21st century Darcy
November 23, 2009 3:30 PM   Subscribe

BookRecommendationFilter: I'm looking for the Jane Austen of the modern man.

So, I just realized that the protagonists of the past couple dozen books or so that I've read have either been female, or male but living in extraordinary circumstances (spies, psychopaths, detectives, World War II). Is anyone writing books about regular guys anymore?

Basically I am looking for a well-developed, insightfully written main male character living in ordinary Western society during the late-20th/21st century. The only idea I have is Nick Hornby, maybe Joseph O'Neill's "Netherland" or Tom Piazza's "City of Refuge".

I know there's more out there. What else?
posted by thinkingwoman to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I greatly enjoyed the male characters in Michael Chabon's Mysteries of Pittsburg and Wonder Boys. If you like short stories, his Werewolves in their Youth collection is also very good, although a bit obsessed with marriage. His other books are excellent as well, although they tend more towards the fantastical.
posted by muddgirl at 3:35 PM on November 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Richard Ford's Frank Bascombe trilogy springs immediately to mind.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:36 PM on November 23, 2009

And Preston Falls and Jernigan by David Gates.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 3:37 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

Even though he starts out mid (not late) 20th century, you couldn't make this list without John Updike, like him or not. He's definitely on the Jane Austen terrain.
That, then, brings to mind Cheever and Yates.
For their literary offspring, Ford (as above) and Franzen's The Corrections.
Also: Don De Lillo!
posted by fullofragerie at 3:40 PM on November 23, 2009

Saturday by Ian McEwan is wonderful. The main character is a brain-surgeon, but the events of the book (kind-of) show him to be a normal guy in ways that end up mattering.
posted by gregjones at 3:42 PM on November 23, 2009

seconding Saturday by McEwan. A bit off topic, but if you like Chabon, his new book of non-fiction essays, Manhood for Amateurs is about, well, being a man.
posted by farishta at 3:51 PM on November 23, 2009

I think Richard Russo has a good sense of what it feels like to be a fairly regular guy trying to put together a normal life under what sometimes prove to be less than ideal circumstances. You might like Straight Man or Empire Falls.

Frederick Exely's A Fan's Notes also relates the story of a guy trying to make it through his own life...with what might best be described as "qualified" success.
posted by nickjadlowe at 4:03 PM on November 23, 2009 [2 favorites]

John Dolan's Pleasant Hell, if you want a profoundly cynical take.
posted by paultopia at 4:24 PM on November 23, 2009

Richard Lange's Dead Boys centers around a variety of average Joes making their way through their decidedly unglamorous lives in contemporary Los Angeles. (my usual disclaimer: Rich is a pal of mine, but I receive nothing from recommending his work besides a warm glow.)
posted by scody at 4:26 PM on November 23, 2009

I just read The Men's Club by Leonard Michaels and found it to be most profoundly a book for/by/about men. (Truth in Advertising Dept.)
posted by scratch at 4:59 PM on November 23, 2009

Seconding Richard Ford, also Eric Kraft's "Reservations Recommended."
posted by pete_22 at 5:00 PM on November 23, 2009

Seconding Richard Russo. Straight Man is great.
posted by apricot at 5:02 PM on November 23, 2009

Something Happened, Joe Heller
posted by spaltavian at 5:07 PM on November 23, 2009

Depending on your definition of "late", The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Gabrielle Roy's The Cashier (Alexandre Chenevert in the original French).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:13 PM on November 23, 2009

The Shipping News is excellent.
Homeland and
Ovenman are hilarious.

the Time Traveler's Wife is romantic.
posted by OHenryPacey at 5:16 PM on November 23, 2009

Try Jonathan Tropper.
posted by shallowcenter at 6:00 PM on November 23, 2009

Asterios Polyp just knocked my socks off.
I remember liking Moon Palace.
posted by minkll at 10:09 PM on November 23, 2009

Friends like The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas. It's Australian, but you can find it on Amazon.
posted by hifimofo at 3:26 AM on November 24, 2009

Thirding Richard Russo. Empire Falls was a great book about a normal, flawed man in less than ideal situations.
posted by PFL at 9:49 AM on November 24, 2009

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