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The Man Thing

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 This is where the man’s hairy finger plunges down his throat to elicit a gag before he throws the book across the room.

I have been thinking a lot about men lately, in an analytical way. This was stimulated by the reading of a novel.

But before I share my thoughts, I must backtrack to a time twenty years ago when I sought feedback on my own novel (finally published this year) from my uncle W.L. Heath who was a wonderful writer. He was very courteous and encouraging but concluded with the statement that he couldn’t be too helpful because it was “a woman’s book.” I gathered that he had no intention of becoming more familiar with that genre.

The comment gave me pause way back then, and I have continued to think about it occasionally ever since. Perhaps the genre should be more clearly defined. However, if I found “men’s books” innately uninteresting, I would not be nearly as well informed as I am.

After all, it’s been only recently in the history of civilization that women have been allowed to learn how to read, write and be educated; and getting our works published is a relatively recent development. I could be wrong, but I believe that we were thinking all along. We just have a little catch-up to do with literary expression.

But back to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, which provoked this post. I am a latecomer to this book, which I found on the share table at the fitness center where I work out. It became a bestseller when it came out in 2008, and I could immediately see why. Male readers didn’t discover that it was a woman’s book until page 269 out of a total of 274 pages. Canny writing.

The book is a collection of letters written mostly by women in 1946, but what they reveal about the war years in Guernsey would be fascinating to men too. I think the British are the keepers of civilization as well as the English language; and the writing, the humor, the richness of historic perspective is like consuming a box of truffles. And then there is the box.

There is a love story in here, and the man’s affection is discovered in a box hidden under his bed. Here he is keeping mementos of the beloved, including a scented handkerchief with her initial embroidered on it.

This is the point where the feminine reader is so touched she wilts. Ah, to have a man treasure your scented handkerchief. This is where the man’s hairy finger plunges down his throat to elicit a gag before he throws the book across the room. “I’ve been tricked!” he howls. “A woman’s book!”

Now I have to say that several enormously intelligent and sensitive men have read my woman’s book and made very helpful comments. I feel as though they have stepped a rung or two up on the ladder of enlightenment. I am sure they are better off for having been gracious enough to spend time with the issues that concern the feminine psyche. The entire states of California, New Mexico, and Alabama are probably better off for it. I could go on.

Reading is enlightening in general, and due to the countless books I have read that were written by men, I have also spent countless hours in intimate companionship with the masculine mind. Since men seem to feel rather uncomfortable with a comparable intimacy, there is a major deficit afoot.

If knowledge is power then ignorance is uneasy-making, don’t you think? I would put it to the masculine rank and file like this: “We know you, but you don’t know us. Heh. Heh. Heh.” Maybe that will help sales.

3 Responses to “The Man Thing”

  1. Barbara McCarthy

    Ellen! This posting was wonderful! I am forwarding it to my daughters and son and son-in-law and various boyfriends of said daughters. I love the last paragraph.
    Thanks,
    Barbara