Sunday, May 13, 2007

Middle Aged Men (and Younger Women)

Is it just coincidence that the book I'm reading, and the book I've just read are both books about men having a mid-life crisis written by (younger) women? Fiona Campbell's "Death of a Salaryman" follows a "salaryman" who loses his job in contemporary Japan, through a series of episodes where he creates several new lives for himself. Lead character, Kenji, is entirely engaging, and you root for him throughout - even as the rug keeps being pulled from him - sometimes by the world, more often by those close to him, (his very unsympathetic wife, in particular). Like a modern day Candide, whatever befalls him makes him a little stronger, a little more optimistic despite the disasters. In A.M. Homes "This Book Will Save Your Life", the protagonist is older - in his fifties - financially rich beyond his needs, but emotionally poor to an equal degree, a literary equivalent of Bill Murray's unfinished character in "Broken Flowers." Here, the awful wife is (so far) out of picture. It's interesting that as the publishing industry becomes more feminised - predominantly female writers writing for a predominantly female audience - that this literary cross-dressing (and it doesn't go far - both books are 3rd person), is perhaps the more interesting option. Interesting to know what fascination the writers see in such fallible non-alpha males?

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