April 15, 2006

"Searching for the male equivalent of chick lit, but ... frightened when they actually saw what it looked like."

How "fratire" found success:
Many of the books in the fratire genre began online, either organically or out of necessity because mainstream publishers would have nothing to do with them. [Tucker] Max said that despite receiving approximately 60,000 visitors daily at TuckerMax.com, he got "zero interest" when he initially pitched his book.

"Bro, when I say 'zero interest,' I mean zero," he said, taking another slug of beer.

Frank Kelly Rich, the 42-year-old editor of Modern Drunkard magazine and the author of the book "The Modern Drunkard," said that it took the Web to help fratire get around the hang-ups of mainstream publishing houses that professed to be searching for the male equivalent of chick lit, but which were frightened when they actually saw what it looked like.

"The publishing houses filtered out anything politically incorrect or offensive," he said. "It took the Internet to show them what was popular and now they're going after it. Before that, they would just guess."
Well, isn't it that mainstream publishing houses reject pornography, even though it's extremely popular? I don't get this accusation that mainstream publishers are clueless about what men want to read. Everyone knows pornography is popular. Aren't these publishing houses just looking at the big picture for them and seeing that they have to preserve some overall standards?

By the way, Max went to law school (University of Chicago and Duke).


knoxgirl said...

"Tucker Max" and "Stanley Bing" should do lunch

Bissage said...

Ann Althouse asked: "Aren't these publishing houses just looking at the big picture for them and seeing that they have to preserve some overall standards?"

If "these publishing houses" are now publishing pornography, then the answer must be "no." I had to read the article a gazillion times to separate the fratire-succeeds-despite-adversity wheat from the try-a-free-sample-of-pornography chaff. But once I did, I think I got the point, which is that there is a market for pornography in book form but that book publishers were skeptical. Ultimately, book publishers were persuaded to take a chance by authors who used their internet success as part of their sales pitch.

Dave said...

Tucker Max is a weird one. I ran across his blog a year or so ago. Not very interesting, imho. Others obviously disagree.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave said...

Someone who went to U Chicago and Duke is clearly not Andrew Dice Clay. Not to be elitist, but, well, I am. The guy is obviously quite bright, whatever his other qualities. Clay is not bright at all; his star has long since passed.

Richard Fagin said...

So Andrea Dworkin's "men suck" literature is political discourse because it was couched in facially serious language, but Tucker Max's "chicks suck" and "The Man sucks" literature is pornography? Go figure.

Seven Machos said...

Dave -- I disagree. Andrew Dice Clay's act was actually an ACT. Just like Sarah Silverman's, or whatever her name is. That's not really him. Tucker Max's schtick is an act, too.

I remember having to suffer through Clay's comedy show on TV in college. At the end, he did a bit impersonating five or six legendary Italian-American actors on a camping trip. It was the best and only memorable part of the show.

Ann Althouse said...

The first time I saw Andrew Dice Clay, I took him to be a brilliant critic of masculinity. Then everybody just got mad at him and made him go away.

And note: I'm not labeling Max's writing pornography. I really don't care where the line is between pornography and writing that has graphic descriptions of sex that wins literary respect. I'm just saying that mainstream publishers seem to think it's important to preserve their reputations by conceiving of such a line and staying on the literary side of it. Max's writing is so unpretentious that they snubbed him. That's not surprising.

Palladian said...

Don't trust writers that call you "bro" unless they are your brother. Tiresome.

And since when is Andrea Dworkin "chick lit"?

chuck b. said...

Men like reading about "indifference, alienation and lack of emotional responses". Women like books that "legitimize the female sexual experience".

John(classic) said...


Here is what Operation Paperback lists as most requested by soldiers in Iraq:

"Troops have requested the following genres: action, bestsellers, biographies and memoirs, fantasy, history, horror, mysteries, science-fiction, true crime.

Do not send romances unless specifically requested by the individual. Our troops have received a disproportionate amount of this genre.


Department of Defense policy prohibits the distribution of materials that are: sexually-oriented or racist. In addition, volunteers cannot send large shipments of religious materials, though religious materials (ex. a single holy book) can be shipped if requested by an individual.

All books going to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other predominantly Muslim countries must not show any female skin from the neck to the knees, either on the cover or anywhere inside the book. Do not send material critical of Islam (or any other religion for that matter)."

Aspasia M. said...

And since when is Andrea Dworkin "chick lit"?

That's a great question. She's not my idea of light reading for lazy summer days.

Maxine Weiss said...

John Updike's "In the Beauty of the Lilies".......you'd be shocked at the amount of pornography in that, going by their description. But it's John Updike, Pulitzer Prize Winner, and it was a huge sage spanning 100 years.......so I guess pornography is ok in that case.

Do they consider Philip Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint" porno too?

If you win a pulitzer, or Nobel, anything goes, I guess.

--All these labels. To me, it's all ....Literary Fiction, but I don't know branding, I guess.

Peace, Maxine

Maxine Weiss said...

Max and Dworkin are both on the wrong side of culture. They try to hard.

Took a gander at Max's site: All that fratboy stuff get's old after awhile. Comes off as quite desperate. The graphic porno is the least of it.

But, when you look at it in context of all the other junk the publishing houses routinely gush over.......Max should get a place at the table....not anymore, or less, cliched than other stuff that hits the store shelves.

His audience, in 20 years, might not relate anymore. Hopefully he'll grow and evolve with 'em.

Peace, Maxine

Aspasia M. said...

For a fun, frivolous spring fiction book - I recommend Jennifer Cruisie's book "Bet Me" or "Welcome to Temptation."

dan dragna said...

I’m glad you stopped tooting the porn horn to explain the reluctance of publishers to publish explicit stories by men, Ann. (It often seems that when men write graphically about sex, it’s “pornography,” but when women do it’s “erotica.”) Mainstream publishers apparently have few qualms about publishing explicit stories by women: Candice Bushnell’s Sex in the City franchise, Susie Bright’s Sexwise, Lisa Palac’s The Edge of the Bed: How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life, Gigi Levangie Grazer's (movie-optioned) Maneater, the million-selling Sexual Life of Catherine M., Emily Maguire’s Taming the Beast, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez’s Dirty Girls Social Club, and on and on. Mainstream romance houses are founding entire imprints dedicated entirely to women’s “erotica”: Avon Red, Harlequin Spice, etc.. What you seem to be saying now, if I’m not mistaken, is that when men write about sex they just must write it really, really badly.

knoxgirl said...

geo-- I'm always looking for book recommendations, and will try the ones you suggest. I don't know if you ever read "Bridget Jones Diary" but I was pleasantly surprised at how fun (and funny) it was. also good for light spring/summer reading.

John Updike.... I had to read "Rabbit, Run" for a Modern Fiction class in college. Gag. I can't stand how he writes. If somebody tried to write the most boring, untitillating porn ever, they couldn't do better than him.

Ann Althouse said...

Knoxgirl: I think the "untitillating porn" is meant to be sad. The difficult thing is to write about bad sex, because it tends to be titllating just because it is sex. Tom Wolfe got similar criticism for his recent "I Am Charlotte Simmons," but he's trying to say the sex was terrible. Of course, this is the stuff editors find literary even though it's full of sex. The sex in "Portnoy's Complaint" was supposed to be bad sex, even though it was also very funny.

HaloJonesFan said...

I think that the problem is a poor definition of what "chick lit" is supposed to be. Is it trashy sex stories? Because that isn't so much "chick lit" as it is trashy genre fiction. Which means that the male equivalent isn't so much the Penthouse Letters Column, as it is some other trashy genre--detective stories, maybe, or techno-thrillers.

Which are, in a way, the same thing as romance novels, only with different genre tropes. They're literary sausage, the same thing made the same way and the only thing that's different are the ingredients. Bratwurst, bockwurst, knockwurst, kielbasa, Italian; Mil-SF, Romance, Detective, Horror, Technothriller.

Crommers said...

I don't see how male "chick-lit" is any more (or less) politically incorrect than the female equivilant. I think the problem is publishing houses perceive there is a macho stigma attached to it ... women read chick-lit where as men don't. This is absolute rubbish. I have had plenty of emails in connection with my 2 novels, Worlds Apart and 12 Months. Men email me to say that they thought they were the only people who thought/felt like this and were always too scared to say. On the other hand, women are also intrigued to read from the male viewpoint.
However, publishing house won't touch my work with a bargepole ... that could be because it's crap though and not to do with the genre