75 Books Update #1

Okay, so I’m deliberately discounting the fact that I finished up the two last-minute LBC reads over the long weekend. (You’ll unearth the results of that very soon.)

In the meantime:

Book #1: Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent. Vincent disguises herself as a man, infiltrating male support groups, strip clubs, bowling alleys and monasteries (!) to try and understand masculinity. Now admittedly this is the kind of quasi-anthropological stunt that I’m interested in, particularly since I’m very interested in gender perceptions (likely due to being situated in San Francisco and counting a transgender individual as a friend, but that’s another story). But Black Like Me this ain’t. Vincent’s conclusions are neither terribly groundbreaking, nor are they entirely persuasive. She’s at her best when she’s investigating love and sex, but when it comes to supposed “earth-shattering” conclusions that men enjoy the cruel power of Glengarry Glen Ross-style balls-busting vocations and are capable of being emotionally sensitive too, this isn’t really news at all (and it actually doesn’t tell the whole story of masculinity). And it stops short of the kind of penetrating insight that I had hoped for. Vincent hints at a major emotional divide that separates the two genders, a folkway concerning the expression of sentimentality that seems to lock current gender roles in place, but she fails to offer a constructive analysis of why this exists — all this despite a philosophical background. In the end, Self-Made Man comes across as an entertaining stunt, but hardly the kind of soul-searching implied by the title.

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