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Why Don't Men Read Fiction?

Ron Charles, in his fine review of a new, muscular, brawny, hairy-chested, codpiece-grabbing novel that Ron says real men would really like if they still read novels, notes this startling factoid: "polls suggest that only 20 percent of fiction readers are male."

How can this be? Have all those guys been lost to the opiate of ESPN and the thorazine of web-surfing? Surely the human brain does not possess a gender-specific node for the appreciation of narrative?

There is only one plausible answer: Men are getting their narratives in some different form. And that form -- Ron Charles tells me in a quick chat we just had -- is narrative nonfiction.

Think: "Undaunted Courage."

"Into Thin Air."

"The Perfect Storm."

"John Adams."

The decline of novel-reading among men precisely mirrors the rise in really high-quality narrative non-fiction, Ron says.

He writes by e-mail: "Why have men given up on fiction? They often tell me it's because -- when they read -- they want to 'learn something' (e.g. about John Adams or avalanches or Egypt). But a better literary historian would point out that women have always been the primary audience for fiction. We may just be returning to the attitudes of the 18th and 19th centuries when novels were considered the pastime of romantic-minded ladies and flighty young women."

I still read fiction -- in increasingly pitiful amounts. I'm a special case -- condemned to an eternity of typing, which gives little room for the solitary and serene pleasure of letting someone else handle the words. Indeed, after a day in the salt mines of journalism, the last thing I want to do is get within a thousand yards of anything remotely resembling text. Hence the passion for dressing up in costumes and staging musicals in the garage.

The book that I'm really liking right now is a terrific narrative, but it's historical: "Team of Rivals." A page-turner and it's all true. Who needs novels??

Well, novelists, maybe. Ron says that he's heard that there are only about 80,000 reliable buyers of serious literary fiction in America.

Memo to Obama: Novelists need the next bailout.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 3, 2009; 1:45 PM ET
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I think there is a lot of truth to this. I have always enjoyed narrative non-fiction, such as books by Simon Winchester and his ilk. Good page turners indeed. And, at first blush, there is a sense that reading such things makes one more virtuous because they are "real."

Of course, that is ultimately a foolish position to take. There are many, many forms of knowledge, and the insights that one can get from fiction are as, if not more, valuable to daily life than things like understanding the precise chronology of the explosion at Krakatoa. Facts alone don't make you smart. This is why, I believe, an appreciation of both fiction and nonfiction is important.

For example, consider a "frivolous" book like Christopher Moore's novel "You Suck." I mean, it's about vampires. And yet, this book contains a haunting description of a female vampire who doesn't want to lose her "affliction" because she despises the notion of once again being afraid to wander the city alone after dark. This, to me, provides a powerful insight into certain aspects of how women view the world that I find profound.

And based on a trusted recomendation I have recently been trying to rediscover classic novels. For example, I recently read "Middlemarch" by George Elliot. In addition to being a fantastic story with many provocative notions, reading Elliot makes me feel a little less like a cultural moron.

Because, you know, this fellow writes real good.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 3, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Ruh roh! The last several books I read were nonfiction:

To America by Stephen Ambrose
Lincoln on Leadership by Donald T. Phillips
Who's Your Caddy by Rick Reilly
Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen

I'm in the middle of A Man Without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut; Team of Rivals is in the on-deck circle.

Posted by: Raysmom | June 3, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

SCC: George Eliot, that is. His name is Eliot with one "l." Boy, am I embarassed to have made such a fundamental error.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 3, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I read about equal amounts of fiction and non-fiction. Sometimes non-fiction is easier for me to breeze through quickly, which is a plus because I'm under the library deadline. At least, if I get down to the last day, I can speed-read. But I think I love fiction more - most of my favorite books, books I own, are fiction. Notable exceptions are The Snow Leopard and Joel's books, of course. But I buy books like I buy cars - used.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 3, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

She, RD. George Eliot is a woman writing under a male name.

But that is a forgivable error. As is confusing her with Elliot Ness.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Thanks Wilbrod. And to think some people might think I was making a joke.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 3, 2009 3:28 PM | Report abuse

I'm a woman, and my non-fiction reading has gone up dramatically in recent years.

Either things are clones of something that got popular (ex - Phillipa Gregory's success with "The Other Boleyn Girl", et al seems to have spawned a recent onslaught of similar Tudor era romance/historical fiction books, based on the inventory at my local national chain bookstore), they are Oprah picks (which are generally more okay than great - I don't think Oprah has great taste in books), or they have an extreme chick-lit bend (which I don't like - I just want to read a well-written book).

There has been great non-fiction of late, and sometimes truth is just stranger than fiction. I'd rather read the non-fiction which has better research, is usually well-written, and is just more interesting when you get to the bottom of it all.

Now, when you look at a bookstore and see the massive section set apart for the "Romance" section, you can see why the fiction numbers are skewed towards women. It's basic math - so much fiction (quality or not) IS geared towards women.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | June 3, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I read that review this morning. Very discouraging, especially to someone who is currently writing a couple of them. Why do I always pick professions that are either (a) in serious or total decline, or (b) don't pay diddly-doodly? To whit:

Newspaper editor (small, non-union newspapers)
Newspaper reporter (see above)
Naval Architect
Buggy Whip Salesman
Injun Scout
Court Jester
Bosun/Lookout/Foretopman (pre-union), viz., for Ansom, Columbus, Cabot, Frobisher, Drake, et al.
Stenographer at First Constitutional Convention
Poet Lariat, Tombstone, Ariz.
Alchemist's Apprentice
Technical writer, Sonic Disruptor manual
Signal Flag Specialist for Nelson, H.
Whaler/Harpoonist for Greenpeace
Male Escort, Isle of Lesbos
Roadie, Lawrence Welk Show
Flu Shot Coordinator/Mouse-Catcher, London, 1664-66
Parking Attendant, SMC Cartage Company, 2122 North Clark Street, Chicago, Jan.-Feb. 14, 1929

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 3, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I like James Tiptree. There was a hairy-chested brawler for you.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 3:34 PM | Report abuse

In response to a post in the previous boodle...

Borowitz Report: Obama Presents Saudi King With 2009 Chevy Malibu
Hopes to Make Room for 2010's

In his first major trip to the Middle East since taking the oath of office, President Barack Obama today presented Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah with a 2009 Chevy Malibu.

While it is highly unorthodox for a U.S. president to present a foreign leader with a midsized automobile, Mr. Obama was upbeat during the presentation, telling the Saudi monarch, "If you like it, there's plenty more where that came from."

Mr. Obama touted the Malibu's "fantastic gas mileage," adding, "not that you'd have any trouble getting gas around here."

White House sources said that they hoped Mr. Obama's goodwill gesture would also serve to promote the American auto industry, or as one source put it, "If King Abdullah likes the Malibu, maybe he'll give one to each of his wives. That'll help make room for the 2010's."

But the Saudi king seemed to be skeptical of the gift, hesitating a moment as Mr. Obama handed him the keys.

"Is it going to be hard to get parts for this?" he asked.

Posted by: -TBG- | June 3, 2009 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Has Krakatoa finished erupting yet, 'Mudge?

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 3, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I guess I'm one of the proud 80,000 (And I do like Chris Moore, RD, all the way back to "Practical Demonkeeping." Though "Lamb" is my favorite, by a mile.).

Read plenty of non-fiction, too. Hey, I've read all of the books you've named here.

Joel, I'm glad you went with "codpiece grabbing" rather than "codpiece ripping."

I believe there is some precedent for a Writer Bailout - Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a Federal Writer's Project as part of the New Deal? I seem to remember Ralph Ellison, John Cheever and Stienbeck were involved with that.

Back to fiction for a minute - will GWB, Cheney, and Rove's memoirs qualify?


Posted by: -bc- | June 3, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

On another note, I'm glad that Charles didn't say that "fiction readers are only 20% male."


Posted by: -bc- | June 3, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Of course they'll qualify, bc. There's always room for more romance novels.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I think another reason why men don't read as much fiction is that men sometimes relate to one another in terms of power. Facts imply power because it means you know something provable that someone else doesn't.

Fiction, on the other hand, often develops insights and empathy, which, in a gross generalization, are sometimes not as valued by men. I mean, knowing something like the dreadful batting average of a major league baseball player might be considered a male virtue. Understanding how he might feel about his poor perfomance isn't generally considered as much of one.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 3, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Poet Lariat... Ha! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 3, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse


I disparately want to hear some roadie stories about the wild parties the Lennon Sisters used to throw. And I bet Pete Fountain was a real lady killer, giving out backstage passes in exchange for 'clarinet lessons'.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 3, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I found out that Glyndon, MN is named for "Howard Glyndon", a hard-bitten Civil War reporter of the 19th century.

Ol' Howie was born in Maryland as Laura Redden and went deaf at age 11 too. She wrote poetry, including a lot of rhymed Civil war poems.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 3:45 PM | Report abuse

*Tim, was that Jr. or Sr.?

Mudge, at least you weren't a heavier-than-aircraft test pilot circa 1890-1900 or a race car driver/motorcycle racer from 1900-1939.

Typically, those guys didn't have to worry about what to do next when their careers ended.


Posted by: -bc- | June 3, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

And is what they used to say about Bobby and Cissy true?

Posted by: yellojkt | June 3, 2009 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Although my last five is skewed somewhat by three of the Hornblower series, I have to admit that I generally read non-fiction.

To flip the question, why don't women like non-fiction?

Posted by: engelmann | June 3, 2009 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Now, see, if I had the remunerative wherewithall now, I would be pounding on my keyboard writing my novels. Instead, I'm only pounding on my keyboard (partly because I despise this computer -- and in possibly three weeks, I'll be absolutely swooning (SWOONING, I tell you) over my iMac.

I've been reading a fair amount of non-fiction lately, but I put one of those down for last year's hardback, this year's paperback (and cheaper on Amazon) edition of The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency ("Miracle at Speedy Motors"). Alexander McCall Smith is quite the facile writer, and while I wouldn't consider him to be among the "best" writers on the planet, living or dead, his books certainly make for an enjoyable read. I can polish them off in a couple of days. Duty requires that I do get back, however, to finishing the Intimate Portrait of Winston Churchill by Violet Bonham Carter. The chapter I left was all about Gallipoli, an exceptionally tragic story.

I did get in my recent Amazon purchase the first book by Ngogi wa Thiong'o ("Petals of Blood") which got him incarcerated in Kenya. I want to see what all the fuss was about. He's also a glorious writer. I know I've posted about him before, but I do urge my fellow boodlers to check him out. There are other African writers I'm going to get into -- too many books, too little time.

It occurred to me that I left out one salient feature in one of my posts from yesterday, about our olive green 1950 Chevrolet -- my father apparently knew it was time to upgrade to a new car when I announced that I could see the road under my feet when the car was going. True story -- I remember it to this day, and I thought it was very cool. Kinda dangerous, perhaps, but eminently cool to me.

And for all of you who love to watch dancing, SYTYCD is on tonight. No octopi will be thrown, I understand.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 3, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

My endocrine system is whacked, as y'll know, but about 90 percent of what I own is nonfiction. I slurp it up--because truth--or its close approximation--is so much more fascinating or inviting to me.

I read fiction sometimes, but not often, and appreciate historical fiction most in this particular category.

I'll buy a few fiction paperbacks if they're in the clearance bin at $3.99 a pop. I saw, on two occasions in the past 30 days, Sherrill's (Joel's friend) book about the Ruins of California priced for clearance, thumbed the book, but even then I wasn't much inclined to fork over any moolah. The lists of best-selling fiction provided by the likes of NYT, amazon don't grab my attention much either.

Posted by: laloomis | June 3, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

RD, maybe so, but I also suspect that bad nonfiction is easier to handle for guys than bad fiction.

As for facts and such, this would not explain why teenage boys historically have been strong drivers of science fiction and fanasty; while the occasional science concept or fact may be brain-expanding, the true appeal of those stories lie in one thing:

Adventure. Testing boundaries. Proving your worth and manhood on anything but how popular you are with the school bullies. In short, escape and developing control of one's life.

Historically, marriage has been the major adventure women have undertaken (and how!). It's NOT the only one available, depending on how much economic and social freedom women have.

How to exert control over how that adventure begins is a preoccupation of lots of women-- (and also nostalgic flashback for married women). Hence, romance as a strong genre-- recapturing the thrill, the danger, and such.

Of course, nuanced stuff is good, but that's for more mature readers.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Howard Glyndon was a woman?????? Really,

Whew, that was a relief to hear. I knew ol' Howard back in the day. We shared a pup tent one night during the Battle of Chancellorsville. Ive always been a little worried because I was strangely attracted to him.

Now I know why he never shaved in the morning.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 3, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Hehe. I know a few guys who read my fiction. Some of them are Boodlers (don't worry, guys, I won't tell).

Meanwhile here is a bit of non fiction.

Presently, the CIA has been reduced to the status of a bureaucracy weakly struggling for survival. No KGB master spy could have dreamed of achieving such a success.

to read article go to:

Posted by: Braguine | June 3, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I am deeply chagrined and embarrassed to discover that I attributed the initial posting of the Sullenberger article in Vanity Fair to Maggie, when it was actually Kim who posted it. A thousand apologies.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 3, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

My wife reads a lot of romance novels. I try to be around when she is close to finishing one. You learn these things.

I make jokes about how all the titles are always about me:


Posted by: yellojkt | June 3, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

If men aren't reading fiction, who is buying all that Tom Clancy Rainbow Warriors stuff?

Posted by: yellojkt | June 3, 2009 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Joel is right. Us novelists need a sizeable bailout.

Mister Prez please send me my bailout dough ASAP. I will let you have 60% of my writing enterprise.


Posted by: Braguine | June 3, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

ftb, NukeSpouse will be joining you in the SYTYCD audience this evening, but I fear the M&S televisions will be tuned to R. Johnson's (very high probability of success) attempt at his 300th win as a pitcher.

I think I hear a cheeseburger calling...


Posted by: Scottynuke | June 3, 2009 4:16 PM | Report abuse

I think RD_Padouk is on to something (apart from two or three really good jokes!). I read mostly fiction, and mostly literary fiction, very little genre work at all. I do so in my endless and possibly fruitless quest to try to understanding how people are. The empathy of which RD speaks.

I have never understood the need to link fact to truth. There can be truth in imagined stories, as well as in factual accounts.

The splendid thing is, of course, that great writing happens in all segments of letters (even sports writing!) so anyone who is categorical about their preference for one over the other cuts himself off from a lot of pleasure.

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Have funz, Scotty and the rest of you lot

Posted by: Braguine | June 3, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Son of Carl, never met a woman who didn't like some nonfiction oriented to her interests.

However, I can definitely say bad nonfiction is often of a far worse literary quality than bad fiction; disjointed, no story, no organization, lots of jumpy summary.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Like the rest of my life, there's nothing methodical about my reading, except for Austen.

The one just finished: Goddesses in Older Women, Achetypes in Women over Fifty, by Jean Shinoda Bolen, MD.

The one being struggled through: Stages of Faith, The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning, by James W. Fowler.

If you can't guess which one was written in California, don't let me know.

Posted by: slyness | June 3, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

You are absolutely right, Wilbrod. I once started to read a very long non-fiction book about Alexandra Kollontai (I think that's how it's spelled), a woman who was perhaps the first female Ambassador (Ambassadress?) to Sweden from Russia at the turn of the last century (Mudge, surely you remember the details). It was apparently a PhD thesis (very "piled higher and deeper") of I think a British woman. I was halfway through the first chapter when I realized I needed both oxygen and dynamite. I still see it on my bookshelf. Ain't gonna reopen it anytime soon.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 3, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

Things men might possibly read, perhaps:

Daniel Duane, "Caught Inside" (memoir)

Bill Beer, "We SWAM the Grand Canyon" (memoir, sort of)

Outside Magazine? (Duane's contribution on surfing the Newport Wedge, for example?)

John McPhee?

Joel Berger, "The Better to Eat You With: Fear in the Animal World" (male biologists? crossover hit for Wyomingites who hunt?)

Michael Lewis, "Liar's Poker" and sports?

David Halberstam, history and sports?

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 3, 2009 4:32 PM | Report abuse

Guess I'll have to read even more fiction just to take up the slack. Good news for me!

Posted by: mobedda | June 3, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse


You are right.
Non fiction is about facts.
Fiction is about the truth.

Posted by: Braguine | June 3, 2009 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Beer and swimming! What's not to like?

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Fiction and poetry, Brag.

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

When novels hit $25 a pop, and that was some years ago, I stopped buying them. The 80000 active novel readers, I might surmise, does not include library users and used book buyers. Many of us cannot reasonably afford the pleasure of a new book, especially if we're not whole-heartedly confident of its ability to engage us.

Posted by: josh13 | June 3, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Only 80,000 reliable buyers of literary fiction in America??? Makes me feel like a rural engineering-oriented state university student all over again, the only one munching through the library's freshly-arrived Sunday New York Times.

Admittedly, I supposedly buy most of the fiction to entertain Mom. Stuff like

James Church, "A Corpse in the Koryo"

Murray Bail, "Eucalyptus"

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 3, 2009 4:40 PM | Report abuse

I have to agree 110 percent (which will infuriate Weingarten) about the non-linkage between truth and fiction/non-fiction. There is more "truth" in William Shakespeare's little finger than in an entire 26-volumne encyclopedia. Truth comes in fiction, in poetry, in short stories, even in a good dirty joke once in a while.

However, in some of my reminiscences, perhaps not quite so much.

And I can think of a hundred non-fiction works that are nothing but lies, balderdash and bulls---.

Just looked out the window. It's pouring here. Poor BPHers gonna get wet. Me, too, when I hobble to the bus in a few minutes.

Actually, much as I like Ron Charles' stuff, I think the 20% male readership alarm is overblown. Men have been the minority readers for decades now. I'd want to see a trend line. I suspect there is *some* validity to it, just because of the overall decline in literacy, reading, culture, etc., and the invention of dozens of new ways to kill or waste time (yet another reason to curse the Internet and Bill Gates, not that I needed more).

Fortunately, this beloved Boodle is a highly literate place, so we can continue apace, methinks, without too much worry.

I don't know where I'd be without novels... or even *who* I'd be. In the last 20 years, I can't imagine existing without Patrick O'Brian, Michael Connelly, and oh, a couple dozen other genre/mystery writers. And all the others I've read over the past decades, especially in my college and post-college years.

Just discovered last week that my old "ex" is a mad C. P. Snow fan, as am I. Both of us became addicted to his work years after we exed each other. How weird is that? And in fact, one of Snow's novels, "Homecoming," helped me get over her. Cue Twilight Zone theme music.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 3, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

There's a name for bad nonfiction: textbooks.

Posted by: -TBG- | June 3, 2009 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Lexie Kollontai???? *blushing oh so deeply*

Ah, Lexie, Lexie, Lexie. She gave whole new meaning to "Babushka."

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 3, 2009 4:48 PM | Report abuse

Maybe it is because Americans have been progressing into mass stupidity since the invention of the television, and men are simply the vanguard of this progression.

Posted by: mcdonadg | June 3, 2009 4:51 PM | Report abuse

I'm fond of "Jaguars Ripped My Flesh" by Tim Cahill.

I note that there is a trend in the storytelling community -- actually, in a fringe of the theatre community that is heading back towards storytelling -- for public performance of factually true stories. This includes The Moth (both NY and LA stage presence), the Speakeasy in DC, and The Stoop storytelling series in Baltimore. I consider this to be intellectually childish, to demand "Did that really happen?" and accept only an answer of "Yes." I have told The Cremation of Sam McGee to middle schoolers, and they will ask that. Do they really think the answer might be "Yes?" There needs to be more openness to Truth that is not trivially 'true.'

I note that the majority of the 'true life' storytelling that I have seen or that is considered good enough to be on a podcast is humorous, with the narrator playing the role of the classic fool. This is odd, because in fiction storytelling, there are a lot of tellers who prefer stories that are 'deep' and 'spiritual' and good humorous storytellers get told that they 'could be' really great if only they chose to work with more substantial material.

I have not attended the Stoop or The Moth in person, but I can report that the audience for the Speakeasy seems to be well beyond 50% female. Like, 2/3 to 3/4. The on-the-podcast voices of the Moth (Dan Kennedy and Andy Borowitz) are male, whereas the Stoop and Speakeasy both have female leadership. I don't know if there is a deep meaning to all this, but I think there are several pieces of evidence that undermine easy theories of what male or female audiences want to see/hear/read.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

See, Mudge -- see!!!! I *knew* there had to be something afoot between you and the Lex.

And, Brag, you are exactly right! Fiction is sometimes the only way truth can be expressed -- or should be expressed. Dr. Zhivago is a prime example.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 3, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

In the hands of some, fiction is just a tired convention used to stretch out a few interesting insights into a bigger heap to sell on size alone. The good stuff is like walking down a hall of doorways.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 3, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

This finding comes as no surprise to me. My preferred form of relaxation reading is the murder mystery. Over the past few years, I have taken note that the entire paperback mystery section in most mainstream bookstores is wall-to-wall with titles like "How to Murder a Millionaire" and "What the Cat Dragged In" and "Murder with Strawberry Shortcake" -- these are clearly not aimed at the masculine audience. In fact, they're clearly not aimed at an audience that graduated 8th grade, irrespective of gender. Anyway, it's become harder and harder to discover decent new mystery writers with the proliferation of this stupid dreck. I could blame publishers for thinking women are idiots or I could blame women consumers, since obviously there are brainless females out there buying this crap. Either way, it's clearly heralding the end of civilization as we know it.

-The Poster Formerly Known as Snarky Squirrel

Posted by: 7900rmc | June 3, 2009 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Any literary form has the possibility to be written badly or written well. The corollary to the words of the wise Theodore Sturgeon indicates that at best 10% of any form is worth reading. On the good side, it tends to mean out of 10 books, only one is worth reading. It would be much worse if out of 10 books, each book is only 10% worth reading.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

I like to read history, so I'm sometimes a little leery of historical fiction, especially if I don't have a reasonably strong grounding in the boring ol' facts of the relevant time period. I have two concerns:

1. the propaganda factor. Lord knows there are enough ancient grievances around without adding more ink about what a bunch of bad characters those Others were.

2. The other side of this is the PC factor. I think you really only learn from history if you can get close to the unvarnished truth. I like my history warts and all.

Posted by: engelmann | June 3, 2009 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I read fiction.

Mudge, the pilot-in-command is referred to asthe Commandant in French, whatever his rank is.
It comes from a French customs. The commander of a unit, whatever his rank is, is referred to as Commandant. At least until the rank is lieutenant-colonel. Colonel and above are adressed by their ranks, whether they are at the head of the unit or not.
It makes a nice plot device, when a sous-lieutenant insists on being called Commandant of a puny 4-men unit in a remote area.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 3, 2009 5:41 PM | Report abuse

The Great American Novel has gone the way of the Chevy and the Buick. Writers like Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald would have to keep their day jobs if they were alive and writing today. There are many more people today on the average with a higher education then during the 1920,s and 30's. But that education is prized mostly for its effectiveness in obtaining jobs with good wages that can help pay for flat panel wide screen TV's or the latest digital hardware fad.

Who needs books about the human condition when we can watch exciting car chases, explosions or the perils of mall shopping?

Posted by: dldbug | June 3, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

What is the natural reaction, SD?

Wild laughter and shortsheeting?
Poison in the soup?
Exaggerated "Oui, Commandant!" and spit n polish sneering?

In short, what is the Franco-Canadian sense of respect and discipline even to jumped-up power-drunk egomanaiacs on their first command ever?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Engelmann I like historical fiction as well, there is bias/slant in historical non-fiction as well.

I used to read a lot more non-fiction than fiction now it is the other way around.

7900rmc, this female most assuredly does would not read "Murder with Strawberry Shortcake".

Posted by: dmd2 | June 3, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Fitzgerald's day job was being married to a rich woman.

Hemingway was a reporter and drunk.

I don't know if Faulkner was even employable, but he apparently wrote screenplays (he contributed to "The Big Sleep").

He'd probably just be big in Hollywood for endless bear chases and incomprehensible dialogue with ghosts and such, all in a Steel Magnolias accent.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

When I read, its fiction. I get hooked on an author that is recommended to me, and read the works. Such is the case with Cussler and the Jack Ryan series. I tried reading Clinton's "My Life" and found it pretty boring. I haven't read that much since our daughter was born. Life has intervened. I can, however, always turn to the Encyclopedia of Humour when the opportunity presents itself.

Posted by: -jack- | June 3, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm trying to read a lot of fiction, the problem is I get so far behind just reading the good stuff. Finished the Aeneid last and with Ulysses now that only brings me up to the thirties. I'm so outnumbered by authors I despair of keeping up. But keep writing, I'll sure keep reading.

Posted by: KennyBoy | June 3, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Koko Taylor has passed. I saw her perform in Harrisonburg, long ago and far away...

Posted by: -jack- | June 3, 2009 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Women buy a lot of cooking books too. There would be much less bookstores around if it weren't for cook books.
Right now a read a book by Michel Folco in French and a Sharpe's adventure by Cornwell. There is the latest Ian Rankin waiting in the wing. Last book I finished was the excellent cyber-punk/science fiction novel "Black Man" by Richard Morgan.
And I have been revisiting Henning Mankell, a side effect of the TV series, but I read him in French; my Swedish being what it is.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 3, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Snarky Squirrel!!!!


Posted by: -Dreamer- | June 3, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

SCC the latest Rankin in pocket book, I don't do $42 hard backs.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 3, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Forget fiction, folks.
Let's get to the real reading gold--
gnome-training manuals.


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Men don't read fiction because there is so little published today that appeals to the masculine reader. We tend to like action/sports/adventure/thrillers and it is near impossible to get those novels past the women in the publishing business because the genres don't appeal to the fairer sex.

The great majority of literary agents and their assistants are female. No, there is no conspiracy, it's just that women are willing to work for less pay in the literary world. The odds lessen at the publishing houses, but not by much. If an author today writes a short, 150 page chick lit/vampire/paranormal/romance, the literary agents fight hammer and tong over the manuscript. The few action writers still out there now have sold out and include female action characters in the stories in an attempt to capture a few female readers so as to add to the bottom line. Submit a highly charged thousand page novel containing guns, guts, girls, and high tech, and those pages will languish in some slush pile for all eternity. As a result, more male readers are alienated and just go watch ESPN rather than making an effort to read a novel.

Posted by: Blooker68 | June 3, 2009 7:03 PM | Report abuse

What is always implied in these articles bemoaning men's reading habits is that women appreciate great literature while men are boorish Philistines who never get above perusing the pages of GQ, Maxim or American Semi-automatic. Why don't we see articles about the ridiculous magazines that women read? I mean really now, is Brad and Angelina's marital life really that fascinating? And don't get me started on Cosmopolitan. Every cover promises a list inside of new tips to turn your man on or to reach orgasm. I've been eyeballing these covers at the check out counter for a few years now and by my rough count there are presently over 12,575 ways to do both.

BTW - I'm in the process of writing a book. The working title is "Smart Women, Ridiculous magazines".

Posted by: dldbug | June 3, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Tom Clancy kinds of disproves that thesis, Blooker.

But yes, there's not exactly a whole section of the bookstore devoted to "sports fiction" (just real-life books by sports figures).

How would you rate naval fiction? Guy lit? Chick lit? Neither?

'Cause I really like reading stories about guys stuck for months and years in a stinkin' boat, I just like the writing to be good.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 7:09 PM | Report abuse

I read the kit, and then went to review the titles on my nightstand. How depressing. Apparently, despite the shoe thing, I'm a boy. History books galore..stuff on Roosevelts, Appletons, and a couple titles relating to a king's consort during the Russo-Turkish war. (Geez I'm such a dweeb). Two titles I don't know quite where to put...neither category seems more right than wrong. 'I Have Words to Spend: Reflections of a Small-Town Editor' and 'Song of Roland'.

To make myself feel a little better, thinking there must be a VS catalog or something, I went to look at the magazines on the coffee table. On top -- Sports Illustrated.

I gotta go paint my nails or something.

Posted by: LostInThought | June 3, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Hell, Tom Clancy hasn't written anything since Red Rabbit and that's been a couple of years. WEB Griffin is our last remaining hope.

Posted by: Blooker68 | June 3, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

With all the soldiers and Marines having cycled through the middle-east, some must have written some terrific war novels similar to what we got in the bookstores durinig and after WWII, Korea, and VietNam. But, you can bet those novels won't get past the entrenched chick lit crowd in New York.

Posted by: Blooker68 | June 3, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Paul Fussell did a great deal to sort out fiction from the first and second World Wars. He knew a bit about the second, and trashed "Saving Private Ryan" with "The Boys' Crusade: The American Infantry in Northwestern Europe, 1944-1945". More nonfiction.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 3, 2009 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Easy on the publishing house hate, Blooker. There are always independent presses, you know. It's not all New York.

What would SELL is:

"Napalm, Lamb, and Mint Tea: Cooking with C-Rations & Survival in Iraq."

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 7:35 PM | Report abuse

I read mostly nonfiction these days, myself. All of my favorite novelists have ceased production, and I've read all their books. People still writing whose books I never miss, they're not a prolific lot: Anne Tyler, Tom Robbins, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver -- and every one of those has disappointed me at some point, unlike my faves, Dickens, Eliot, Hugo, and so on.

I never tried to read nonfiction to my daughter, but I loved sharing classic novels with her and she definitely learned a lot from them, more than she would have from nonfiction. Especially Eliot and Hugo--they are masters of encapsulating a moral truth in an entertaining narrative. Not incidentally, she turned out to be a good writer herself; that's something else I give the classics credit for.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 3, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Nope. No gnome-training.
That book will flop worse than fish
tannin' on the docks.

-Wilbrodog, Literary Agent and Bookshound.-

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 7:38 PM | Report abuse

I guess that explains why 8 of the 10 books on the NY Times fiction best-seller list this week are authored by men...

Posted by: seasea1 | June 3, 2009 7:42 PM | Report abuse

I used to read more fiction than non, now it’s the reverse. I think part of that change is the quality of the writing. I read The Other Boleyn Girl, and found it poorly plotted and poorly written. But then I read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which was wonderful. A lot of popular fiction tends to run toward overly hyped romance and I don’t like being manipulated by the plotlines. Well written and researched historical fiction is fun, but how much of it is of that quality? I loved A Team of Rivals and am currently reading 1776, which is very interesting. I don’t read books as much as I used to, maybe because I read so much stuff online. I still read The New Yorker and Vanity Fair. That was a great article about Sullenberger. I’ve realized from the comments here how many of the classics I’ve never read so I have a large mental list of books to read before I die.

Posted by: badsneakers | June 3, 2009 8:00 PM | Report abuse

WEB Griffin. Hmmm. Loved, loved, loved the Brotherhood of War Series. Read each one as soon as it came out in paperback, and was not above using my possession of same to win the esteem of colleagues. Mr. F is reading his way through the Griffin's Presidential Agent series now, but I just can't get enthused.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

Sneaks! I felt the same way about The Other Boleyn Girl, in fact I couldn't even bring myself to finish it, which is rare for me. AND I am in the middle of 1776 as well. I am enjoying it, but the hubby thought it was boring (he listened to it on CD). I'm actually on hiatus from 1776 because I forgot it on our trip to Murrland this past weekend and picked up The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver because it happened to be in the car, so now I have to finish it, even though I've read it before. Wonderful book.

Posted by: Kim1 | June 3, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

ftb-you have me so thoroughly hooked on SYTYCD I am powerless to look away and wash the dishes or do any of the other chores about Chez Frostbitten. Thanks a lot.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 8:52 PM | Report abuse

pssst-can you explain how it works?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

I'm with you both, Sneaks and Kim, about The Other Boleyn Girl. I read it and the other three Phillipa Gregory novels and didn't care much for any of them. Fortunately, they were loaned to me by a friend, so I didn't waste money. That's my period, so I winced at the departures from historical fact. And you're right about the writing and the plotting. Lame, just lame.

I haven't read 1776 but have read John Adams. Again unfortunately, I had previously read a good biography of Abigail Adams so the McCullough biography was going over known ground.

For those who enjoy historical novels, I adored the Lymond Chronicles, the story of a Scottish nobleman in the mid-sixteenth century, by Dorothy Dunnant. The Game of Kings, first in the series, riveted me. If I ever had had a son, I would have named him Francis.

Posted by: slyness | June 3, 2009 9:11 PM | Report abuse

What I love about the book discussions are the books/authors I've never heard of. And the reminder that I must read Middlemarch.

I agree about The Other Boleyn Girl, although I watched the movie too. After watching The Tudors, I went on quite a Henry VIII binge.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 3, 2009 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Kim, The Bean Trees and Pigs in Heaven are the books I have given as gifts the most times--love those books! But, in keeping with the discussion theme, the book that took the place of Bean Trees at the top of my recommendation list is nonfiction: The Glass Castle. I want to own a copy of that book and I've bought it over and over, but I just keep giving it away, it's really something.

And speaking of nonfiction books, this is on my mind and I want to communicate it to Joel. Are you there, Boss? Oh well, I'll just offer it up; I'm barely here myself.

Michael Lewis has written a book about parenthood, I'm sure you know this, maybe you've read it already. I heard him and his wife on NPR this week and was pretty irritated by his attitude--he as much as said that he resents the fact that he has to do "33.5%" of the parenting work ("...and my wife would probably say it's more like 29%"). I'll probably read the book but I'll continue to believe that YOU, Joel, are the one who should have written that book. Every time you write about your kids, it's a home run. You have a great parenting attitude--possibly your parenting STYLE is similar to Lewis's but your attitude is MUCH better, and your writing about family life is always a joy and never the least bit irritating.

* * *
_Why Things Are, Vol II_, p.7:

He sets the baby on the floor. She flashes those huge eyes at him. She wants something. He takes a scrap of bread and tosses it down to her, says, "There you go, sweet pea."

"Honey!" says the wife. "She's not a _dog_."

She is right, of course, and more amazing still, she knows these things even without having to think them through.

He picks up the child, and she returns the favor with a smile, a pure and guileless expression. How very of-the-moment! thinks PerceptiveMan. And suddenly, staring at the wee creature, his mind goes blank. He is utterly thoughtless. The sensation is so pleasant he almost drops the child.

* * *

And so on. I rest my case.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 3, 2009 9:39 PM | Report abuse

All this has at least, at last, brought me to the realization that I needed to put down the Grisham book for good. It made reading seem dreary and almost chorelike. With all the insight and depth of a Dudley Dooright cartoon, I don't even know why over a period of weeks I have kept vaguely picking it up and reading a few pages only to put it down. Perhaps I thought it had to get better. But it won't.

I feel liberated.

Posted by: Jumper1 | June 3, 2009 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Sometimes Grisham is just grim and a rewarm of an old plot with new characters, Jumper.

Go, free thyself from Grisham! Embrace Austen, Dickenson, Eliot! Read around like a madman!

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 10:15 PM | Report abuse

slyness - 1776 is much more succinct than "John Adams" and well worth the read, I think. Ooooh, thanks for the tip on the Lymond Chronicles, sounds great. I named my daughter after a character in a book that I read when I was 13.

seasea - I didn't like The Other Bolelyn Girl but decided to watch the movie because I love Eric Bana after watching him in Munich (a very powerful movie). But I didn't like the movie either...Scarlett Johanssen seems to think that looking like a fish that's oxygen deprived is acting. Also, I usually hate movies based on books I love, so I thought I might like a movie based on a book I didn't like...oh well!

kbertocci - yep, going to have to find a copy of Pigs in Heaven to re-read now. I love her books. To anyone who hasn't read Barbara Kingsolver, please give her a try. The hubby likes her books as well.

I read the Glass Castle and liked it very much. I usually "enter" into books in a big way, but (I don't think this is a spoiler alert) when I read the part about the mother eating that candy bar, I can honestly say that a flash of pure rage went through my body. I hope that will make some boodlers to pick up the book. Still like Kingsolver better, though.

Posted by: Kim1 | June 3, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Despite my huge enormous immense gigantic brain, I am a very slow reader. I am slowly, a chapter or two every couple of nights, reading the first book of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency." I am not big into bodice-rippers (having no bodice of mine own to be ripped, nor ever having thought it a good idea to damage one's clothes when it only takes a moment longer to disengage the fastenings properly), but I am very fond of character-driven fiction -- perhaps largely because I find myself incapable of even a pathetic attempt at the form. I am in awe of those who can do it.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Jumper, I have finally reached an age where if a book is affecting me negatively, I just stop reading it, life is too short. Slyness, thanks for the Dunnant recommendations, I put them on my list. I think I need to read Why Things Are too. I guess this is one of those Boodles where I’ll be taking notes.

Posted by: badsneakers | June 3, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Denis Johnson's "Tree of Smoke" is waiting to be read.

As a college student, I was into the then-obscure business of river canoeing and heard of James Dickey's "Deliverance", which duly arrived at the library. I figured no such story could ever be located in the more northerly Appalachians.

Finally, read Chuck Palahniuk's "Fight Club" on the plane from Portland; once back, saw the movie in a grubby second run movie-and-games place on SE Belmont in the Sunnyside homeless zone. Just checked Google maps. Looks like Belmont's all gentrified now. (The movie suppressed a reference to the place that sold liposuction soap. Nordies of course).

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | June 3, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Do you remember when "The Girl in the Pearl Earring" first came out? It made a big splash, but, the fact is it was popular, but wasn't very well written.

I see this over and over again. Especially in historical fiction. A franchise is created. And then a bunch of genre works follow, each one weaker than the last.

This is why I don't follow historical fiction franchises.

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 10:26 PM | Report abuse

I just watched The Other Boleyn Girl the other night, made it all the way through but did not really enjoy it. Never been much interested in that period of history.

Have just started The Book of Negroes, Lawrence Hill - several chapters in I am enjoying it but the story is difficult now - the main character has just been caught/enslaved.

This line jumped out at me - one of those sentences that just strikes something in you. "To gaze into another person's face is to do two things; to recognize their humanity, and to assert your own".

Posted by: dmd2 | June 3, 2009 10:27 PM | Report abuse

The Glass Castle is another one of those books the extended Frostfam read on vacation and like kb I once owned it, and should like very much to see it again.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

*Tim says 'nor ever having thought it a good idea to damage one's clothes when it only takes a moment longer to disengage the fastenings properly....'

*Tim, have you lost touch with your inner Sybil? RomanticTim would know that from time to time, it just works out that way.

Posted by: LostInThought | June 3, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Yoki, I read The Girl With the Pearl Earring too and remember wondering 'why' after I finished it. I won't get suckered so easily again by popularity. So many books start out well and fade by the last third. It's like the author just ran out of energy and ideas.

Posted by: badsneakers | June 3, 2009 10:40 PM | Report abuse

StorytellerTim: founder of the Carefully Unfastened Bodice genre.

Posted by: engelmann | June 3, 2009 10:41 PM | Report abuse

I should explain that the frostfam sharing a book on vacation is more like a battle of wits combined with a contact sport. Expressing enjoyment too soon only spurs the others on to trickery. "Phone's for you. Don't worry, I won't lose your page."

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 10:46 PM | Report abuse

Sir Stephen held Samantha close, the night wind blowing their hair. They exchanged upspoken words as they glided back in from the balcony. Quickly, but in a safe manner, Sir Stephen unlaced Samantha's corset. He then disassembled the hoops from her dress, and set them aside where no one would trip on them.

As he lay his own shirt on the night table, Samantha paused. "Shouldn't we iron that?" "Later" replied Sir Stephen, "later. I'll just lay it flat and cover it with these books for now".

Posted by: engelmann | June 3, 2009 10:54 PM | Report abuse

Keith Olbermann did a bit tonight on how many books Bush read while in office - 1 or 2 a week, mostly biographies, as part of a sort of contest with Karl Rove. Apparently President Obama is reading a novel at the moment - Netherland (which I had never heard of). He's been reading it since mid-April.

I liked the movie The Pearl Earring, but then I like Scarlett Johansson. I thought the book was ok - think I read it after I had seen the movie. I just finished Columbine by David Cullen - very compelling book about that tragedy. And now I'm reading The Blackwater Lightship by Colm Toibin, and I realize I saw bits of it on PBS some years ago. It's very good - hard to put down.

Posted by: seasea1 | June 3, 2009 10:57 PM | Report abuse

Very good, engelmann!

Posted by: seasea1 | June 3, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

Badsneakers, it's harder to satisfactorily climax and then denounce the story than you might think.

(Hey, I didn't make up THOSE terms).

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 11:08 PM | Report abuse

Whoops, it's denouement, not denouncement.

I had a Lewis Carroll moment there while I was writhing that.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 11:09 PM | Report abuse

Yo! engelmann, you rock.

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 11:14 PM | Report abuse

Have I mentioned that I have a little OCD problem? I also require that the bed sheets be neat, and be oriented parallel to the length of the bed. I can put aside these needs for a *little* while -- but only by making a mental note that I'll get right to it as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The problem with bodice-ripping is that (a) those things probably can be pretty well constructed. You wouldn't want to detract from your manliness by *failing* to rip a bodice, once the attempt has begun. Also, (b) if you should inadvertently cause a whale-bone corset (covered by the bodice) to fail catastrophically while in the midst of bodice-rippage, considerable blood could be shed, and not merely the blood of the bodice-wearer's cuckolded lover (note that I am equal-handed: a bodice need not necessarily be worn by a woman). I imagine those things store quite a bit of potential energy.

All in all, I think I'd prefer for gradual bodice removal to be an element of foreplay.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 3, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

Absolutely delicious, Sir Stephen -- er, englemann!

Posted by: nellie4 | June 3, 2009 11:20 PM | Report abuse

*Tim. What can I say?

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 11:23 PM | Report abuse

I'm not very much liking the dirt filter. I keep getting error messages, saying my comments are being held for being too frequent, and yet they appear.

Story of my life...

Posted by: Yoki | June 3, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

"I imagine those things store quite a bit of potential energy." Too funny.

I imagine an epistolary novel written by Tim and Engelmann, an entirely new spin on the romance genre.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 3, 2009 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful, engelmann! But I hope Sir Stephen is played by Eric Bana, otherwise...he's not gonna float my boat with all that persnicketiness (sp?)

seasea - I saw part of that segment about Bush's reading in office. I'm telling you, I think that's all made up. I just do not believe that GWB read those books. GWB read a book by Camus? I DON'T THINK SO!

Posted by: Kim1 | June 3, 2009 11:30 PM | Report abuse

"He then disassembled the hoops from her dress, and set them aside where no one would trip on them."

Silly silly. Girls don't wear hoops when they think they might be getting busy. They've already changed into a long flowing nightgown, buttoned up the front, and a robe of proper modesty, with matching slippers.

All the sex takes place while the nightgown buttons are being taken care of. By the time she's naked, it's all over and done with. Because Man, being, by nature, a man, Just Can't Wait. He ends up smoking a cigarette, and Girl is brushing her hair at the vanity, all ruddy-cheeked and bedroom-eyed.

Posted by: cathinahaynes | June 3, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Englemann-- what, no spraying the underclothing with starch for later use?

Samantha, as she shivered watching Sir Stephen carefully assemble the candle settings and straighten the bedsheets, resolved to begin buying her clothes--and lovers-- from the LL Bean catalog instead...

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 3, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

I find I read little fiction or non-fiction, being fully occupied by the Boodle -- both genre at their best.

Posted by: nellie4 | June 3, 2009 11:42 PM | Report abuse

I believe we've had a boodle breakdown at 11:42 or so...

Posted by: rickoshea0 | June 4, 2009 12:15 AM | Report abuse

non-fiction...a poet...Man of peace...Dylan rocks w? The Dead

Posted by: -jack- | June 4, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

I say that because I wrote a brilliant literary fiction award-winning piece that I posted but was never received.

It involved a Fabio-like sensitive new age guy with a fetish for blood sucking, bodice ripping with an ironing fetish.

There goes my Pulitzer Prize.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | June 4, 2009 12:17 AM | Report abuse

just a lull, maggie. *waving*

Posted by: -jack- | June 4, 2009 12:25 AM | Report abuse

Now here's a piece of writing.,0,6708017.column

Posted by: rickoshea0 | June 4, 2009 12:32 AM | Report abuse

It's not dead just restin'

Posted by: Yoki | June 4, 2009 12:43 AM | Report abuse

Working on something else. *sigh* Won't be an all-nighter, but a good-chunk-of-the-nighter.

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 4, 2009 12:54 AM | Report abuse

With an audible pop! Stephen slipped the first button free of its constraining fabric loop. Pop! and the second fell open as well.

"My love," breathed Betty-Jo, "my anticipation of our passion grows with each step you take towards the liberation of my abdomen and torso from the silken constraints of this bodice. Oh! Go on! Go on! Free me from this torment of anticipation!" She ran her hands through her hair and breathed huskily, even hungrily, making it momentarily difficult to free more buttons as the fabric pulled taut.

Pop! Pop! *Holy ziggurat!*, thought Stephen, *how many buttons are there? There's, what, 46 more of them? I'll never make it!*

"What's that, my eager lover?" Betty-Jo again. "Pause not, my stallion! My ardor grows with each moment!" She sure talked a lot.

*I will _kill_ her ex-husband for giving her that word-a-day dictionary* thought Stephen, struggling with increasingly numb and bloodless fingers to reach the half-way point on buttons. *I wish to God I had never left my small town in Persia and changed my name for these pampered over-dressed nitwits of the West. Although, I have to say that this bodice does a great job of showing her fabulous...*

"Make speed, my strong and silent Lothario! Make haste! By which I mean, get on with it! I don't have all night, you know. I'm due to report for sentry duty in only 2 hours."

With that, Stephen abandoned any concept of the slow development of anticipation. The time had come for action! He seized either side of the slowly-widening gap in the bodice and strove with all his might to tear it apart and free this lusty-busted woman of the infantry from her extravagant Halloween costume.

Her costume made from scrap Kevlar. Damnation!

-- from "Love in the Time of Desert Storm"

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 4, 2009 1:34 AM | Report abuse

"Love in the Time of Desert Storm" is a perfect Amazon spoof. Imagine the reviews!

My earlier never-to-be-seen Pulitzer-prize-winning post was all about the first (and only) romance novel I've ever read. I was in high school, so please forgive me. Sweet Savage Love by Rosemary Rogers. Really, after that, could I have ever read another?

Remarkably, it is still in print.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | June 4, 2009 1:51 AM | Report abuse

I am very excited yet frightened by the notion of lusty busts. For what do they hunger? Presumably it would be... human flesh!

Posted by: ScienceTim | June 4, 2009 2:47 AM | Report abuse

An new feature of the Boodle: Literary Smut After Dark. Better than Skinemax.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 4, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

Sir Stephen, thou varlet!

Giggles at dawn.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 4, 2009 7:20 AM | Report abuse

*Wandering in, aimlessly.*

Morning, all. Love the overnight starts for the new bodice-ripper novels.

I hope somebody had fixed breakfast, 'cause I'm hungry. I was up an hour early (that would be 5:20 ayem) to take the Elderdottir to the airport. She's going to Chicago to visit a friend. The good thing about an airport run that early in the morning is that traffic is acceptably light. Otherwise, meh.

Well, onward into the day. Time to walk, then I need to prepare for Bible study. Now that our associate pastor's resignation has taken effect, I'm leading the study. I Kings 11 is today's chapter: Solomon goes over to the dark side. It's terrible what all those foreign wives did to his devotion to the Lord.

Cassandra, I want to hear that you feel better.

Posted by: slyness | June 4, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone.

Oh my. Tales of tidy passion. I imagine in these stories the amorous man hardly ever ends up hopelessy entangled in his shirt because he forgets to undo the buttons at his cuffs.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | June 4, 2009 7:56 AM | Report abuse

good morning boodle! The breakfast options are slim, but I can share either Coco Wheats or oatmeal. Haven't started cooking so can go either way. Temp at 51 this morning. We're havin' a heat wave...

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 4, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

'morning all.
Engelmann, what's next? Cannibals with perfect table manners?

Beautiful day here, the temperature was (finally!) above 4C/40F this morning for the dogs' early outing. We need some warmth for germination. The fava beans can germinate in snow but the cukes, pole beans, pumpkins and assorted gourds clearly cannot. There is a persistant rumour we may break the 20C/68F barrier this weekend. Yoohoo!

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | June 4, 2009 8:01 AM | Report abuse

*averting my eyes from all the fleshiness*

Well, while SOME people were ripping bodices (or discreetly disassembling, as the case may be), an unexpectedly large crowd of Boodlers ripped up the usual plethora of cheeseburgers (plus the added bonus of paella and sangria) last evening. Don from I-270, Maggie O'D and yello (special guest appearance from yello jr!) joined bc, Raysmom, TBG and SonofG and me at one single solitary M&S table. Interesting topology puzzle to get all the chairs in place, but we could all hear each other, for once. Had the added bonus of a heckuva light show as I paddled my way home, too.

*almost-to-the-weekend-and-wondering-why-the-Dawn-Patrol-was-so-darn-muggy Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | June 4, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

On one readingn table:
Williams, Ten Lessons in Style
Mitchell, One Man's Garden
Follett, (some huge medieval tome)
Penrose and Katz, Writing in the Sciences
Barthes, Mythologies
McCall Smith, The Sunday Philosophy Club
Godden, The Dark Horse
Georgescue-Roegen, The Entropy Law and the Economic Process
Achenbach, The Grand Idea
de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
Smiley, Moo
McGahern, Amongst Women
Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky
Wolf, To the Lighthouse
McMurtry, Lonesome Dove.

I read Lonesome Dove and The Godfather every summer....better find Mario Puzo's book.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | June 4, 2009 8:37 AM | Report abuse

Ken Follet's book, perhaps one of three, is called The Pillars of the Earth....apparently, this is a bodice ripper. I read one passage that made me laugh out loud, but not in a good way. So, I put it down. Andrew Greeley's books are bodice rippers...wit a curious layer of pop theo in them. I read one in the early 1980s because he included a thinly disguised account that included my Chicago cousins.

My point? Ah, yes. These two men have tried their hands at bodice ripping.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | June 4, 2009 8:42 AM | Report abuse

Own and reading right now--

How Language works by David Crystal
Something Rotten by Jasper ffordes.

Five library books I have out are all nonfiction-- two related to medicine, two to animals.

No bodice rippers, spindlers, mutilaters, nor folders.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 4, 2009 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Drowning my BPH frenvy with the knowledge that I did not miss SYTYCD.

Minnesota-centric political blathering (feel free to move along if you're not interested)

"Bench clearing" seems to be the only metaphor journalists can find for the eagerness with which reps have come forward to replace T-Paw as MN's governor. Who needs to even think about that pesky senator problem when the race is wide open?

A dozen, or more, serious candidates either announced or announced to be thinking about it, from both the DFL and rep parties. Of course in MN we have the third bench and it looks like the Independence Party has another Ventura-like opportunity.

Some amateur punditry-Expect to see T-Paw on your Sunday AM shows, making some foreign trips, and accepting (soliciting?) lots of speaking gigs in early primary states. Norm Coleman, who lost to Ventura in his '98 bid for governor, will not run. The pros say Michele Bachmann is considering entering the race. This would be a true test for the party. The Ron Paul conservatives have been working towards gaining control, or at least forcing compromise. If she won the endorsement they'd have to choose between a primary challenge or joining forces with the IP. I'd discount the possibility of Bachmann winning the endorsement, primary, and governor's seat, but you only need two words to counter that kind of thinking-Governor Ventura.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 4, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

On the reading stack now, :

Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals (1/3 read)
Delpit, Other Peoples' Children(2nd edition with a new intro and two new essays, the 1st edition is a favorite)
Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 4, 2009 9:05 AM | Report abuse

SCC: People's

Posted by: frostbitten1 | June 4, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

Not to abandon this very important investigation of the in and outs of fictional romance...

But does anybody know the origins of "won it walking away" to indicate a huge, effortless victory?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 4, 2009 9:07 AM | Report abuse

How do you want your literary Wyoming protagonist? (Ron Charles and Ron Carlson lost me when I understood that the Carlson protagonist was out in the Wind River Range looking for lost military equipment...) From today's NYT--about Wyoming fiction writer Craig Johnson:

“The guys who are 6 feet 2 inches of twisted steel and sex appeal — every woman wants him, every man fears him — that’s not him,” Mr. Johnson says, sitting at his kitchen counter on a windy day in late May when the cabin is surprisingly chilly. “Walt is the sadder-but-wiser sheriff. My favorite musketeer was Athos, the heartbroken one.”

Posted by: laloomis | June 4, 2009 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Only one. Disappointing.

Posted by: yellojkt | June 4, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Why is tears spelled teers on the front page? That's not a's not close enough on the keyboard. Who's robbing this train?

Posted by: LostInThought | June 4, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Frosti -- what did you think of last night's show (SYTYCD, of course)? I was a little cheesed off that the woman who was the friend of the woman (Katee) who made it to the finals last year was summarily kicked off (can't for the life of me remember her name, alas) without being allowed to "dance for her life." She's an incredibly good dancer and I thought she ought be given another chance. Hope she comes back next year. I must say that among the judges, and even though I love her choreography, Mia Michaels does kind of creep me out.

So, tonight they go down to the top 20. I will watch and switch back and forth to the hockey game, appropriately.

You all know what's coming:

GO RED WINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 4, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

New kit-- Obama in Cairo.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | June 4, 2009 10:13 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Jeez, of all evenings to have computer troubles at home, and to miss Bodice-Ripping 101!

I read a fair amount of non-fiction, but it seems that 90 percent of it is part of my research for this or that writing project. At the moment I'm halfway through the very excellent "The Fate of the Romanovs," and have also started "Paris Was Yesterday," Janet Flanner's acount of her life in Paris in the 1920s through early 40s, when she wrote the "Letter From Paris" pieces for the New Yorker all those years. Also just finished re-reading Michael Connelly's "The Concrete Blond" for the third or fourth time -- good reading for the bus.

I have to frankly confess I just don't understand how someone can say there's nothing out there to read, whether in their genre or just in general. Jeez. There's 40 gazillion books out there. What's more, most dedicated readers I know will re-read their favorites over and over. I probably have lost count of how many times I've re-read Patrick O'Brian, the Hornblower novels, all Michael Connelly, a couple Patricia Cornwells, Raymond Chandler and Dashiel Hamlett, Graham Greene, Tony Hillerman, Adam Hall's Quiller novels, C.P. Snow's Strangers and Brothers series, The Once and Fuiture King, and god knows how many times I've been through LeCarre's Karla series as well as "A Small Town in Germany." Gotta be at least eight times through "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" (the best novel, any genre, in the 20th century, IMHO) at least. The Anthony Price series, with "Other Paths to Glory" alone about five times. Josephine Tey's outstanding "The Daughters of Time" maybe four times. Dune, The Foundation Trilogy and all of Alfred Bester three or four times. Paul Fussell's "The Great War and Modern Memory" maybe five times. Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" five or six times. Hemingway's Nick Adams stories four or five times, The Great Gatsby four or five, Sun Also Rises and my fav Hemingway, Islands in the Stream five or six times.

As I say, I like Ron Charles' stuff, but I think he made a major omission by failing to note that over the past several decades "serious" fiction became the special province of academia, which really strangled and channeled "serious fiction" into some pretty deadly dull pathways.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | June 4, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse


If you're more worried about putting someone's eye out and the impact on your health insurance than consumed in the moment during the bodice-ripping, perhaps you should call in a contractor who's experienced in such things and can approach them with confidence and expert hands rather than trepidation.


I'm a hands-on guy, and if I must say so, an expert in such things as bodice ripping, as I practice all the time.

And I expect I might be pretty good at it if there were another human being involved, too.

As far as fiction goes, we all write more of it than we think: inscribing greeting and holiday cards, tax returns, emails to our family, status reports, etc.



Posted by: -bc- | June 4, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

Here is where I say, again in boodlelandia, that I have made three corsets in my costume career. Bodices are not exactly what we are talking about, save for the time when corsets and bodices were nearly the same.

What most of you visualize is the corset....a more functional and less frilly version of the Merry Widow garment.

I shall shortly and forthwith set up a PayPay account to advise on

the off ripping of bodices AND
the off ripping of corsets.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | June 4, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

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