Top positive review
Every Six Seconds...
on 22 January 2015
You know, there's a funny thing about bloke-lit. It always seems to turn out to be about feelings. Bloke-lit books seem to present men with certain emotional situations and then write about how they feel about them. I'm not going to deny that men can have feelings too, you know. I mean, I've even been known to have the odd one or two myself. But where are the books about the things that the magazines like FHM and Loaded would have you believe men are really all about. Where is the book about leering at pretty girls and, if you're lucky, having sex with them?
So when I spotted Mark Mason's "What Men Think About Sex", I thought I'd found it. Tim and Rob are colleagues in a London office. They have recently been joined at work by Clare Jordan, a colleague on secondment from their San Francisco office. With Clare Jordan being an attractive woman and Tim and Rob being single men in their late 20s, they predictably fancy her immediately. But instead of competing to win her heart in a more chivalrous fashion, they decide to have a properly blokey competition.
Thus, the Clare Jordan Five and Three Quarter Feet Handicap Stakes are born. The idea is that both of them have to be first to have sex five times. Tim has to have sex with five different women, all with names starting with the five letters of Clare's name, in the right order. Rob has to have sex in five locations starting with the five letters of Clare's name, although not necessarily with five different people. The first to complete all five stages of the challenge wins the right to ask Clare Jordan out, with no interference from the other.
"What Men Think About Sex" is the story of that challenge, as told from Rob's point of view. It charts their progress, their failures, their successes and the daily grind that happens around the challenge. Rob describes where they went, who he spoke to and what they got up to, both as it relates to the challenge and how it doesn't, although as things progress, nearly everything relates to the challenge in one way or another. Rob also explains how he feels about the challenge itself and what he thinks about various aspects of sex along the way.
Oh dear, it's about feelings again, isn't it? Strangely, this doesn't jar. For, unlike the characters in many bloke-lit novels, Rob and Tim are genuine blokes. In fact, they could maybe even be more accurately described as "lads" rather than "blokes", which makes this the first "lad-lit" novel, rather than another "bloke-lit" one. What this means in real terms is that Rob and Tim feel a lot more real than many characters in novels, as they feel a lot more like the kind of people you'd meet in your every day life. They're not battling with strange jobs and secret daughters, like in Mike Gayle, and they're not having a mid-life crisis that threatens to change their lives, as in Nick Hornby or Tony Parsons. They are just normal guys, living a normal life. Indeed, at many points, I found myself feeling that Rob could have been me, as I agreed with him on so much and I have never felt that way about any bloke-lit character before now, although Mike Gayle's "Turning Thirty" came fairly close.
Well, more or less. As with many chick- and bloke-lit novels, there is a variety of experiences that wouldn't happen to most people in such a short space of time. However, you could imagine all of the events mentioned happening over a longer space of time and the novel just feels as if the dead space that would happen in a normal life has been removed and everything scrunched up together to make it more interesting.
The book is written in a part-diary, part-novel format. Although each chapter is dated, and some times are given as sub-headings, it does feel more like a novel than a diary for the most part, as Rob frequently breaks off from describing events to talk about past experiences and past and present feelings.
Unlike in other bloke-lit novels, though, Rob is describing the feelings about certain commonplace situations. They may not be ones a lot of men think about, but they are ones than most men will be able to identify with. If it's not something you've experienced before, you may know someone who has. That is the true success of this book - Rob and Tim are a lot like Bridget Jones in that you can identify yourself and your friends with them and with the things they do. This level of realism is not often present in modern literature, which makes it even more of a wonder.
In many ways, this is as close as bloke-lit has come so far to matching "Bridget Jones's Diary". It doesn't have quite the same realistic touch, but it comes closer than anything that has ever gone before, as well as being easily readable, thanks to there being less of a reliance on the diary format, and very light hearted.
If the genre is one you enjoy, you need to be finding a copy of this book. Essentially, this is a book for any man who has ever wondered when there would be a bloke-lit character they could ever relate to, or where our Bridget Jones was. This is a book for men who want to read about how we truly think and act as a gender, and for any woman who has often wondered the same. If you've ever had sex, or considered having sex, this is for you.
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