Sunday, April 09, 2006

Gender Confusion*

So then, women love the work of Jane Austen, while men feel greater affiliation to the work of Albert Camus: passion versus alienation, as the Guardian concludes. Having viewed** the latest film production of Pride & Prejudice just last night, I would say, that yes, certain moments were, indeed, fraught with passion, but a great deal of the other moments were quite irritating and tiresome. Of course I know that a film is not a book, and that I would have to read the Austen classic to offer a more informed opinion, but I do know that the involved story is not one that might change my life. The same goes for the other four titles on the list of books that women have cited as all-time favourites: I have read none of these, nor do I have any desire to do so. If it's all about thwarted romances and overcoming obstacles and love conquering all, I want no part of it. There's a company called Harlequin that caters to the needs of that reading audience.

The list of works cited as the mens' favourites are arguably more promising (if a book that heavily features angst and alienation can be considered promising). Heller, Joyce, Kafka, Kundera, and Vonnegut are some of the names that appear. Now, we are told that the men polled all have some professional connection to literature, yet we are not told of any such connection for the women's group (I suspect that this connection may be absent in the latter). Despite this literary connection, which should presumably carry some weight, literary critic Lisa Jardine, who carried out both polls, calls some of the mens' choices "puberty reading". So feelings of angst and alienation, it would seem, is par for the course for a teenaged boy.

Newsflash: feelings of angst and alienation are also par for the course for every other age group, and not just men! Perhaps women are fooling themselves into believing that their existential crises can be quashed by losing themselves in the romantic fluff that Jane Austen and others write (though, to be fair, Mr. Darcy's own existential crisis is brilliantly executed: I have only Colin Firth's and Matthew Macfadyen's performances to go by, however).

I guess it's apparent that I fall into the alienation camp when it comes to literary preference. Just another lone wolf on the steppes. Whether I would call any of these works "life-changing" is questionable, insofar as the realization that angst and alienation are a part of life is made known to me through life itself, and not exclusively through literature. Reality, in other words, is what changes lives. It would follow, then, that works of non-fiction should be considered as potentially life-changing. And indeed, this is the case: of the men polled, a number cited works of non-fiction as the ones with the most impact on their lives. Of course, they also said they "had a slight fixation with the stiff covers of hardback books". And with that, I have no more to say, except for this: I suspect that Kurt Vonnegut may be somewhat pleased to discover that the Guardian reporter has characterized him as a "dead white man" (I'm not sure what Nick Hornby will think).

*By which I mean, judging by the works appearing on each list, I feel greater affiliation to those works in which a certain degree of alienation prevails, that is to say, the works chosen by men. Ergo, I am like a man?

** Here, it should be noted that the copy in question was not rented or purchased, but rather, lent to me by a colleague who I mistakenly told that I wouldn't mind watching said movie when asked, would you like to see this movie?

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