SOME AMERICAN MEN by Gloria Emerson
Kirkus Star


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Let us now hear from American men. If not many of them (they're more reticent to open up than women, after all), then at least some. Let's hear how they as a group are faring--what they're doing, thinking, feeling--in these uneasy times. That's what Emerson, a former Vietnam war correspondent for The New York Times and winner of the National Book Award for her non-fiction Winners and Losers, sets out to do in Some American Men, a sometimes beautifully crafted, sometimes too-loosely stitched patchwork of profiles of some 20 ""ordinary"" American men. But who are these men in relation to Emerson, why were they spotlighted, and what are we to make of what we're asked to see? There's a young Princeton graduate who'd had a brilliantly reckless undergraduate career, who works as a dishwasher in a Boston restaurant-bar, and whose motto is ""Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to wash and dry."" There's the unhappy, homesick New York Times correspondent in Africa who quits and comes home to New York. There's a supermarket security director who's ""not interested in leisure, health, nutrition, sports, movies, books, international news, the economy, music, nuclear arms, politics, or food""; his only interest being ""his job and whether someone was swiping the expensive cuts of meat."" There are a handful of war veterans--some proud, some bitter, some broken--and another handful of despondent, laid-off Ford workers living in Lorain, Ohio. There is a college professor who left his steadfast wife for a younger, bolder woman named Maude; and another college professor who lost his lovely wife to cancer at 29, is raising their daughter by himself, and asserts, ""There is so little cultural drive for men to change."" Is this group a random--or even representative--sample? Emerson writes with tenderness and compassion--especially about the men who are obviously her friends, former colleagues, and, possibly, relatives. She seems to see all men as wounded soldiers, requiring sympathy and understanding. This book makes a step toward that understanding. It's a welcome addition to a short but slowly growing list of books and articles on Today's Man. But much more needs to be said. Other men need to open up to Emerson or another sympathetic recorder.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Simon & Schuster