Monday, August 22, 2005

Book Review: The Bastard on the Couch

My wife got me this book, called The Bastard on the Couch. It’s a companion book to The Bitch In The House.

It's interesting. A series of essays by men about men and what they feel, and sometimes why they feel that. It leads off with singles, then people in relationships, men in marriages good and bad, divorced men, etc. A couple of the essays spoke to me, and I guess a couple (a different couple) might speak to anyone, but in the end I felt the book was wanting as a source of insight.

I think the book got off to a bad start with a series of essays by single men. My main thought about them was, "What losers". But not because they were single (I was single for a loooooong time); rather, because of how they viewed their singleness. One fellow refused to get involved with a woman unless she was completely independent, and had no need of anyone or anything outside of herself. From the essay, it seemed such a woman also had no need of any sort of companion to keep her happy. It seemed strange to him that the one woman he encountered that seemed to fit the bill was remarkably likely to ignore him on a date if she found something more fun to do. So he was alone, partly because because he had created an ideal that excluded about 95% of normal humans and the remaining 5% were mostly composed of selfish, narcissistic assholes. The boy had issues, as they say. Another guy enjoyed being a boy toy for older women. His appreciation of their experience and depth was ironically, totally superficial and self-centered.

I'm not sure I was able to get over my turn-off of reading these sorts of essays right off the bat.

Another problem is typical of these sorts of books. Most of the essays have a tendency to speak for all men. "Men do this" "men feel like this" when of course, I'm a man, and I'm thinking, "Actually no, I don't do that".

Then there was where they came from and what they did. There about 21 essays all told. Nineteen gave me an idea of the writers location. Twelve of them were written by men from what I would call "back East". New York City (6), Massachusetts (2), Vermont (2), and two who gave a location as "East Coast". Three others were West Coast, two in California and one in the Pacific Northwest. One in Ann Arbor, one in Gettysburg, PA, one in Chicago. One lived in Arkansas, and one wrote from prison.

Of the occupations I could determine, eleven were writers of some kind. One was an artist. Then we had a stay-at-home-dad, and a bouncer. And the fellow in prison, which I thought was a good addition, even if he didn't discuss how he got there, something I thought was important.

No essays from men living in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, etc. No obvious computer programmers, engineers, firemen, cops, bus drivers, car salesmen, farmers, ranchers, retail clerks…

Not exactly what I would call a representative sample. Granted, if you're asking for essays, you're a lot more likely to get writers than shop foremen. But if you're trying to get a look at the gamut of actual living breathing men…well, I think its lacking. I think the editor could have cast a wider net.

So if you want to know more about men and what they think and want, I don't think The Bastard On the Couch is for you. Unless you need info on men who are writers living on the coasts, the east coast especially.

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