American Masculine

Have I mentioned to you lately that I am a guy?

I know that male attendance at book discussions is a constant concern for organizers and leaders.  This is a hard concept for me to get my head around personally because I have been in a book discussion or two since 1976.  While most of my male friends are not readers, my best friend is in two discussion groups. 

I am also one who does not necessarily believe that the selection process that picks good book discussion titles either includes or excludes men.  I realize that a book discussion around knitting cat titles may have a tendency to squew away from the male gender, I honestly feel that there are many other factors that affect male attendance outside of the book selected to be discussed.

Challenges, special treatment, exceptions to the rule, committment issues–men, who needs them?

If you believe that the weight of the material alone could get men into your group, I have a title for you.  The short story collection, American Masculine by Shann Ray, should appeal equally to both genders.

These are stories about men.  Men challenged by all aspects of life including women, children, parents, and jobs.  Thse are men who are cannot negotiate the tricky pathways of their society and stumble at most opportunities.  They are also men who waste their lives by falling into dependence on drugs, alcohol, sex and violence. 

They seek outlets in manly activities like hunting, fishing and rodeos.  These are their outlets as most of them have roots in the Montana landscape including an often uncomfortable, or in some cases spiritual, connection to the Indian reservations in the terrority. 

These are men who in the main are leading a noir life.  The key to this is that often when confronted by a decision, these men are going to choose the wrong one.  However, the characters are not all abandoned by Ray.  Within some of the stories there is a sense of fulfilment, contentment and redemption for some of the characters.

These stories are powerful literary stunners.  There is not  a weak story in this entire collection.  Each individual story contains such wealth that a lengthy discussion could be held on just one or two.  Leaders who are looking for a high quality work, with an appeal to the men, that will engender a discussion without question should select American Masculine for their group.

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About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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