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Who cares what men are reading?
A week or so ago, I was ranting on about enjoying listening to TalkSport radio. It is not just a ‘bloke thing’, I said. Now I am starting to wonder if the gender divide issue is a bit more complex. Do men and women really have such different tastes and if they do are there some women who just are actually blokes? Me being one.
My latest book club offering was Catch-22. I know, I should have read it 20 years ago, but I never did. A book about a bunch of US soldiers trying to survive the madness of war does not appear to hold great appeal for women. I started it reluctantly, but from the moment the main character, Yossarian, declares on page 2: “Death to all modifiers” when censoring the letters of the enlisted men, I was hooked. His attempt to amuse himself in his hospital bed by deleting a whole letter, except for the ‘Dear Mary’ part and then writing at the bottom, ‘I yearn for you tragically. R. O. Shipman. Chaplain, U.S. Army’ was just absurdly, laugh-out-loud funny. And it got better from there.
Imagine my surprise then when, at our book club discussion, I found that there was no discussion. Almost everyone hated it; I was in a minority of two people who actually thought it was brilliantly funny. But national service and the issue of how to get out of it is a hot topic. Yossarian’s attempts to prove his madness and get sent home, thus proving his sanity is inspiring. (Talk about draft dodgers!). Not so, it seems. Why didn’t they like it?
I brought the book with me to London at the weekend. I thought I would finish the last hundred pages on the plane. Thanks to a significant delay with a technical problem on a CY Airways plane, I managed to finish it at Larnaca airport and then had nothing to do for the rest of the evening. Some woman that I had never met before came up to me in the airport toilets and asked if I actually liked the book. She told me she had tried to read it several times and couldn’t stand it. But every man she knew loved it! Another female friend in London told me the same thing. I then spent the next hour quoting all the best bits and laughing raucously with her husband about what a great book it was. What can I conclude from that? Many women really don’t like this book, then…but why?
Sunday afternoon I spent in a wine bar with two old friends from university. After a couple of bottles of wine, we got onto the subject of book clubs. One of them told me that he is in a book club at work. They meet once a month in his boss’s office to discuss a book that they feel they should be reading. Amazing. I thought it was only women with time on their hands that join book clubs! His book club has been reading The Poisonwood Bible and Freedom, two books that my club is now reading. What does this mean? Is he really a woman or I am really a man? Or maybe we are both just postmodernist feminists, or blokes when we want to be…..