Call me ignorant or bitter–or both–but a girl’s got to do what she can sometimes to find the silver lining in being chucked by a token “literary white guy®.” Some might even posit that being chucked is the silver lining itself. Most beneficial of all though, as you might know firsthand, is not feeling compelled, or, more precisely, feeling obligated to read books that are of peak interest to the “intellectual” homme blanc.
He will call you “ignoble,” incapable of ever being able to write a worthwhile novel yourself without having read these very tailored major works of toady white men (well Knausgård isn’t toady, he’s sort of fuckable, actually, in that “rape me in the woods” way). And while you’re “with” him (but is a man ever really capable of being “with” anyone other than his ego?), you will believe this. Take the verbal abuse and insults to your own tastes and intelligence because, no matter how hard we try, it is still ingrained in women to sacrifice something of themselves for another.
So take respite in the demise of your ties to “literary white guy®,” because it means you will never have to subject yourself to the following, whether reading or discussing. And yes, I’ve now officially been forced to read all the works on this list not for myself but for a “literary white guy®” (or, in one case, a “literary non-white chick®”) because I’m apparently a very self-hating person:
Ulysses by James Joyce: Right. It’s one of the greatest novels ever written. Created an all new genre and paved the way for lesser male writers to imitate it. Fine. Great. Regardless, it is the official talisman of the douchebag blanco bookshelf. Like Joyce himself, the avid proponent of Ulysses believes, “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.” Fuck off then.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace: A thousand pages. “Unconventional narrative structure.” “A sleek Vonnegut chassis wrapped in layers of post-millennial Zola.” Are you sold yet? If not, maybe the fact that it’s a satire about America, its values and the future that those values are destined to yield will tantalize you. Then again, I would prefer to watch a back to back double feature of Children of Men and V for Vendetta because dystopias set in Britain are so much more elegant.
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon: Like Bret Easton Ellis (who doesn’t make this list because at least he’s bisexual or something, which reflects in all of his books, whereas Chabon merely toys with gayness for reasons that appear self-serving rather than politically exploratory), Chabon struck white boy gold by publishing the novel he was working on while in college and one of his professors was kind enough to pass it along to his own agent (white boys must stick together, after all, especially in these times of hyper-malignment). Experiencing immediate success in the form of having a bestseller on his hands, the premise of the book is in keeping with what your average white guy finds to be creative: mobsters and the associated hijinks that come with them. It’s not totally unlike the plot of Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn, which also makes a cameo on this list right…now.
Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem: Lethem is one of the most boring under the guise of being interesting modern writers there are. Motherless Brooklyn is a paragon of that. Centered on Lionel Essrog, attempted to be made more “likable” and “interesting” with his characteristic Tourette Syndrome, this narrative also heavily features a mobster underworld. Set in prime “literary white guy®” territory, Brooklyn, it takes a herculean effort to remain engaged past the first twenty pages.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen: Oy vey. As if Franzen needed more smoke blown up his ass, this, his pièce de résistance, is frequently billed as “the Great American novel.” Focused on a family “falling apart,” one can instead find less pomposity in referring to The Magnificent Ambersons, Franny and Zooey (J.D. Salinger isn’t just for the “literary white guy®”), The Squid and the Whale or The Royal Tenenbaums (with regard to the last two, sometimes films truly can be more literary than literature itself).
The Circle by Dave Eggers: Because Eggers’ major work, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, is nonfiction, let us look to his other more recent, behemoth in page count novel, The Circle, which he also adapted the screenplay for. But even Emma Watson couldn’t mask the fact that it was very, very unenjoyable.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac: “A pain stabbed my heart, as it did every time I saw a girl I loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world.” Jesus, spare me. It is lines like these that accent the retro male need for female ownership in spite of himself being constantly free to do whatever the fuck he wants, including travel at leisure with his comrade, as is the case with Sal Paradise when he gets all homo in his admiration for “carefree” Dean Moriarty. Again, I’ll make a cinema reference in saying that a viewing of Thelma and Louise might be more rewarding. Or listening to Lana Del Rey talk about beat poetry in “Brooklyn Baby.”
10:04 by Ben Lerner: While some might argue that Leaving the Atocha Station is Ben Lerner’s more viable work of fiction, it is 10:04 that is his most grandiose in white maleness. Mainly because it has the gall to classify itself as metafiction (in contrast, at least Leaving the Atocha Station pretended to be semi-stylized), which was already done with more grit and distortedness in Lunar Park.
White Noise by Don DeLillo: Funny, “white noise” is a title that applies to pretty much everything white men say. From the lies they tell about love and loyalty to their endless bloviation about literature, poetry and art. If I wanted to hear a constant stream without interruption, I’d go to fucking Niagara Falls. In any event, the white male protagonist fittingly teaches “Hitler Studies,” so at least DeLillo is being somewhat deprecating toward his “kind.”
My Struggle by Karl Ove Knausgård: Not a coincidence that the ultimate in white guy lovers, Adolf Hitler (always with the Hitler), also has an autobiographical book of the same name, in this multi-volume–six, to be exact–tome, Knausgård, like every white male, has major daddy issues and huge bifteka (beef) with his ex-wife. How goddamned original. You’re better off reading American Psycho, the central character that is the murdering psychopath Patrick Bateman based on Ellis’ own high-powered property developer father also has a misogynistic hatred for his frivolous fiancée, Evelyn–far more dynamic to read about than this not even fictionalized account. And, once again, I have to defer to the only white male author with any true gumption, Bret Easton Ellis, and his belief that, “If you’re a dude and you’re super-successful, the chances are you have something to prove to Daddy… would I have become an artist without my father’s influence? No, I probably wouldn’t.” So please, if there are any freshly made fathers out there, please love your white male son so he doesn’t feel compelled to become anything other than the vanilla soft serve non-artist he truly is.
Well, there you have it, a few titles you can comfortably and with great relief remove from your bookshelf now that there’s no “literary white guy®” in your life to impress any longer. And no, you don’t need to fear that not reading these books or books of this ilk will make you a less viable writer. Because, remember this: white men have never been true artists–they have never experienced even remotely the same level of pain, suffering and marginalization as anyone outside of their “sect.” And that’s becoming increasingly apparent as the literary world starts to open itself to an entirely different barrage of voices. Ones that don’t pertain merely to not feeling loved enough by Mommy and Daddy, drinking and/or being hurt by a more attractive woman who was, in the white guy’s mind, too slutty anyway.
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