I know I’m not the only one: I read several novels at a time. One is usually in the kitchen; the other by my bed, a third in the living room (or even the bathroom, though magazines are more appropriate there since I need a pen or post its when I read).
By some odd coincidence, all 5 of the novels I am reading now or have just finished are quite similar: the narrator or one of the key characters is a man in his late 50s or 60s who is going through some sort of post divorce/relationship, fear of death and aging/health crisis. Maybe it’s just the usual midlife crisis, but happening later?
These are not traditional man-caught-with-his-pants-down (and it’s all revealed in e-mail) sort of stories, either. These men are portrayed quite sympathetically: their wives range from the bitch who left, to the bitch who is at the top of her professional career to more sympathetically but equally unavailable wives (one with incipient alzheimers; the other just growing in a different direction).
This trend (if I may call it that: four of the novels are fairly recent) provides an interesting alternative perspective to the Sandra Tsing Loh article in the Atlantic. Though I wouldn’t say it’s a call for passion either a la Cristina Nehring’s Vindication of Love. The men in these novels are quite sexual or sexually frustrated or just plain horny: In two novels, women’s butts figure prominently in the plots; in 2 others, the male characters fantasize but don’t act; and in the fifth, well, I haven’t read far enough yet to know, so don’t tell me.
Basically, this is an in progress blog posting: I haven’t finished two of the novels yet, so I’m not sure if this “trend” I’m noticing will hold up, and I’m not so sure how new a trend it is. Philip Roth’s characters immediately come to mind. But these men, well, they are different.
If you’ve read any of these, let me know what you think:
- Jim Harrison’s The English Major
- Richard Russo’s Straight Man AND Bridge of Sighs
- Jim Lynch’s Border Songs
- David Lodge’s Deaf Sentence