"Taking the Pulse of Aussie Masculinity"

You know what? There’s an unquiet voice inside me that says I should give up trying to be published.

It’s fed by lines I hear amongst the publishing profession, such as, ‘You could write the best book in the world, but no one’s going to publish it if they can’t sell it.’ Sure, this is countered by the success of someone like Joseph Heller, author of Catch 22. A publisher, one of the first twenty or so to turn him down, said this;

‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’

The other thing that makes getting published such a drag is that my agent originally contracted me because she was looking for ‘stories for blokes’. Sam De Brito’s The Lost Boys and Tim Winton’s Breathe are representative of this category; the first is more of a mediocre horror story for women, while the latter is an okay story about wimps and what it means to be one.

In my opinion, publishing, like film-making in Australia, is very much in the grip of fashion. Unfortunately, it is a fashion observed by a tiny proportion of the community-at-large, most of whom wear their chardonnay-socialist badges with pride. They aren’t reading to be enlarged; they are reading to have their prejudices confirmed.

De Brito’s success is partly the case in point. The most riveting part of the novel is possibly the most disturbing, when the protagonist and a group of his mates receive fellatio (in a conga line) from one of the group’s girlfriends, while her partner sits nearby and quietly cries. Truly stomach-turning, but the most disturbing thing is the quotation on the back of the book; ‘Sam De Brito takes the pulse of Aussie manhood.’

I think part of fitting into the publishing establishment now, as a man, is about owning your inner rapist; sitting quietly on the end of the couch and nodding about how lost and damaged you are during conversation breaks while the ladies are talking (ladies purchase 80% of books published, don’t you know).

Well, for the few who are in danger of hearing this particular voice crying in the wilderness; HERE’S THE NEWS. Men are NOT all rapists in waiting. Men who rape women, and whose idea of arousal requires debasing a woman, are criminals. They should be avoided by their peers and punished to the full extent of the law. I shun anyone who engages in this kind of behaviour as I would shun a paedophile. The greatest compliment a man can receive is to be desired by a beautiful woman. To take her body, her beauty from her by force, is an act of vandalism.

And as for all this bullshit about sitting down in a circle, crying about our fathers and accepting how lost we are, may I direct you to page six of Ransom by David Malouf, who writes about the Greek hero Achilles;

“He had entered the rough world of men, where a man’s acts follow him wherever he goes in the form of a story. A world of pain, loss, dependency, bursts of violence and elation; of fatality and fatal contradictions, breathless leaps into the unknown; at last of death – a hero’s death out there in full sunlight under the gaze of gods and men, for which the hardened self, the hardened body, had to be daily exercised and prepared.”   

One of De Brito’s readers put it quite succinctly in her comment on one of his posts about the qualities that make a man; she wrote that such qualities were more apt to describe ‘character’, irrespective of gender. I’m a man in the more ‘traditional’ mode, but for me, it’s about staring into the abyss, feeling it stare back into you, and asserting your existence by jumping into it.

Sing, Goddess.

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