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Entries in Books (4)

Wednesday
May232012

"Esquire" Bets New 'Dude Lit' Will Entice Men to Read Fiction

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- While women devour fiction books like the racy Fifty Shades of Grey, a major publisher is betting that more men will at long last take up reading via an eBook series that will launch June 5 -- Fiction for Men.

The collection -- a collaboration between Esquire magazine and Open Road Integrated Media -- is meant to be funny and action-driven.

"Each story is about something that men can relate to," Esquire's editor-in-chief David Granger wrote in an email to ABC News.  "One of the stories -- about a drug deal gone bad -- is surprising and exciting and violent and taps into one of the parts of life that many men dread: f***ing up in an irreparable way."

The theme of another is basketball and "the inevitability of aging;" and the third is about a boy deciding to "take on some of the trappings of manhood," according to Granger.

The first volume will highlight short stories by authors Aaron Gwyn, Luis Alberto Urrea and Jess Walter and Esquire will offer up new fiction every month.

Granger said he has no idea if this new testosterone-laden "dude lit" will tap into the new lucrative eBook market.

"This is an experiment," he said.  "I see how rabidly men, as well as women, consume the works of writers like Michael Connelly and Lee Child and James Lee Burke and I know there is a market for well-crafted, plot-driven stories."

According to several national surveys, only one-third of all American readers are males, and fiction is not their genre of choice.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
May182012

Swearing Characters More Popular, Attractive in Young Adult Novels

Zoonar/Thinkstock(PROVO, Utah) -- Profanity in teen novels varies greatly from book to book, but characters that do use foul language tend to also be the most popular, attractive and rich, according to new research published in the journal Mass Communication and Society.

Sarah Coyne, professor in the department of family life at Brigham Young University, analyzed the use of profanity in 40 young adult books on the adolescent bestsellers list.

Thirty-five out of the 40 books had at least one swear word. She found that YA novels contained on average 38 instances of bad language, but one book had nearly 500 instances of swearing.

Of note, the characters that were doing the swearing tended to be of higher social status, better looking and have more money than their non-swearing counterparts.

"The funny thing about books is that you really don't know what you're getting into when you pick one up," said Coyne. "I was genuinely surprised by how much profanity some of these books had."

The documented increase in the use of profanities within YA fiction keeps with the increased acceptance of obscenities in general, said Dr. Steven Schlozman, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.

"Recall the multiple political figures who have been heard to use profanity when they assumed they were not on microphone," said Schlozman. "The subsequent [truth] that increased profanity within dialogue or first-persona narratives, or third-person familiar narratives, adds to the YA novel, and a kind of challenging that is characteristic of identity formation for all adolescents and young adults, especially in Western culture."

And that level of profanity that kids are learning and using these days can be shocking, said Dr. Victor Strasburger, a former member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications & Media. But, while media plays a strong role in influencing children's language and profanity, movies and television have a much more powerful role than books.

"Reading has always been a separate kind of media," said Strasburger. "Seeing your favorite movie star, or someone you identify with, spouting foul language is different than reading it on a page because with movies you have the visual processing, along with the auditory and role modeling. With books, you just have the visual."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Aug122011

Spoiler Alert: People Like Knowing the Ending

Design Pics / SW Productions(SAN DIEGO) -- This story -- spoiler alert! -- has a happy ending. If it were a suspense novel, would knowing that make you enjoy it less? To their surprise, psychology researchers found that people actually rated stories higher if they knew how they came out.

So can ruining the surprise make a story more enjoyable? That's what Nicholas Christenfeld and Jonathan Leavitt found, and Christenfeld says he was at first stumped. Leavitt is getting his doctorate in psychology at the University of California at San Diego, and Christenfeld is a professor there.

"I was surprised by the finding," Christenfeld said. "I've spent my life not looking at the end of a book." He and Leavitt had 300 volunteers read 12 short stories, including mysteries or tales with surprise endings by the likes of Agatha Christie, John Updike and Anton Chekov, and rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. Almost without fail, and by sizeable margins, the readers rated them more highly if the researchers inserted copy near the beginning, giving away how the tales would come out.

"You get this significant reverse-spoiler effect," Christenfeld said in an interview with ABC News. "It's sort of as if knowing things puts you in a position that gives you certain advantages to understand the plot."

The researchers say their study did not give direct evidence to explain why people didn't mind having a surprise spoiled, but Christenfeld said he has some ideas. Perhaps, he said, people enjoy a good story as much as a good twist at the end. Even if they know how it comes out, they'll enjoy the journey as much as the destination.

"Writers use their artistry to make stories interesting, to engage readers, and to surprise them," Leavitt and Christenfeld said in their paper, to be published in the journal Psychological Science. "But giving away these surprises makes readers like stories better. This was true whether the spoiler revealed a twist at the end -- that the condemned man's daring escape was just a fantasy before the rope snapped taut around his neck -- or solved the crime -- that Poirot will discover that the apparent target of attempted murder is in fact the perpetrator."

The researchers say they're thinking about follow-up studies, though a controlled test of responses to films is more difficult than one involving short stories. But they've come away believing that surprise may be overrated.

"Other intuitions about suspense may be similarly wrong," they conclude, "and perhaps birthday presents are better wrapped in transparent cellophane."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Jul152011

Romance Novels Seduce Women into Unsafe Sex?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- An essay in Britain's Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care says that romance novels portray an idealized vision of love and sex -- and some women may not be able to distinguish fact from fantasy.

Susan Quilliam, a British sexologist and advice columnist, writes in her July 6 essay that women who read romance novels tend to "suspend reality" in their real relationships.

Although romance readers say they know the difference, "when it comes to making life decisions, are they not more tempted to let the heart dictate simply because they are romance fans?" she told ABC News.

"Women and men need to be less driven by emotion and making sensible life choices," said Quilliam, a respected health professional who updated the classic guide, Joy of Sex.

"Romance novels are great fun -- I used to read them myself -- but society's value of romantic novels needs to be taken into account when we, as health professionals, look at our patients and the decisions they make about their sex and love lives," she said.

Quilliam cites research at Indiana University that found romance novels rarely talk about condom use: "And within these scenarios, the heroine typically rejects the idea of a barrier between her and the hero."

"To be blunt, we like condoms -- for protection and for contraception -- and they don't," writes Quilliam, who cites a recent survey that shows only 11.5 percent of romantic novels studied mention condom use.

One website devoted to the romance genre -- SmartBitchesTrashyBooks.com -- called the article "bollocks, rubbish, horsecrap, all of it."

"We have some pretty outspoken fans of romance novels in our community," said Sarah Wendell, a Montclair, N.J., romance writer and co-founder of the website. "Devoted women read them and write them and have taken a lot of crap for a long time for their love of the genre. Nothing is more insulting than to be told we are sexually unsatisfied and less intelligent just because we prefer that kind of fiction."

Wendell said readers were particularly irritated because the survey of romance novels that Quilliam referenced was 11 years old and sampled only 78 books in the Cleveland area. Those novels were written in the 1980s and 1990s before public education about sexually transmitted diseases.

The contemporary romance novel, they say, is much more grounded in reality.

As for condoms, "either they are referred to specifically or you know the foil packet reference," said Wendell, author of the 2009 romance novel, Beyond Heaving Bosoms.

"If they don't address contraception or condoms, we notice and think they're stupid in this AIDS era," said Wendell, whose second novel, Everything I Know About Love, I Learned From Romance Novels, comes out in October.

"I absorbed so much from reading -- female autonomy and satisfaction and confidence," she said. "The woman always wins."

Quilliam, who was surprised by the backlash to her essay, said it was written not as scientific research but as a provocative caveat for health professionals. "I pushed a lot of buttons," she said.

In her work with young women, Quilliam said she encounters women who get "swept away by emotion...One of the things that happens is they enter into a dysfunctional romantic relationship and the emotions can be very strong. And they think if it's strong, it's true love."  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio