Books and Gender Differences

Let it be said from the outset that I am in no way criticizing McCarthy for not writing more women characters. No one author, with the possible exception of the entire body of Shakespeare’s works, can completely capture the total of human experience, nor should any author be expected to. The beautiful and true snapshots of life that great authors give us are clues for understanding the world and life and how to live it. But his statement did make me wonder: Is not understanding the opposite sex a common feeling for most people? Am I strange for not finding men hard to understand, or for believing that men shouldn’t find women that difficult to understand either? Am I odd for believing that in spite of our differences, there are certain fundamental things that tie us all together as humans, providing common ground for understanding each other? Maybe we are all unique snowflakes, despite Chuck Palahniuk’s claim in Fightclub, but certainly we share certain drives, desires, fears and loves that make it capable to understand even those who are quite different from us, male or female.

Has McCarthy just had bad experiences with women, or is he one of those people trapped inside their own worldview? Oprah neglected to ask him (or it might not have made the cut) about what Cormac McCarthy loves to read, or what his favorite books are. Someone needs to loan this man Gilead and The Sparrow. I don’t need a book to be about women, or even to feature women characters, to love it. The Road was fundamentally a story about the love a father has for his son in a dying world. There was nothing in that story I couldn’t relate to—although I might not have related to it as strongly before I became a parent. Fathers or mothers—we live to protect our children, to keep them from sickness, hunger and despair. Good fathers and good mothers delight (at least most of the time) in their children, and desire to help them “carry the fire” in a sad and dying world.

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I love his stories because McCarthy’s characters often have the will and the strength to do what is required of decent human beings even when it seems pointless, impossible and hopeless. Many times they fail, despite being good people with good goals. The darkness of the world swallows them up. Perhaps that’s the most beautiful trait I can imagine a person possessing at this point in my life. Male or female—we love and take of those who are given to us whether or not we can keep them safe and whole. Male or female—our hearts break for those around us—or far away from us—who are suffering. Like Job, when all seems lost, we throw broken prayers up in the hope that there is a God who hears them. We give time and tears and money. Like David, we lay awake deep into the night. Like Esther, we toss our love and work into the darkness with nothing but a fluttering white hope that the things we do will matter, or will succeed—and even if we knew for certain we would fail, we would do it all anyway. We will continue to be true to the Love that calls us out of the darkness. Male or female.

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