Friday, March 13, 2020

Dude Book Talk: A Translation Guide

As many of you have noticed, I host a March Madness bracket for books every year (be sure to like and follow Talking Lit with Aunt Mary on Facebook to play!). As you may further have noticed, books are divided into often snarky themed “divisions” for the first round of competition. Past years have included divisions such as the “But I Saw the Movie” Division, the “Too Hot for the Censors” division, the “Baby It’s Cold Outside and Also in My Raw Soul (The Russians)” Division, etc. But as much fun as we’ve had with the “Time Travel and Aliens” Division and the “Books Probably Written on Drugs” Division, one favorite has been repeated for three years running by popular demand, with new titles each year: the “Books Dudes Really Want You to Know They’ve Read” Division. I can only assume that this division’s popularity speaks to a widespread experience among women of hearing about the same dozen books all the time while conversing with men in bars, so I’ve decided to compose this handy guide to interpretations.

I will preface this by saying that I have read all these authors and liked many of them, that men and women I like and respect list some of these as their favorites, and that this is all in good fun. I also wish more people of all genders talked about books in bars, even if it’s Cormac F-ing McCarthy.

So. Ladies. When he says he loves this book, what he really means is...

The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)

I haven’t read a novel since high school. I have lots of residual teen angst.

Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace)

I have read many novels since high school. Long ones, even! Also, I am sensitive and earnest and ever so emotionally available. I wear flannel.

No Country for Old Men (Cormac McCarthy)

I am edgy. I either can or would like you to believe that I can ride a horse and shoot a gun. Emotionally unavailable. I also wear flannel.

Freedom (Jonathan Franzen)

I read the New Yorker and wear nice shoes.

The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)

I am a poetic soul. Chicks dig poetic souls. However, women will always disappoint me and love is an ultimately fruitless pursuit.

Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

I am Political without necessarily actually being political. We live in a Society. I am from Indiana.

American Pastoral (Philip Roth)

I am Political without necessarily actually being political. We live in a Society. I am from New Jersey.

Ficciones (Jorge Luis Borges)

I am lettered enough to appreciate the short story as an art form. I either read another language or would like you to think I do.

Fight Club (Chuck Palahniuk)

I know this book is actually a critique of aggressive and heteronormative masculinity, but it actually makes it sounds pretty awesome. So I am a very tough guy. But, like, self-aware about it.


I actually did not get that this book was a critique, in which case I am a very bad idea.

Ulysses (James Joyce)

I hold an advanced degree in English literature or a related field. I either own a blazer with elbow patches or would like to.

On the Road (Jack Keroac)

I’m either under 25 or over 65. 420 (and more) friendly. Not interested in a commitment.

Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)

I believe in the gold standard and that’s what we’re going to talk about for the rest of the evening.


  1. You are SUCH a great writer. I enjoy this blog immensely, and bow to your masterful use of snark.