Mark Athitakis reports that what have been called the best novels of the last ten years have all had a similar theme: “Men struggling against a society whose rules and limits are defined by women.” If I had actually read some of these works I could comment, but many have never really piqued my interest. However, it is a thesis worth noting and I would like to see it explored more. Definitely, worth exploring the threads he mentions.
A week or so back, Andrew Seal spent some time testing an argument by literary scholar Nina Baym that critics’ favorite works of American literature tends to adhere to a particular theme: Men struggling against a society whose rules and limits are defined by women. To celebrate such books, the argument goes, is to bolster a particular American myth. (At least, that’s how I understand the argument; I haven’t read the Baym essay that Seal discusses.) To investigate the matter, Seal picks a few consensus favorites from the past ten years—The Corrections, The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Netherland, The Road—as well asKeith Gessen’s All the Sad Young Literary Men, I suppose just for the sake of slapping it around a bit more.