About a month ago, The Rejectionist guest-posted at Tiger Beatdown on the subject of manfiction. She explained that manfiction…
…is indeed, almost but not entirely exclusively, a book by a man; but it is a particular kind of book by a particular kind of man, a Real Man, a virile, manly man, who gallops around on horses in between penning great works.
SOME MORE TELLING CHARACTERISTICS OF MANFICTION
1. There aren’t any ladies in it.
2. [...] Instead of communicating the men will drink a lot, commit random acts of violence, beat their sons or pets, and drive around in trucks without speaking. These men do not have daughters.
3. There is at least one of the following: lots of poor people, cows, hunting, a farm, a blizzardy Midwestern town, terse silences, long journeys on horseback/foot, the dissolution of a marriage. [...]
4. Maybe there are a few ladies in it…If the lady is older than thirty she’s definitely a sexless, emasculating bitch, unless she is a predatory but sordid vixen.
5. Author cites the following as influential in interviews: Harold Bloom, Charles Bukowski, fatherhood (of a son), alcoholism. [...]
6. But in general, there aren’t any ladies in it.
The rest of the post discusses why she now generally avoids manfiction at all costs since there is better out there. It’s a great post. Go read it.
I read manfiction. Not frequently, because the majority of it tends to make me violently angry (I’m talkin’ to you, John Updike, and your freakin’ Rabbit, Run bullshit). But sometimes. Which brings me to today’s reviews:
Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
Story of the Eye was first published in 1928. Basically, it’s a porn. And as far as pornography goes, this is one of the classics.
So maybe you’re thinking, “Um, Mel? Why’d you read that?” My reasoning (you are sooooo going to judge me for this): if you read my other blog, you know what an of Montreal whore I am. There’s a song on their Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer album called “The Past is a Grotesque Animal,” which is 11 minutes of awesomeness. It’s one of my favorite songs ever. In the lyrics, there are references to Story of the Eye and Georges Bataille. And basically, uh…a girl can only sing, “The mousy girl screams, ‘Violence! Violence!’” so many times before feeling the need to go straight to the source. (Or not. I have geek tendencies.)
This novella is definitely not for everyone. Many of the scenes brought back memories from A Clockwork Orange (the movie). The book revolves around wild teens, rape, depravity, kink, Violence! Violence!, eggs, a solid dose of blasphemy, and yes, eyes. It’s narrated by a teenage male, who is looking back on his exploits with his lover, Simone; a teenage girl named Marcelle, with whom the narrator and Simone have sexual liaisons until she has a mental breakdown; and an aristocrat named Lord Edmund, who they meet later in their journey.
Manfiction traits: male narrator, (literally) lots of cock talk, rape, definitely lots of random acts of violence. Simone and Marcelle–particularly Marcelle–were developed only enough to add some heavy doses of “WTF?” to the plot.
And yet? The book kinda had me at hello.
Second page of the book, when the narrator is 15 and hasn’t yet had sex with Simone:
Now in the corner of a hallway there was a saucer of milk for the cat. “Milk is for the pussy, isn’t it?” said Simone. “Do you dare me to sit in the saucer?”
“I dare you,” I answered, almost breathless.
The day was extremely hot. Simone put the saucer on a small bench, planted herself before me, and, with her eyes fixed on me, sat down without my being able to see her burning buttocks under the skirt, dipping into the cool milk.
I’m sorry: that’s just funny.
Granted, the book quickly becomes a lot more graphic, but I appreciate a good mindfuck, and Story of the Eye is full of them. I also appreciate that Simone did her fair share of instigating; the narrator didn’t hoard all the “fun.” I don’t know if I’d read it again, but it certainly made for an interesting reading experience.
Publisher/Year: City Lights, 2001
Source: Online purchase
I really don’t have kind things to say about this one. But I mean, surprise surprise: not only does it meet all six of the aforementioned requirements of manfiction, but it was written by king of the genre, Charles Bukowski himself. And it wasn’t even all that well-written at that.
So why did I read it? Honestly, I don’t know. I watched Factotum and hated it, and I expected no less from Bukowski’s writings. Some of my co-workers, two of which are English Lit grad students, raved about his work. Maybe that had something to do with it? I needed a “music” book for the What’s in a Name? 3 Challenge, and I saw this title, so I guess I figured, “why not?” Big mistake.
Hot Water Music is a collection of about 40 short stories, most of them about three pages in length. All the stories are about being poor, being a writer, being a poor writer, being a drunk, being a sexist asshole, and being a drunk, sexist asshole. Seriously: every. single. one. Of the 40 stories, I “liked” maybe three (and by “like,” I mean I wasn’t completely disgusted or exasperated by the asshole protagonist).
And the protagonists. Having watched Factotum–and since most of the stories are about a poor, drunk writer–I just put Matt Dillon’s face and Charles Bukowski’s aura in place of the protagonists and proceeded from there. So when the asshole protagonist was having sex with/using his young girlfriend, picturing 40-ish year old Matt Dillon’s face in the scene made it slightly more palatable (though not by much, because I think Dillon is a tool).
So imagine my horror when Bukowski would casually reveal the protagonists’ age: more often than not, it was a 60 year old man (which is about the age Bukowski was when he wrote Hot Water Music). Gag.
Take that scenario, multiply it by 40, and then add in a few more scenarios in which the protagonist has sex with his recently-deceased father’s girlfriend, and you have Hot Water Music.
And I repeat: gag.