Light's, Camera, Blog Action!
24 June 2010
If anyone would like to participate email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I am featuring Patrick from The Literate Man. I have been having some lovely email exchanges with Patrick and his blog is worth checking out. I will describe it using mostly Patrick's own words: It's tagline is “Throwing men a life preserver in an ocean of chick lit.” The blog is focused on books by men, for men, or of interest to men, and they try to emphasize fiction over non-fiction (though we could be better about that). It is a blog that is trying to do it's small part to get men reading fiction again. A blog with a great purpose, especially when you think about the book blogosphere is mainly all women. I hope you take the time to really have a look at this blog.
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Tell us something about yourself
Though I’m an American, I love Australian literature (and I think your blog is wonderful). I read Peter Carey’s The True History of the Kelly Gang a year ago or more, and I found the device that he used—inventing snatches of diary written by Ned Kelly to his young daughter—not only innovative, but so effective that I cannot now think about the story of Ned Kelly without feeling like I knew him personally. I love that about Aussies—there’s an honesty and a desire to take risks that makes the culture different from any other. Another Australian book that I love is Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children, which was so well-written and imaginative that it made me want to become a writer. Coincidentally, Jonathan Franzen just published a review, entitled “Rereading ‘The Man Who Loved Children’,” in the New York Times Sunday Book Review (May 27, 2010), in which he notes, first, that Stead has been compared to Tolstoy, and, second, that his wife calls The Man Who Loved Children the truest book that she has ever read. I couldn’t agree more.
What was your favourite book as a child or young adult, and why?
I grew up in rural Western New York, where the forest-covered hills were full wildlife, and there was a lot of time for reading and contemplation. Partly for that reason, I think that Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, was the first book that really affected me. The idea that every creature under the sun had a voice and a story to tell felt like an undeniable truth, and White’s story was so well-written and tender that it made me want to read them all.
Why do you love to read?
I think that storytelling is the way that we understand ourselves, each other, and our place in the universe. That’s not an original statement, of course—cultures around the world have been telling their stories since the invention of language. And books are not the only method of storytelling, but I do find that they are the most engaging. There is an intimacy and an understanding that comes with reading (and contemplating) the story of someone else that I cannot reach by listening to audio books or watching movies or even going to the theater. I think well-written literature is unique in that way—it brings you into full-on, emotional contact with its characters, and you walk away understanding something new about yourself and the world around you.
How do you choose your books?
Recommendations, generally. After your review, I can’t wait to get started on The Book Thief.
If you had to narrow it down - who would be your 3 favourite authors and what would be your 3 favourite books?
Here they are, in order of preference: (1) Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion, (2) John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, and (3) J.P. Donleavy’s The Ginger Man. But I have to say again that Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children is way, way up there.
When and why did you start your blog?
We’re new kids on the block, having started this past March, but we’re in it for the long haul. As for the reason why, a National Public Radio story some years back determined that only 20% of fiction readers (in the US, UK, and Canada) were men. I’d be shocked if the number were higher in Australia. Not only do I think that this is a tragedy for men on an individual level (as I said above, I think fiction allows us to understand ourselves and one another), but it is a tragedy for society at large where a little empathy and understanding can sometimes make all the difference between uninformed violence and informed compassion. There is a real debate over whether the fiction-reading gap is due to a genuine lack of interest in reading on the part of men or a result of the heavy marketing dollars that are poured into romance and young adult novels based around female characters (the so-called “chick lit”). I tend to think that it’s is a combination of the two, but I do think that the publishing industry bears some responsibility for the actual state of affairs. Hopefully, with the continued development of reading technologies (an area in which men are definitely interested), that will begin to change. In any case, we at “The Literate Man” want to do our small part to get men reading again.
How did you choose your blog's name?
“The Literate Man” is a little pretentious, and we fully expect to take some shots for that, but we wanted to challenge men to get out there and read. And we wanted to dispel any sense that literature is just for women—Ken Kesey, for example, was about as rough and tumble as they come, and his fiction reflects a distinctly male attitude. Anyone who thinks that fiction is for girls simply hasn’t read, and we want to challenge those people to do so.
What do you love about book blogging?
I love the sense of community that it brings. Growing up in a rural area, it was difficult to find people (especially men) who shared a love of literature. Now, living in Miami Beach, I face the same situation, but for very different reasons. Blogging allows me to share ideas with all those others around the world that share an appreciation of writing as an art that is vital to our existence.
What tips do you have to offer to other book bloggers?
I’m not sure that I’m in a position to give advice just yet—I think you need to be around for a year or so before you can call yourself a real blog. But, if pressed, I’d say don’t be afraid to throw your voice out there, not only on your own blog, but on others. Get out there and comment and forge relationships. Speaking of which—thanks Becky!
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No problem. I very much admire the purpose behind your blog, and it really is nice to come across a male book blogger. The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey is an amazing story, there is no doubt about that. After hearing you say how much you enjoyed Christina Stead, I tried to read the Stead book I have had sitting on my shelf for a long time (I'm Dying Laughing) but wasn't able to get into it I have to admit. It's also funny that you should mention Charlotte's Webb. I haven't read the book, but it was the first movie that I cried in (the cartoon version).