For too long I've wandered in an androgynous desert, wondering what it took for me to be worthy of being called a man. Obviously it's not enough to have the basic biological "junk" - are there not women trapped in men's bodies? Indeed there are - I've seen them on Jerry Springer, and various websites. And, with today's ruling by California's state Supreme Court, it certainly means less now than it did yesterday that I'm married to Wife, by all accounts a real honest-to-goodness lady. I thought that maybe fathering Child would do it. I was wrong.
Finally, there's a website that will teach me how to be a man. Actually there are at least two (which is what I came up with in my limited three minute research Googling), but this one actually looks funny, so I'm only going to rip on The Art of Manliness blog.
First of all, manliness is not an art. Unless that art is fingerpainting, or maybe whittling dildos (dildoes?). I'm not going to argue that some men were pretty famous for their art - your Picasso, your Cezanne, your Sammy Hagar. But just as manliness isn't an art, so too is art not quite manly.
I should probably say, when I said "First of all," all the way over at the beginning of the last paragraph, that may have indicated the start of some sort of list. Sorry, I was totally leading you on. I guess if I spent some time with the Art of Manliness I could probably come up with dozens of quality jokes for your reading pleasure, but it's late, and I'm lazy. So you only get the one thing above, and then this.
This website is noteworthy today because they've decided to list the 100 most vital, most manly books to own and read. And if you haven't noticed, I've gotten all snooty - or at least, more snooty - about the whole reading thing lately. So I really have no choice but to offer some criticism. Huh. I guess you get your list after all. You happy now?
- There's a LOT about Teddy Roosevelt. Personally, I think it's more manly to
fight a world war without getting off your ass (FDR);
be the only person to ever use nuclear weapons in combat (Truman);
create the country with your bare hands (Paul Bunyan - I mean George Washington);
have an affair with your slave (Jefferson);
have sex with Marilyn Monroe (JFK, and possibly Eleanor Roosevelt);
get shot while watching high class the-ater after having saved the country from devouring itself (really? fine, if only for symmetry: McKinley. Dullards.)
But that's just me.
- If I remember correctly, Catcher in the Rye, while one of my favorite books, was about a whiny upper class twit. And I think that's just the kind of man we all want to be.
- "The pitfalls of being the best looking chap around?" Aside for grossly abusing the word "chap," someone obviously has not read The Picture of Dorian Gray.
- If you're going to choose a manly book by Tom Robbins, you choose the one about the lesbian with the gigantic thumbs (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, for those of you looking for something to read).
- All sorts of books about capitalism. Hey, the unfettered acquisition and accumulation of material goods is pretty guy-ish, but you know what being a man's really about? Sharing. Get the Communist Manifesto in there!
- The Young Man's Guide, the Dangerous Book for Boys, the Boy Scout Handbook... I'm sensing a theme here. A theme of laziness. If I read those books, then what the hell do I need the whole list for?
- I wish I could come up with something pithy about Steppenwolf, but all I can say is that it's just not that good of a book. Eh.
- If you were going to choose an instructional manual written by a woman, would it be a chaste tome written in the 15th century, or would it be How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Dr. Jenna Jameson?
- The only manly list The Hobbit belongs on is one of "things to carry if you want to get beaten up after study hall." Survey says... dingdingdingdingding!
- Ernest Hemingway deserves two spots on the list. Hell, you can be a big strapping man if you read nothing else (you may end up shooting yourself in Idaho, but whatever). James Jones? Not so much.
- Why are so many books on the list (Into the Wild, The Hatchet, Robinson Crusoe) about running away? I thought that was, you know, cowardly. But what do I know.
- The Moby Dick blurb: "If you ever find yourself on a boat in search of a savage beast, and you encounter a boat that is looking for some of their missing friends that seem to have been attacked by that same whale that you are looking for, take a minute and think. Cost: Possibly your life. Benefit: You kill a big whale. AND you get some serious props."
Yes. Because the book is really only about hunting the whale. That's why it's a classic. (Bullshit call: I haven't actually read it.)
- Hamlet? He could be the wussiest Shakespearean protagonist, second only to stupid, shortsighted Romeo, or even third, behind whipped MacBeth. King Lear, perhaps? Titus? Julius Ceasar? Those are some manly men.
- I hadn't realized that Robinson Crusoe was about loving normal, unconventional, mediocre life. But then I thought it was about the discovery of a really crappy themed restaurant.
- Everyone I know who read The Pearl in high school was bored to tears. Even the men. How did Tom Clancy get left off this list? Robert Ludlum? Those are manly writers.
- The Great Railway Bazaar? Do trains even exist anymore? And could we get them back? I don't know if you guys heard, but gas is getting a little pricier these days.
- The Island of Dr. Moreau? I liked it better when Conrad wrote it and called it Heart of Darkness.
- The Maltese Falcon, The Long Goodbye? I really can't argue with these. Quality picks.
- Finally, some glaring omissions:
Raymond Carver - the manliest, saddest modern man.
George Plimpton, Paper Lion - pretending to be a professional football player takes gigantic testicles, which, last I heard, is a manly prerequisite.
Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels - the greatest satire ever written. I have no idea who he's mocking, but he totally nailed them.
Nelson Algren, The Man with the Golden Arm - so what if he lost Simone de Beauvoir to Sartre, he's still awesome.
Hell, how about de Beauvoir? Maybe some other chicks, and some non-white guys: Ellison, Rushdie, Morrison (female AND black!).
Julius Lester, Look Out, Whitey! Black Power's Gon' Get Yo' Mama! - for the title alone.
And has there been a book in the past 20 years that's worthy? No? Then go back to your Klan meeting. I'm just saying, it might tickle you to know that women and minorities have written books. I swear. You should check them out.