Tag Archives: Catherine Coulter

Gender Stereotypes in Action in Recent Best-Sellers

One of the great gender-based stereotypes about authors is that females emphasize character development, while males emphasize plot development.  Intuitively, I believe this to be true, but it is never exemplified any better than in two recent non-fiction best-sellers.

Claire Messud wrote The Woman Upstairs (Knopf, 2013), a first-person rendition of Nora Eldridge, an elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who exploits her creative habits in a studio with a partner who is the parent of one of her students.  I have never read such a deeply detailed and intimately personal description of a character.  Not only does the reader understand Nora’s thoughts and behaviors, but we are also treated to her thoughts behind her thoughts, allowing us to actually predict her next thought and her next movement.  The story dances about, and may actually be fairly shallow, but that is not the strength of this book.  Readers know the characters as well as is possible.

Contrast that book with The Highway by C.J. Box (Minotaur, 2013).  This is a story about an evil and sordid truck driver, two teenage sisters, a former police investigator, and his young former partner.  The book is action-filled, moving rapidly between scene and scene, almost as if time were an enemy.  While we follow the characters, we really don’t know them very well.  They are simply pawns on the larger board of a riveting story.  We learn enough about them to allow us to move through the action, but there is minimal coverage of their backgrounds, personality, and inner-most thoughts.  I personally hope that someone purchases this script to make a movie.  It would be a good one.

The point of all this is that there are differences.  Even Catherine Coulter, who has made a career writing FBI thrillers gives us greater character insight than authors such as John Grisham or John Sandford.  Maybe we see what we want to see when we read these books.  And, there are certainly exceptions.

But, that’s how I see it.  What about you?  Let’s talk about it really soon!

McCullough Goes Outside the Western Hemisphere for a Gem of a Book

Obviously, I read a lot of business books, but I also enjoy other types as well.  I read novels from Stuart Woods, Catherine Coulter, Harlen Cohen, John Sanford, and I really miss Robert B. Parker, who passed away last year.

I like non-fiction also.  A great best-seller that is now available is by David McCullough, The Greater Journey:  Americans in Paris (Simon and Schuster, 2011).   McCullough is the authorized biographer for Harry Truman, and that book was cryptically called Truman.  He also wrote 1776, featuring great stories of our country’s founders.  His books have obviously focused on events in the Western Hemisphere, so this one is a departure from what we are familiar with from his writing.

The Greater Journey is about Americans who traveled to Paris between 1830 and the early 1900’s.  Obviously, they went by sea, and the book chronicles the fascination that several Americans had with the Parisian arts, dining, and other aspects of its culture.  Among the characters in the book are famous names such as Samuel Morse, Charles Sumner, George Healy, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

One thing to keep in perspective as you read this book is that comparing America to Paris in this time period is like comparing apples and oranges.  As a nation, America was only 54-125 years old.  We were an infant compared to the much longer heritage and history that Paris offered these people.  Of course, almost every aspect of culture and civilization that these Americans experienced was better in Paris.  That is only because Paris had much more time to develop them.

I particularly enjoyed these Americans’ fascination with Parisian food, art, and culture.  Of course, most of these people that McCullough chronicles in the book had the money and resources to go first-class. 

And, you could still do that today if you went to Paris.  If you don’t want to do that, this book is a great way to experience the culture from a previous era.  Remember that many of the items that McCullough includes are still open and active in Paris today – the most famous being the Louvre museum.

What do you think?  Let’s talk about it!