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"Why Hemingway Is Chick-Lit"

Or, to put it more accurately, "Why All Fiction Is Chick-Lit." Lakshmi Chaudhry's new article in In These Times addresses the pronounced gender gap in fiction readership. The article makes some very valid points, not the least of which is giving David Brooks a well-deserved smackdown.

(Lisa Zunshine's) book, Why We Read Fiction, argues that fiction as a literary form offers us pleasure because it engages our ability to mind-read, "a term used by cognitive psychologists, interchangeably with 'Theory of Mind,' to describe our ability to explain people’s behavior in terms of their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires." Fiction, therefore, "lets us try on different mental states."

Women are more likely than men to enjoy reading fiction, period (as opposed to just reading about "feelings and stuff"), because "they generally want more input for their Theory-of-Mind adaptations," says Zunshine. "They want to experience other 'minds in action'—which is another way of defining 'empathy'—much more than men do."

As an aspiring novelist myself, I urge you ladies to please keep reading until my fellow male lunkheads finally realize that reading fiction isn't just a girly pursuit.

August 16, 2006 in Books | Permalink