Friday, November 14, 2008

On Women and Bad Books

Althouse links to a rambly Independent article wondering why Dawkins, Gladwell, Hitchens and others of that breed are male. Germaine Greer -- who's at least as insufferable as the above-named -- declares that women "are more interested in understanding than explaining, in describing rather than accounting for." I don't see a mystery here. Dawkins and Hitchens work by bullying the reader or listener; they'd be incongruous -- and shrill -- if they weren't male. They have their female analogues, who just happen to be treated as wingnuts. As for Gladwell, his combination of cluelessness, humorlessness, and hero-worship is typical of the adolescent boy. The adolescent girl, meanwhile, is busy trying to sleep with college boys and fiddling with her "top friends" list on Facebook.

8 comments:

Grobstein said...

There must be some good "big ideas" books. Or is the form inherently evil? Using Hitchens, Gladwell, and Dawkins-as-atheist as leading examples seems like it might be prejudicial.

Sarang said...

I don't really know what counts as a big ideas book. I tend to dislike the "research shows that humans are like X" books, but that's just me. On the other hand, e.g. "Freakonomics" and "A Theory of Justice" both strike me as books with large implications that are not -- at least didn't have to be -- bad.

James said...

Does Wealth of Nations count as a "big ideas" book? Or are we talking about modern books like Salt? It's true, though, the modern "big ideas" books that I can think of are all shit.

Grobstein said...

I guess we're just seeing too many big ideas books right now; there's a running fad and a big-ideas book doesn't have to be good to be published(?). Salt seems like a great example, though I haven't read it.

I knew a guy who swore by Box or whatever that book about shipping containers was called, but he didn't seem trustworthy.

Sarang said...

A reasonable way to define a Big Ideas Book -- of the kind that's popular -- is to say that it's a book that reduces a very large number of social phenomena to variations on a catchphrase. Obviously such books are only good to the extent that social phenomena are variations on a catchphrase, though they might have passages of good reportage.

zbs said...

This adolescent girl kindly informs you that there isn't a Facebook top friends list.

Also what is the consensus on a guy like Jared Diamond.

Sarang said...

There is a Top Friends application on Facebook. As for Jared Diamond, I haven't read his recent stuff. A lot of his old stuff is halfway between Big Ideas and pop science/history. As a pop science writer he's not without merit.

zbs said...

Yes, aren't all of the above somewhat "pop-" to begin with? I guess not Rawls. The Big Idea lends itself to pop, that is incontestable. And "not without merit" sounds like ringing praise after the rest.

(It may be a little demanding of your readership to expect familiarity with Facebook applications, but I guess the point is taken either way.)