I wrote a piece for Gawker, which went up yesterday, about long, ostensibly difficult works of fiction in my recent personal experience, tying it in to a contemporary cultural debate that I find kind of besides any real point even though the majority of my sympathies might be said to fall on the "highbrow" side of it. The response has been gratifyingly positive; even the comments, which can get pretty brutal on the site, have been relatively civil if not always laudatory. One person saw fit to note there were a lot of white males on the reading list I recounted. This was funny, in its implication that I was somehow obliged to meet some kind of diversity quota on my own time (as a reader of the piece will note, I recounted books that I read incidentally, as it were; I wasn't thinking of writing about them at the point of reading them). There is a possible point, or two possible points, embedded in that slice of snark. It's in fact true that I took a preemptive action against that comment by mentioning the possibility that I might next turn to Marguerite Young's Miss Mackintosh, My Darling, next. But there's a larger point concerning the presumption that white males have something of a monopoly on the long and/or "difficult' "literary" novel.
Well, as any reader of Samuel R. Delaney's Dhalgren can tell you (and I'm one), that's of course not the case. And I would have liked to have worked into my piece at least a mention of the admiring name-check Thomas Pynchon gives Ishmael Reed in Gravity's Rainbow (page 598 in the "Penguin Great Books Of The 20th Century" paperback edition), but that really wasn't germane to the matter at hand. And I was weirdly reminded of my admittedly pissy protestations a few years back considering Katie Roiphe's own observations that certain kinds of "big" novels were just something that women didn't do.
I also published something this week about a white male epic in a different medium, Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America.