That Man, This Woman
The great humourist Stephen Leacock published a book of literary parodies in a volume called Further Foolishness. Among them was one he called The Snoopopaths which satirised romantic fiction. Early in the piece he noted that ’in order to be read by the average reader, whatever the story is about it has got to deal with A MAN and A WOMAN’ He justifies the use of upper case in order he says ‘to indicate that they have got to stick out of the story with the crudity of a drawing done by a child with a burnt stick’.
This novel is not the work of a child. If the author could just slow down the chatter she might be a decent writer. As it is, the prose style and the heroine reminded me of Bridget Jones on speed. And overall this 456 page (including bonus chapter with male PoV) is pretty much the same sort of thing; except it has not been written by Helen Fielding.
In order to be fair to the genre I felt compelled to research academic literature in relation to what sort of erotic or even pornographic material turned women on. Any fool can do this so I offer a simple précis of the main findings from studies ancient and modern – many conducted by American Universities among students. There seemed to be three simple observations.
1. Women can be turned by porn and erotica nearly as readily as men – although they tend to lie about their arousal to explicit material and are more eclectic.
2. Women prefer a lot of context and relationship content whereas men like to cut to the action.
3. Women tend to fantasise about idealised or celebrity characters, whereas men tend to go for ‘real’ women who they know, have known, or think they would like to know.
This Man is perfectly positioned to deliver against these criteria to its target audience. Who am I to sneer at evidently widespread female obsessions with wealth, male charisma and ultimately, the experience of a well-sized stiff cock attached to a clean-limbed and muscular man who passionately desires them.
It would be relatively easy to satirise the text, which is indeed full of Leacock’s Snoopopathic conventions. Heroes are always ‘straight-limbed and clean-shaven’ and a woman’s gowns always ‘reveal every line of her figure’. But that is not the point – or rather it is precisely the point. This is a perfectly well-executed novel for its intended market.
What this reader found hardest going was the sheer relentless volume of gushing narrative. It was like sitting for hours in the corner of a smart wine bar in Kensington, listening to a hen party. It was interesting to gain an insight into the heroine’s physiological response to lust. It fitted in with what I have occasionally heard BBC ladies say when exposed to something racy – that they did find themselves ‘feeling a little hot and bothered’. I’ve never noticed these phenomena in real life which is probably my problem. I did think the use of the term ‘toilet’ let the tone down.
Stephen Leacock’s Further Foolishness first published by John Lane, New York, 1917
Jodi Ellen Malpas, This Man, by the author and Orion Books, ISBN-13: 978-1409151487, paperback, RRP £7.99