By Christian Schussele (16 April 1824 – 1879) – Flickr, Photographer: cliff1066, 26 August 2008, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7361478
Some call it Dick Lit, others call it Lad Lit, but many male authors reject both of these genre categories as being reductionist, inaccurate, and for unfairly lumping disparate novels into a single arbitrary category. How can gender be a genre, they ask. Certainly, the complexities of great literature cannot be distilled around a single appendage.
I heartily agree.
I think we should use at least two appendages. That’s why I’m proposing a new name for literature written by men, for men—let’s call it Geniuses with Penises.
In my humble opinion, this new genre provides a much more accurate description of so many male authored novels. Often, these books have a protagonist who is some kind of genius. He may not be brilliant in a traditional, Einsteiny way, but he’s certainly enough of an expert for the male author to interrupt the narrative with frequent mini-essays about baseball or whales or music or spaceships or zoology or whatever. Not inconsequently, this genius also owns a penis. Geniuses with Penises.
While some readers and publishers have sought to make a distinction between Lad Lit and Dick Lit, claiming one centers on interpersonal relationships, while the other features sexploits and explosions, this new category of Geniuses with Penises makes room for both of the kinds of novels that a man might write about men. In this genre a male character can interact with people or with things! Sometimes both!
Where once Nick Hornby, with his stable of male protagonists spouting specialized knowledge, was cruelly categorized under Lad Lit, he now falls squarely into the Geniuses with Penises genre. And poor Dick Lit author John Grisham, whose male protagonists are often the only ones who can solve the case, will no longer lay unseen and unread on the Mystery or Thriller shelves. Rest assured, this new genre is designed to help male writers as much as it will help male readers. At last, they will know where to find each other! On the second floor by the automotive manuals!
The Geniuses with Penises category can also be applied retroactively over large swaths of the literary cannon. Jane Austen was nearly lost to the ages until she was recategorized as Chick Lit, next to those Chick Lit classics Gone with the Wind and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. At last, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Charles Dickens will be able to break free from that great, unsorted, mass of authors who battle it out, based on talent and individuality, over on the Fiction shelf—now they will be grouped according to their gender identities on the Geniuses with Penises shelf!
Imagine a day when a nascent male reader, who’s just discovered Bukowski or Kerouac, won’t have to wander aimlessly around the bookshop, hoping against hope to stumble onto his next fix. He will be able to simply pick up a neighboring book on the Geniuses with Penises shelf. The male reader will be comforted by his new genre’s uniform color scheme and eerily similar title fonts. Eventually he will come to appreciate that his intelligence, taste, and complex inner life have been thoroughly understood, weighed, and replaced with his genitals.