In an excerpt of Out of Time, a new book on “the pleasures and perils of ageing,” author Lynne Segal makes a case that many iconic male writers — among them Philip Roth, John Updike and Martin Amis — display in their works a belief that the slow loss of virility is one of the most tragic effects of growing older for men. Citing passages from Toward the End of Time and Portnoy’s Complaint, she finds evidence that these writers’ depictions of masculinity reveal “obdurate social hierarchies of gender and ageing.” (Related: Keith Meatto on advice you can glean from Philip Roth’s work.)
“Writing gives me great feelings of pleasure. There’s a marvelous sense of mastery that comes with writing a sentence that sounds exactly as you want it to. It’s like trying to write a song, making tiny tweaks, reading it out loud, shifting things to make it sound a certain way. It’s very physical. I get antsy. I jiggle my feet a lot, get up a lot, tap my fingers on the keyboard, check my e-mail. Sometimes it feels like digging out of a hole, but sometimes it feels like flying. When it’s working and the rhythm’s there, it does feel like magic to me.” Susan Orlean on why she writes.
Recommended Reading: Amy Gentry writes on the effects of rape culture and its permeations through art and literature. “I realize that what I’m describing here isn’t a list of books I’d like to see banned from the classroom; in fact, it is a list of my favorite books. It also a solid bit of evidence that Western culture is rape culture. Or, to put it another way: rape culture is just culture-culture. If only there were a trigger warning big enough for that.”
The “good bad guy” has been having his moment on television. From Don Draper to Tony Soprano, America loves the anti-hero. Here’s a look at some literary anti-heroes from over at Ploughshares. You are likely to either agree with or be enraged by this essay from The Millions on likeability in fiction.