Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Eight books about male protagonists by female authors

Scarlett Harris is an Australian culture critic, with a focus on professional wrestling and television. She’s writing a book about women’s wrestling, A Diva Was a Female Version of a Wrestler, forthcoming in 2021.

At CrimeReads, Harris tagged eight classic and contemporary novels, written by women, that offer insight into damaged male psyches, including:
The Witch Elm by Tana French

The Witch Elm was the first (I know, I know) Tana French title I read, at the beginning of the year. I was immediately struck by French’s first person portrayal of Toby, with his simultaneous self-righteousness and -loathing, so much so that it became the inspiration for this piece.

As Toby slowly uncovers the mystery of how the body of his high school friend Dominic ends up inside the Wych Elm in his dead uncle’s house, so to does he discover how, as a straight, white, able-bodied man, he has navigated the world relatively unscathed.

“The point is, if your doctors went all out for you, great. But not everyone gets to live in the same world as you,” Toby’s cousin Susanna chastises him when he doesn’t believe that she was sexually assaulted by her doctor.

That is, until he is the victim of an assault and robbery at the beginning of the hefty tome that leads him to convalesce at his uncle’s house where the bulk of the mystery evolves and forces him to reckon with his privilege.

“Me six months ago, clear eyed and clear voiced, sitting up straight and smart, answering every question promptly and directly and with total unthinking confidence: every cell of me had carried a natural and absolute credibility; accusing me of murder would have been ridiculous,” French writes. “Me now, slurring, babbling, droopy-eyed and drag-footed, jumping and trembling at every word from the detectives: defective, unreliable, lacking any credibility or authority or weight, guilty as hell.”

Through the facade of mystery novels—The Witch Elm is French’s first stand-alone narrative outside of the Dublin Murder Squad saga—French clandestinely lays out what it means to grapple with manhood in the #MeToo era.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Witch Elm is among Ani Katz's top ten books about toxic masculinity.

--Marshal Zeringue