There is a lot of talk about boy readers out there, if you’re so inclined to hear it. Some of it is awesome. Some of it is strange. Some of it makes me desire to speak out.
(For instance, I hear some talk that boys will only read a “realistic contemporary” book if it’s “realistic enough” — meaning, at least to the author of this argument, full of sex and language that makes me blush. I choose not to link to that particular post, but if you need to know about it, contact me. His main argument is this: I know boys. They think about sex constantly. They swear like soldiers. So must my characters, if I want them to be readable. My rebuttal/justification is this: People also use the toilet. Frequently. Must I write that in if I want my characters to ring true? Choose your truth, sir, and I will choose mine.)
Anyway. Here’s what I think. (Hello? What are you here for? Oh. Recipes? Maybe tomorrow.) Try this experiment:
WARNING: ENORMOUS GENDER-BASED GENERALIZATIONS AHEAD.
Ask a man or a guy or a boy to tell you about his day. Chances are that he’ll tell you nothing. But if you’re a good communicator, maybe he’ll tell you how many points he scored in basketball, or who got punched/grounded/fired/in a car accident. He might tell you what exploded. Or that a dog defecated on the playground. Or that his computer froze for several hours, which is why he is now grand champion at Angry Birds on his phone.
Ask a girl, or a woman, or a lady even, and chances are pretty fair that you’ll hear about food. And relationships. And how the food and the relationships make her feel.
YES. I KNOW. ENORMOUS GENERALIZATIONS. I WARNED YOU.
And the books that guys will choose to read reflect this stuff-based communication path. In “guy” books, stuff happens. People get dirty. They get chased. Killed. Stuff explodes. Oftener the better. Action happens. Plot is king. Long live the King.
And lots of girls like those books too, because (MORE GENERALIZATIONS HERE) good writers will fill a plot-driven book with RELATIONSHIPS, too. Shall I name some? Clancy. Dan Brown. Rick Riordan. Louis Sachar. Maybe even Louis L’amour, but I’ve never actually read him. But do you see what I mean? In those books, what happens is what matters.
A typical girl (remember, this is Completely Scientific, based on my years of sitting around watching people and listening to them talk) might not care so much about what happens as she cares about WHO IT HAPPENS TO. In fact, some books have very little happening, and a whole lot of people not-happening. Grapes of Wrath. I love it. Love. But really, nothing happens. I love it because I care about the characters. Or, girls/women read not to find out what happens, but HOW it unfolds. A typical “romance” has a meet, a separation, and a reconciliation, right? You can be pretty sure that in a “romance” you know how it’s going to end (which is why Mr. Sparks says he doesn’t write “Romance” – to-may-to, to-mah-to, whatever.) But zillions of people (MOSTLY FEMALES) read zillions of romances. Over and over. Because they want to read the relationship. (And the food.)
Remember that Husband takes photos? Here’s a thing. He likes to photograph one person at a time. And the thought of photographing food would never enter his brilliant, artistic mind. And I (NOT A PHOTOGRAPHER, just a WOMAN) want pictures of my kids interacting with each other. And pictures of the bread I made. And the brownie trifle for dessert last night. Am I wrong? Is he?
Can we both be right?
Um, yes. And this is why we’re still happily married after very nearly seventeen years.
What is my point, you ask?
Oh, heck. I don’t know. Just that there are different kinds of readers. And different kinds of books for them all to jump into. And if we hate a book, it doesn’t mean it was bad, just maybe not for us. See how I can Rodney King like the best of them? Why can’t we just all get along, indeed?
(FINAL WARNING: REMEMBER THAT THIS IS A PLACE FOR ME TO SPOUT OFF ALL MY BRILLIANT AND BIZARRE OPINIONS. PLEASE DON’T QUOTE ME AS AN EXPERT IN ANY MATTERS. WELL, MAYBE THE BROWNIE TRIFLE…)