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Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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« In Which They Say I'm A Womanizer? I Haven't Met Enough Women Yet »

Men In Revolt


This just in: according to the neurotic Jews and WASPs of the last decade's fiction, American men don't know how exactly they should be acting about sex. This is brand new information! Does masculinity focus on being too self-absorbed? Is femininity still too much about self-abnegation? Is literature self-absorbed? Did Warren Beatty tell Peter Biskind that Jane Fonda can unhinge her jaw like a python? Is Sol the cold sun?

Done are the days of Vice Magazine's tits and cocaine ethos, as are the nu-80s that were the 00s. Somebody tell John Mayer before he threatens to date rape us again. C'mon John, I'm a polymath too, there's no need to keep screaming out for approval constantly. You want to be respected as a comedian? Knock up Jennifer Aniston.

I kid, I kid. Everyone knows the problem with Jen An is that she's too submissive, and what John Mayer needs is a strong top. That's what Brad Pitt needed (also rimjobs). Maybe John Mayer should fuck Madonna? I sort of like Madonna more now that I know she taunted Warren Beatty at gay discos for not dancing with "hey pussy man!"

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Meanwhile the not-a-girl, not-yet-a-woman demographic is flooded with New Moon and Taylor Swift. Transgressive as their popularity alone may be, both Twilight and Taylor ascribe to a world view that too many fourteen year girls are already inoculated with. An entirely boy-centric romatic one, where nothing is interesting unless it involves crushes and the surrounding drama. Even fifth wave feminist Megan Fox admits there's no such thing as Megan Fox. No wonder Mahnola is fucking pissed.

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I read Michael Chabon's Manhood For Amateurs. The cover has a neat conceit, but it doesn't actually work, a metaphor for masculinity if ever there was one. There are essays about being a son and brother written in the kind of clean clipped front lawn style associated with Richard Ford and the dignity of restrained masculine emotions.

There are essays about fatherhood, married life, and courting his wife that seem overly tailored to the idea that his children might read them someday, which makes them read somewhat dishonestly. There are also a couple of essays about his first marriage and various youthful sexual indiscretions that are frank and detailed (which is not to say erotic) enough to give readers major secondhand embarrassment.

Maybe this is the worst kind of criticism to give these practitioners of the new earnest manhood, but god is it boring. Not that this validates the grand tradition of geniuses as tremendous bastards. One can be a tremendous bastard without being an author or a genius and vice versa. I'm not saying Chabon should go for a ride and never come back, but he should definitely at least stop over-supervising his children's playtime.

In another essay, Chabon admits his worst failing is an inability to write three dimensional female characters. Looking back, it's kinda true. While I commend his honesty, I never understand this, even though it's something I occasionally hear from men. I always say "write a male character, then give them a female name." 

As a girl you grow up seeing yourself in male characters, because (unfortunately) the cool ones are still mostly men. One of the reasons I picked Adventureland as my favorite movie of last year is that it had fully fleshed out and well written characters of both genders. Chabon recognizes that his tendency towards seeing women as mysterious is wrong, but finds it very hard to shake. There is no mystery to women. There is plenty of mystery to sex, but it's equally mysterious to everyone.

For my money, Wonder Boys is still Chabon's best book, and as much as he loves fantasy and genre, the farther away he gets from reality the less interested and invested I get in the characters. This is just a personal preference, I would rather read smaller scale character studies, but I also think that emotional observation is a core component of his talents as a writer. Besides, the genre fic thing is beyond played out. New novels by all writers starting now in 2010 are forbidden from involving the following things: comic books, detectives, baseball, magicians, the holocaust

let's talk about the giant stack of books Ayelet is resting her tiny legs on

Anyway if Katie Roiphe is underwhelmed and unoffended by the sexually neutered males of Brooklyn fiction, she should check out this vast cultural wasteland called the internet. The best writing about sex is currently being done by the people who are smart/stupid enough to date and write about it. Dating wasn't even really invented until the 1950s, it's no wonder nobody knows how to do it.

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If I were a man, which is something I've obviously spent a great deal of time thinking about, I would feel as insulted by the bulk of male culture as I am by most things steered to women. The men I know are nothing like the caricatures of "men" I see advertised to me everywhere. They are not oafs or jerks or lazy misogynists. They have more feelings than they know what to do with. They are real people, and they deserve to be insulted by what masculinity has come to represent.

The best advice I have ever heard about sex, romance, and masculinity is from porn star/P.T. Anderson muse John Holmes in Exhausted: John Holmes The Real Story.

"You don’t have to be overly macho. You don’t have to be over-complimentary. Gain her respect. And that’s treating her as an equal. Don’t bullshit her. Treat her as a human being. Treat her as you would treat yourself. As soon as you have that respect from her, she’ll treat you with the same respect that you show. Then you fuck the shit out of her." - John Curtis Holmes 

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls and twitters.

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"Heart and Soul (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

"From Safety to Where (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

"Passover (Martin Hannett mix)" - Joy Division (mp3)

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Reader Comments (26)

really liked this post. happy new year :)

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersarah

I think this is really genius. I hope you are getting paid well.

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSnapper

Oh we don't all have to be condemned from using comic books just because of Chabon, do we??

I haven't even read any Chabon, does he use it to good effect?

also, if Vice's "tits and cocaine" ethos is over, did they get the memo? Didn't last Halloween prove that that's still their banner standard?

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercraig

Excellent piece.

Now I'll have to give up on my novel about magical detectives playing baseball and reading comic books during the Holocaust, but that may be for the best.

I keep referring to the Chabon book as "Masculinity For Beginners," thanks to your twitter, I believe.

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarco Sparks

YES. Loved this.

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAJ

.... entertaining, if not somewhat enlightening. who is john holmes anyways? i like thim. this is my first visit to This Recording, thank you for a pleasant experience, i plan on being a regular, keep it up "Molly"

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjames

Worth restating...

"The men I know are nothing like the caricatures of "men" I see advertised to me everywhere. They are not oafs or jerks or lazy misogynists. They have more feelings than they know what to do with. They are real people, and they deserve to be insulted by what masculinity has come to represent."

...as it couldn't have been said better...

January 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMax Fischer

you were WAY too nice to ayelet

January 13, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

Re: "The men I know are nothing like the caricatures of "men"...

The worst manifestation of this is my futile, annual attempt to buy a Fathers Day card for my Dad that actually represents him to any degree. If only he spent all weekend sitting in front of the TV lighting his own farts, the process would be so much easier.

But he doesn't, and his friends don't -- and he's not some overly-sensitive pussy, or all that much different from the other Dads I come across.

I used to think the Fathers Day card market represented some insidious trend in behavior of American males, but it really may represent only the insidious trend in the portrayal of American males to which you elude.

January 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRyan D

I was quite pleased with this article. Men and women really are much more alike than they know they are. In my opinion, the mediated portrayals of idyllic men as violent selfish bastards has done more harm to women's psychology than images of stick thin celebrities. Maybe it's just a sign that the earth has reached capacity and we ALL need to stop fucking. I'm not complaining too much though. I'm good at lots of things. And it's DEFINITELY been over 20.

You should do an article on BLACK men in the media by the way. A lot of us would be very intersted to hear your take on it.

January 21, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternihon0019

WAAAAY too nice to Ayelet. Don't you love how the photographer captured the lovely couple in such an unposed moment? Just a typical Saturday morning lounging around in the Chabon residence.

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I think I'm going to buy runescape.

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