suspended very early on Easter morning, only about a dozen fans remain.

    It sounds like an absolutely miserable night, for all involved. But Barry spins some sort of evil writer’s magic and makes me wish, dearly, that I had been in the stands that night.

    I could write a book about how much I love and admire this book.

     

    3) Long Gone, Paul Hemphill (Viking)

    I get the sense that this is a mostly forgotten baseball novel. It’s an enjoyable story about a D League team in the Florida panhandle in the 1950s. Everyone’s broke and drunk, many of the players are past their prime, and even the younger ones don’t have much of a future in baseball. I suppose “down and out” is a quick & easy way to summarize the league and its talent.

    The book moves quickly. Perhaps too quickly. I know I had a good time reading it, but it has left little impression.

    The friend who suggested it also fondly remembers the made-for-TV film adaptation. It looks very, very ’80s.

     

    4) A Rage in Harlem, Chester Himes (Maybe Dell? I’m having trouble finding the original publisher. Here.)

    I won’t write too much about this here, because I’m working something up. But I can see that I am going to read a great deal more of Chester Himes’ work. In many ways, this book is unrecognizable as being by the same author as If He Hollers Let Him Go (which I talked about in the February edition). In other ways, it’s obviously the same guy.

    In brief: A dupe of a hearse driver is scammed by a group of hustlers, and then begrudgingly enlists the help of his sketchy brother — who makes money by dressing up as a nun and asking for donations — to get it, and his girlfriend, back. But is his girlfriend in on the scam?

    It’s a very entertaining, angry, and ahead of its time crime novel. It’s the first of Himes’ so-called Harlem Cycle.I shall be reading many more of them.

     

    5) Arcade, Drew Nellins Smith (Unnamed Press)

    This is the debut novel from a good friend of mine, and I’ll have a lot more to say about it when his pub date arrives, six weeks from now. I read his draft and enjoyed it a lot. I read the final version and enjoyed it even more.

    Check out the description. If it sounds even remotely up your alley, then it is. If it doesn’t, then it’s probably not.

     

    So that’s my April reading. Coming up in May (I hope): More baseball, more Harlem, some Jane Jacobs, a quick trip to Barcelona … and fewer male writers!

    What have you been reading? How is your reading resolution going so far? Better yet, how is your writing resolution going so far? Let us know in the comments below.

     

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services. And join our mailing list, over in the right sidebar, for once-per-week writing goodies in your inbox. 

    Linked2WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and contributes regularly to the Dallas Morning News, Publishing Perspectives, the Observer and other publications.

     

     

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    MarkManRaymundoDavid DuhrYi Shun Lai Recent comment authors
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    Yi Shun Lai
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    I have been reading the same book for at least a week, I feel. This is a long time for me. I have no way of knowing how many pages it actually is, since I’m reading a galley of it on kindle for work purposes. It is…rangy, and nonfiction, and keeps on going in directions I do not expect it to go, which I guess is good? But I am at the stage where I wish it would end.

    Yi Shun Lai
    Guest

    Also, on another note: You read five books. Three of them were by men for work. I’m reminded of the Roxane Gay loose study: nearly 90% of the books reviewed by the NYT in 2011 were by men. Surely more than 10% of the books published in any given year are by women??? Do you find you get assigned more books by men? or am I reading this all wrong and it’s work of another sort?
    *bang head on desk*

    David Duhr
    Guest

    I’ve wondered about this. Do male reviewers review more books by men and female reviewers review more books by women? Maybe it’s not as much a lack of coverage as it is a lack of review assignments given to women? But then that makes it sound like I’m saying that men should review men and women should review women, and that’s not at all what I mean. Which should editors focus more on: gender/racial/etc. equality in the writers reviewed or equality in the reviewers? Both equally? I’m assigned far more books by men. Is that because I’m a man? Is… Read more »

    David Duhr
    Guest

    I wonder how much of this issue is top-down. Are there more men assigning reviews than women? I’d venture to guess that’s the case.

    Yi Shun Lai
    Guest

    I think this warrants a lot of exploration. And I’d welcome some kind of casual survey among book reviewers. *Sticking this on bulletin board for later possibility.*

    Raymundo
    Guest

    I’ve written a lot of reviews, and they’ve run about 2/3 male authors. I haven’t really thought about the male/female ratio, though, I’ve just been following my own interests in the books I read and review. I guess those interests have been more traditionally male. Lately, however, I’ve followed a thread of authors who’ve written about literal journeys of enlightenment, and among these have been some notable female writers such as Cheryl Strayed and Robyn Davidson. So perhaps there’s a function of amateur vs professional reviewing, and what paths the reviewer is following.

    Man
    Guest
    Man

    a publication also has to take its readership into account. I remember a few years ago when someone, Esquire?, took a beating because it announced a short story series, stories about men by men, or some such. It’s a magazine aimed at men! I don’t imagine Ladies Home Journal reviews many books by male authors. But neutral publications should strive for balance, I agree. How Much balance is a question. Say that reviews today are 75/25 male authors. That’s terrible. Are we aiming for near 50/50? I imagine if it were 75/25 women authors, many of the people arguing for… Read more »

    Mark
    Guest
    Mark

    I think Raymuno is right. Pursue your own interests. If those interests are diverse, even better. If they’re not, well, that says something about you. Maybe developing an interest *in* diversity is an option.




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