The Art of Masculinity
Poking at the feelings and poetry of literature's macho men.
I like reading the macho and masculine authors like Hemingway and Bukowski and Houellebecq. Especially Houellebecq, if I’m being honest.
I think it is because I feel bad for them, to a certain degree. Or maybe it is because I understand them. I can see right through them. These are manly men, by traditional standards—rough, rugged men who drink and smoke and fight and fuck—but they are also men who feel.
They are writers and poets and just hopelessly all up in their feelings and inside of their own heads. These are the only manly men we can read because reading someone requires that they pen something first. We must not forget that when we read anything worthwhile about masculinity, it is always from a man who had to suspend his performance for a brief moment in order to sit down and write about his feelings.
Bukowski wrote of hookers the same way that some other men write about their wives. I think he just wanted to feel something with whoever it is that he could, at the time. He’s drunk and he’s high but he’s reciting poems with a friend.
Bukowski was just trying to get his feelings down.
Houellebecq’s nihilism is a lot like Nietzsche’s, he got there rationally after coming quite a long way and at the end of it all seems to be doing everything that he can to rip life back out from the jaws of death. Houellebecq, the author behind the most vulgar passages I have ever read and the man who litters his stories with pornographic anecdotes in virtually every chapter, writes about love. Read his books and you will see that he has written many pages about love.
I think of my own father, who was also the assistant coach of every soccer team I was ever on. My father is very likely the first person I heard say fuck or pussy or asshole in front of me on purpose. I was probably ten years old, in fifth or sixth grade, and it must have been during halftime of a match where we were down 2-0.
At that age, there is nothing more electrifying than hearing your own dad tell you and all of your friends that you are not a bunch of fucking pussies. We were not allowed to repeat it, definitely not in front of our mothers, but I know that all of us repeated it in our heads.
I have also seen my father cry, many times, like when his mother was dying. We were in the car, he was behind the wheel. We immediately changed course and headed towards the hospital, but a change like that is imperceptible when you are more than three hours away.
I have seen my father cry many, many times and even a few times when he’s happy.
I know what my father’s teary face looks like, and I have always appreciated that about him. I think it is similar to the way that I appreciate the words of Hemingway and Bukowski and Houellebecq. I appreciate the feelings, the attempt to unravel the complexities involved with being a man and the honesty behind it all.
Masculinity is complicated but it should definitely involve feelings, that much is clear. Perhaps it is the cases that lack feeling that we should be mercilessly criticizing.1 The sappy man-poets, on the other hand, are probably for the most part pretty good guys making an honest attempt at life?2
I recently learned that Andrew Tate “wrote” a book titled The Tate Bible, and it begins with a remix of The Lord’s Prayer titled The Tate’s Prayer.
I vomited these paragraphs straight into the Notes app on my phone after reading this wonderful piece on Hemingway by Blaise Lucey, which I highly recommend.
I also enjoyed reading this interview with Alex Perez, who “always has something interesting to say on the current state of literature, on being a man in the writing world, on being working class in the writing world, on being Cuban-American in the writing world, on not fitting into stereotypes or boxes in the literary world.”