A collection of interviews of men, conducted by a woman, about what it means to be male in today’s world.
Poet Barry (Home, 2007) writes that she’s always been “mystified by much of [men’s] behavior.” She says that she fell deeply in love with a man when she was in her 50s, but she often found him emotionally inscrutable—an exasperating experience that inspired her to further interrogate the nature of masculinity and its demands. She started by interviewing men in midlife, then interviewed boys and male subjects in their twilight years. All in all, she talked with more than 80 people, ranging in age from 9 to 94. Her sample is remarkably diverse—straight, gay, transgendered; white, African-American, Latino, Asian-American—with people from a variety of different religions, educational backgrounds, and careers. Barry says that she selected responses that displayed the most vulnerability, which is an abiding theme of the book; sometimes she presents the responses as easily digestible sound bites and other times, as longer essays. Along the way, she addresses boyhood, violence, sex, suicide, fatherhood, and fidelity, just to name a few major concepts. Barry comes to appreciate the extent to which cultural expectations shape and limit a man’s search for identity— including some that she says are set by women. The author seems to have a special talent for extracting candor from her subjects—the confessional transparency of her results is as astonishing as it is moving. The breadth of the interviews is also remarkable; one gets the feeling that the book not only covers the male perspective, but much of the full spectrum of the human experience. The author’s own contributions are thoughtful and elegantly expressed, evincing a motivation that goes beyond simple curiosity: “This inquiry was born of heartache. The sorrow of not knowing how to reach another when this is so much our common human longing. I wanted to keep my heart and mind open.”
An intriguing look into the male psyche.