Saturday, June 4, 2016

Johnny Got His Paperback

The world needs more men’s adventure fiction.

You’ve probably seen at least one click-bait article featuring a series of garish and campy covers for the men’s adventure fiction magazines from the 1950s and 1960s.  They feature bright colors, exclamation points, and outrageous article titles, “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” being the prime example.  We’re supposed to look at those magazine covers and laugh at the naked salesmanship of their creators, and the crass simpletons who consumed them.

Well not this lug, sister.  Go peddle that smoke water somewhere else, because those who sneer at the once-popular and now maligned men’s adventure genre are fools.

To start with the easy observation, the men reading those magazines were reading.  That's a huge point in their favor right out of the gate.  Their attention wasn’t yet snared by 100 television channels, video games, the modern day news cycle, cell phones, and of course the internet and blogs like this.  Criticizing them for reading the wrong way is a lot like criticizing them for eating the wrong kinds of vegetables. 

Sure, they were reading, says the cynic, but look at what they were reading.  That was trash with no redeeming value.  Those stories represented simple fare for simple minds with simple tastes.

 Au contraire.

The men reading these magazines were former GI’s, the men who came of age wading through the surf surrounded by death and flying lead.  They spent their young adulthood crawling through mud, holding dying friends in their arms, and chasing exotic women through strange foreign lands.  They learned more about the world and about life through a year of direct experience than most college kids learn in a decade of classroom study.  When it was time to relax, they sought out reading that would help them recapture the thrill and excitement of those formative moments, and materials that reinforced their self-image as brave men fighting the good fight against long odds.

The stories in those early men’s adventure magazines, regardless of how well written they were, were not just empty brain food.  Instead, they served to reinforce the cultural ideal of hard working and (generally) honest men fighting their way through a hostile world.  These were tough men facing difficult times – as we all do – who read as a means of reconnecting with the masculine need to strive, to build, and to protect.

Today the illiterati turn their noses up at the very idea of a masculine ideal, and it is this rejection of the western approach to manhood that leads them to reject stories of violent defense of the innocent, of struggle against the odds, and of brotherly camaraderie.  The tough guy tales of the past have been ejected from the universities and the schools by weak minded people who cannot even recognize what a man is, let alone why trying to be a better one would be something worthwhile.

We’re not done here.  We’ll go into this in more depth in later posts. For now, just remember that your reading tastes could do a lot worse than emulate guys like these.


Be a man.  Read more manly.

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