Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And Your Bird Will Sing

A few days ago it occurred to me that I have never read a book by a female writer. There were of course the Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary books I read when I was a kid, the Song of Solomon assignment in high school, and all of those Sarah Vowell books but none of those really count. Prepubescent reading choices are kind of a wash, anything you were "forced" to read in high school doesn't count, and Sarah Vowell is really one of the guys anyway. So practically speaking I had never bought or read a piece of femal-penned literature...until yesterday.

I came to this realization while reading up on one of my favorite authors, Nick Hornby (who quite often gets name-dropped here). In response to a question regarding who he reads or is influenced by, he said that one of his favorite writers is Lorrie Moore. Maybe it has to do with my literary ignorance or some male bias but I was a bit surprised that he would mention a female author. It didn't occur to me that someone who writes with such a specifically male voice, about the male condition (particularly as to its being affected by the female condition), would find inspiration in an opposite sphere. Although it just now occurs to me that the main character and first-person narrator of How To Be Good is female so maybe I've just not read deep enough into Mr. Hornby's prose. Whatever. The point being that I came to this realization and therefore went out and bought Lorrie Moore's collection of short stories, Birds of America.

After reading the first story last night I think I may know why I haven't read much female literature up to this point; I don't understand women. For all of the unsolicited dating advice I have proffered friends over the years, whatever it is I think I know about women has really just been cobbled together from my recall of romantic comedies and third-person anecdotes. Reading the voice of one of Moore's characters for twenty or so pages I kept stopping to ask, "What? Why the hell would she say that? Is she crazy? Are all women this nuts?" I think I have unconsciously chosen writers over the years who's characters I can easily escape into. There are aspects of "Rob Freeman" and "Will Lightman" with which I absolutely identify so reading about them required very little effort. Playing a guessing game with Ms. Moore's characters however, is something I'm not used to.

Anyway, I plan on finishing Birds of America and hopefully moving on to one of her earlier works after that. Perhaps I'll actually learn something rather than rehashing the same old internal shit I do time and again with the "guy writers" to which I am normally drawn.


Post a Comment

<< Home