The battle of the sexes is always good for a laugh, and Edelstein's piece is tongue-in-cheek - she suggests re-packaging chick lit with blokey covers and creating a TV show with a foul-mouthed librarian. But jokes are rarely just jokes, and usually tap into some social anxiety. Edelstein's article is not a million miles away from more familiar arguments about the crisis of boys not reading. Which in turn are not a million miles away from the moral panic that attended the birth of the novel in the late eighteenth century, when a striking majority of readers were female. It's such a problem when women outperform men - even at something as facilely described as "page turning".
Thursday, March 26, 2009
A recent survey of 2,000 adults in the United Kingdom found that 48% of women were "Page Turners", or regular readers, compared with 26% of men. Conversely, 32% of men were "Slow Worms", reading only one or two books a year, compared with 18% of women. Sounds like a literary brouhaha in the making! And the Guardian's bookblog is never shy about weighing into a literary brouhaha. Jean Hannah Edelstein's column reckons that "publishers need to 're-masculate' books if they want to get more men reading."