Men: Which books or movies have resonated with your private inner thoughts or feelings?
June 20, 2011 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Question for men: Which books or movies have resonated with your private inner thoughts or feelings?

Occasionally, I will be reading a book and be surprised to come across an idea that I'd never talked about with anyone, and never knew anyone else thought. Or a character has a feeling about something that I didn't know anyone else felt -- or it's just a spot-on description of that feeling. It's particularly surprising to me when the author is male, and the idea or feeling is about an aspect of being female.

Have you, as a guy, ever had this experience, in a book, movie, or some other form of art or media? (I'm particularly interested in forms of art/media that are based on the written/spoken word).

If there's anything you don't want to post publicly, you can also email me at
posted by Ashley801 to Media & Arts (93 answers total) 149 users marked this as a favorite
Fight Club was like that for me, sadly enough.
posted by empath at 1:56 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

Lots of Murakami resonated with me as a started to hit adulthood, especially Wind-Up Bird, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood.
posted by supercres at 2:00 PM on June 20, 2011 [6 favorites]

Murakami: Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
Abbey: The Fool's Progress
posted by Seamus at 2:03 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, by Carson McCullers. And a lot of J.M. Coetzee.
posted by Maxa at 2:04 PM on June 20, 2011

Two books that come to mind:

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which called into focus the relationships between parents and child, and then that child and surrogate child (without spoiling too much). It is a book filled with rage, and the feeling that your life is not your own, and yet it is also a hopeful book.

Unbearable Lightness of Being, for the way in which it defined communication within a relationship, especially tragic misunderstandings and things left unsaid. It also described the feeling of lives growing together almost as a form of music.

Both of these books come at relationships from a "masculine" point of view, which is somewhat uncommon.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:04 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Virgin Suicides (book and movie), really reminded me of what it was like to be a pre-teenager and the way women seemed to be these impossibly remote, unknowable entities.
posted by signal at 2:12 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Steps, by Jerzy Kosinski, is "a collection of unbelievably creepy little allegorical tableaux done in a terse elegant voice that's like nothing else anywhere ever" (DFW's phrase). It is not a book that I enjoyed, exactly, but I think about it often.

It's mostly a book about being an asshole. I don't relate to that part, particularly. But it captures things I've felt keenly before in a way that nothing else does, and which seem to me specifically male - the idea that loving anything is inseparable from weakness because it expands what you must physically protect, the detachment which one can feel while thinking and doing awful things. If you read it thinking "men are like this" you'd be wrong, but it's an honest answer to your question.
posted by piato at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2011

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
posted by mattbucher at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

The Tree of Life is both heartbreaking and reassuring in its portrayal of the relationship between father and son.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Almost everything by Nicholson Baker -- especially The Mezzanine, which is literally a novel about a man's inner thoughts, moment by moment. That book resonated with me in a way no other novel had, in that he captured the kind of ultra-minute, fleeting thoughts and observations that we make all day without taking any notice of.

I also really like Michael Chabon's nonfiction book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs. I think, like Baker, Chabon captures much of the male experience without trying overtly to make any kind of big, bold statements, but going in the other direction, letting the truth emerge from small moments.
posted by Pants McCracky at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's nothing particularly male-specific about it, but when I read Nicholson Baker's The Mezzanine I thought "oh my God, I can't believe someone else noticed that exact thing" about three times per page. The only other book I can think of that's resonated with me that way is Italo Calvino's Palomar.
posted by theodolite at 2:19 PM on June 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

This is a male speaker by a male writer, and probably speaks to some horrible quality in my character, but Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" articulated the interaction between the fear of commitment and the fear of death that I have certainly felt a number of times since reaching quasi-adulthood.
posted by dismas at 2:20 PM on June 20, 2011 [4 favorites]

I mean, I get this from books all the time, but I get the impression that you're looking for examples that go directly to concepts of maleness or masculinity, not just great insights about life, etc.

High Fidelity, both the book and the resulting movie, seem to have a pretty good take on how a lot of guys I know--myself included--think or have thought about relationships.

Various parts of The Brothers Karamazov have struck me as well.
posted by valkyryn at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I came in here to say The Tree of Life, which got a whole lot of feelings and memories dredged up from childhood that I had completely forgotten I'd ever had.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:23 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Interesting; Fight Club resonated with me as well. I wouldn't couch it as sad though. It wasn't the violence part but the stuff about what I guess you would call 'being a man', which I still think is spot-on. Please not that 'being a man' may mean something ENTIRELY different to me than it does to most people, or to popular culture.

Some Hemingway has moments in it that felt the same. Emasculation and the complexity of women in "The Sun Also Rises", and the quest to be self-sufficient & forming a relationship with the surrounding world in the Nick Adams Stories (and elsewhere).

Faulkner, also, for the depiction of hardness and utter pragmatism in the face of tragedy. Possibly not as common a trait in today's new world, but something a lot of us may remember from Fathers & Grandfathers.

Fortress of Solitude: just a kid growing up.

Great question, I could probably think of more, and add more details.
posted by kris.reiss at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Travis McGee novels: That stereotypical male simplicity of seeing the world as various things you either fuck, eat or take, but with a certain morality.

Carrying The Fire: Being overwhelmed by emotion in a good way, yet being unable to express or share it in a male dominated setting. Feeling weak and unable to admit it, for professional and pack standing, in a male dominated setting. Feeling you're in over your head, but determined to master the task/job etc anyway, so you're not thought of as weak/dumb/sissy male.

The writings of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Autobiography of Malcom X, Dr. King's writings, etc: The red hot fury of dealing with racism as black male in America, the confusion over why it occurs and making peace with all that

On preview:
Yeah, High Fidelity and Fight Club a bit, I call that age The Era Brave Stupidity.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, yes: Fortress of Solitude, for the same reason as Tree of Life, oddly enough.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2011

I'd also like to mention Daytripper, a comic by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. It traces some of the prototypical moments that define a man's life, and it resonated with me on a deep level.
posted by Kafkaesque at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Melville: Bartleby the Scrivener
(I was mid-20s, reading Melville's short stories while working in the woods during my summer break from teaching high school. Don't know why, but it spoke to me.)
posted by Seamus at 2:35 PM on June 20, 2011

Probably an odd choice for a pro-feminism white boy, but I think the Autobiography of Malcolm X did this for me. Although I disagree with many of Malcolm X's decisions, I can't think of a more personal and honest discussion about what a man is and how men "should" behave. I especially liked that the underlying tension in the discussion was between man vs property, not man vs woman.
posted by eisenkr at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2011

Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance for me. The specific philosophy of "quality" didn't resonate with me at all, but the general perspective of deep reflection and analysis impressed me greatly, and led to me getting a degree in philosophy.
posted by fatbird at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Read The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq. Though, it might make you feel bad about being a man.
posted by sub-culture at 2:41 PM on June 20, 2011

The Road - McCarthy. Not so much the apocalypse, more the love for a son.
posted by Fiery Jack at 2:43 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Iron Giant somehow gets to the core of my childhood in a way that is in no way similar physically but completely nails it emotionally.

And Jonathan Tropper's "How to Talk to a Widower" resonates for me because it's a protagonist that's flawed but not horribly so. That's clever but not fulfilling his promise. Of basically someone who I feel I could be in a way I've really not seen in other materials.
posted by rileyray3000 at 2:43 PM on June 20, 2011

Fight Club, Voices from the Street and Revolutionary Road.
posted by rr at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2011

High Fidelity definitely resonated with me.

Galaxy Quest, because I'm a science-fiction nerd and self-aware of my nerdiness.

I saw Hannah and Her Sisters when I was at a point in a relationship when it really struck home. I probably wouldn't have the same feelings if I watched it now.

Likewise Generation X. Again, this is an age and generational thing, but I read that book in one sitting (very rare for me) and it too really struck home.
posted by adamrice at 2:47 PM on June 20, 2011

I quizzed Mr. gudrun about this and he wants to contribute Tom Perrotta's Bad Haircut: Stories of the Seventies.
posted by gudrun at 2:49 PM on June 20, 2011

Hemingway. Almost all of his stuff deals with men and what it means to be manly. I can't say I identify with all of it but there are quite a few pieces that have resonated with me.
posted by _DB_ at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2011

Oh, seconding Greg Nog's Achewood suggestion. Our every move is the new tradition.
posted by dismas at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2011

Nthing High Fidelity. For a particular kind of guy, we might not all act like that guy, but we've all thought like him. At least a little. Most Nick Hornby protagonists are like that.

The movie Big Fish - in particular the relationship of a grown son to his old and dying father.

Jame Salter's The Hunters, if you want to know what the world of men often feels like.

The most recent episode of This American Life, with the Father's Day theme.

Ultimately, your question is too broad. All classic dude fiction could fit your description - what description or thoughts are you looking for specifically? Or is the only criteria that they not be regularly broadcast through media?

Here's my favorite, though - from Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash:

Until a man is twenty-five, he still thinks, every so often, that under the right circumstances he could be the baddest motherfucker in the world. If I moved to a martial-arts monastery in China and studied real hard for ten years. If my family was wiped out by Colombian drug dealers and I swore myself to revenge. If I got a fatal disease, had one year to live, devoted it to wiping out street crime. If I just dropped out and devoted my life to being bad. Hiro used to feel that way, too, but then he ran into Raven. In a way, this is liberating. He no longer has to worry about trying to be the baddest motherfucker in the world. The position is taken. The crowning touch, the one thing that really puts true world-class badmotherfuckerdom totally out of reach, of course, is the hydrogen bomb. If it wasn't for the hydrogen bomb, a man could still aspire. Maybe find Raven's Achilles' heel. Sneak up, get a drop, slip a mickey, pull a fast one. But Raven's nuclear umbrella kind of puts the world title out of reach.

Which is okay. Sometimes it's all right just to be a little bad. To know your limitations. Make do with what you've got.

posted by NoRelationToLea at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2011 [12 favorites]

I really liked Secondhand Lions. It is kind of a kitchy movie but the message of believing in and doing the right thing, regardless of whether or not its true really moved me and galvinized into words a thought I had long had.

And in a somewhat related note the Shawshank redemption had much of the same overall message for me-keeping a faith in the rightness of your own convinctions and good convictions in the face of an ugly reality. And those convictions paying off in the end. It isn't how the world always works but I think we are better off as a society if our morality tales actually convey good morals being rewarded for being good morals.
posted by bartonlong at 3:06 PM on June 20, 2011

Fight Club for an incisive satire of "manliness" in the late 90s. The satire is still basically undated.
The Power of One for a genuinely inspiring story of about a boy who is bettered through a father figure.
Notes From The Underground for how marginalized men assert their existence, even if only to themselves.
Marcus Aurelius' Mediations for pure stoicism.
Great Apes by Will Self is pretty relatable if you're a neurotic who relates to humanity in a detached, confused, and vaguely disgusted way, i.e. if you're anything like me, and I really hope you aren't.

Also, I'm currently reading Clive Barker's Sacrament, and it's pretty awesome. The childhood flashbacks alone are a pretty vivid and haunting depiction of the events that eventually define a man.

Movies (two of these used to be plays, deal with it):

Superbad is an extremely well-observed comedy about teenage boys realizing that growing up means growing apart, and how that might not even be such a terrible thing.
Donnie Darko found a resonant way to show the awkwardness of adolescence: by fusing it to a bizarre, dreamy time travel story where the main character never really knows what's going on.
Rango was a surprisingly smart riff on Westerns. It actually wound up developing a strangely mature lesson about our roles and our lives. It also happens to be extremely cute and extremely well-made.
The Servant is an effective and creepy depiction of power plays amongst men.
Glengarry Glen Ross remains to be one of the best depictions of what men perceive their competition to be like amongst other men in the workplace.
Edmond is a very creepy and disturbing look at a man who feels neutered and decides to go on a bender. In doing so, he uncorks an unending flow of repressed hate and childlike naivete. While much of it is dated, the basic idea still holds.
posted by Sticherbeast at 3:08 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Adaptation, and that included not only the protagonist's (Nicholas Cage) internal monolog but the character played by Meryl Streep's as well.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

The movie Big Fish really resonated with me. Not so much the relationship of Billy Crudup's character with his father, but the notion that my grandfathers were both once younger men and went through a lot of the same struggles I have as they made their way in the world... and that all of their anecdotes really happened, and those stories and memories are intertwined with the stories and memories of other people I'll never know.

Also: I never really thought of them as spoken word pieces before, but I suppose that's exactly what the rituals and lectures of the three degrees of Freemasonry are. They reflect the same "how to be a good man" lessons I learned from my dad & grandfathers growing up. You might also like this question on the green from a while back.
posted by usonian at 3:22 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also meant to include a link to The Art of Manliness.
posted by usonian at 3:25 PM on June 20, 2011

A Cabinetmaker's Notebook by James Krenov. He was a master woodworker and teacher who had an intimate, loving understanding of what it meant to be a craftsman in the pure sense of the word. His writing is simple and honest, but the depth of nuance in the subject matter and the way people relate to objects is genius.

It's not necessary to have an interest in woodworking or any technical knowledge to follow or relate to Krenov. He's readable, approachable, and wise.
posted by Graygorey at 3:27 PM on June 20, 2011

Into The Wild remains one of my favorite books, after first reading it as a college freshman. His other book, Into Thin Air, is really good too.

I can't think of any that have specific passages that spoke to me in the way you described, but the whole story of Chris McCandless as told into Into The Wild definitely speaks to me, even though I (kindof sadly) accept that I will never actually do anything like that.
posted by teatime at 3:28 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Falling Down really resonated with me. First, and most superficially, there's the broad-but-shallow examination of emasculation and violence-as-masculinity. The first half of the movie follows Michael Douglas' character as he gets frustrated with the grind of daily life and begins acting out in increasingly violent ways, and in the process becoming a man-bites-dog media hero. Nice, cathartic fun, right?

The second half shows how these impulses have been the root of his life falling apart in the first place, and that while those impulses might have the thrill of immediate gratification, they carry long-term consequences.
posted by lekvar at 3:28 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Bits and pieces of a bunch of Hermann Hesse stuff, but most particularly Steppenwolf. There was even one eerie part where I was thinking about Bach's St. Matthew's Passion while reading it, and then the book started talking about idly reflecting on St. Matthew's Passion. I can only assume i subconciously saw that part ahead of where I was reading at that point, and it triggered the though in my head, but it was a pretty weird moment.

Other Hesse books I would sort of identify with include Narcissus & Goldmund, Under the Wheel, and parts of The Glass Bead Game. Certainly not Demian though, no sirree. Maybe a little Siddhartha.
posted by LionIndex at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2011

My top five:
All of Nicolson Baker
Infinite Jest by DFW
Early Phillip Roth
Most of Michael Chabon
The Ang Lee film of The Ice Storm (not the book)
posted by roofus at 3:34 PM on June 20, 2011

Invisible Man by Ellison
posted by Rubbstone at 3:35 PM on June 20, 2011

The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

The Soloist by Mark Salzman (there are other books by that title, so note the author particularly)

Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk

parts of: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, as others have suggested; On the Road by Jack Kerouac (sp?) and You Can't Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe (other parts of all these books were overwritten nonsense; YMMV)

As I think about all these books, I think the common thread is the main character has enough "otherness" to be at times quite conflicted with the world, but either all through the book or at least by the end has learned, or is at least trying to learn, what it is to be a mensch. (not trying to be flip using that Yiddish/German word - I just don't know that there's an English word that captures it.

Great question/thread. If it gets chat-filtered that'll be a shame, but I'm going there with it.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:47 PM on June 20, 2011

The Will to Change by Bell Hooks.
posted by John Cohen at 3:51 PM on June 20, 2011

Memories of My Father Watching TV. What, no one else dreams their family members into roles in old sitcoms and adventure shows?
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:58 PM on June 20, 2011

The movie Big Fish really resonated with me.

...and I'll speak to the other half, since I never really knew my grandfathers: The father-son relationship definitely struck a chord with me, especially in the way that my father can completely work my last nerve while also being charming and genial to all and sundry. Also, I saw it amidst a very international crowd and the Americans were all choked up while the Europeans and Asians just found it bewildering, so there's a cultural component too.
posted by psoas at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2011

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. The narrator strikes me as having a very authentic male voice (well, really, a white, educated, middle-class male in the late 20th century). I have often recommended it to women as the book that gets men and their interior monologue. But, of course, that just means that it resembles, for better or worse, my interior monologue, right?
posted by seventyfour at 4:25 PM on June 20, 2011

Salinger's Nine Stories.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2011

The Old English poem The Wanderer and the movie In the Mood for Love.
posted by No-sword at 4:40 PM on June 20, 2011

Stand by me - looking back as an adult at the friendships in childhood.
About a Boy (the movie)
Limbo - Alfred Lubrano (this is more about my upbringing rather than my experiences or thoughts as defined by my gender).
posted by fizzix at 4:40 PM on June 20, 2011

Tropic of Cancer, Zen and the Art of mc maintenance, and all of Carlos Castaneda's books.
posted by JohnR at 4:42 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I remember that the irreverence and violence of American Psycho was pretty awesome to 19 year old me. Not because of the character of Bateman but because of the skill and manic creativity of the author.
posted by blargerz at 5:08 PM on June 20, 2011

Also, Rescue Me is a male version of a soap opera. It doesn't describe every male of course, but it touches on some male thoughts and viewpoints and inner monologues.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:08 PM on June 20, 2011

I am literally sitting here getting chills whenever someone mentions Tree of Life. It is very much concerned with what it is like to be a boy, a man, and a father. It is a deeply uneven movie, Malick's most flawed so far, but there is a 45 minute or so sequence in the middle as the family grows up that is simply breathtaking. The relationship between the brothers, and between the father and his sons, is extremely evocative when I think about my own father and childhood.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:11 PM on June 20, 2011

I am not a man, but Andre Dubus' short stories helped me understand a lot about how men experience divorce and parenthood.
posted by yarly at 5:14 PM on June 20, 2011

Has anyone mentioned Field of Dreams and The Natural?
posted by Ad hominem at 5:28 PM on June 20, 2011

On the Road and You Shall Know OUr Velocity resonated with me at the time in my life when I read them.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:49 PM on June 20, 2011

The book and the film Being There by Jerzy Kosinski and Hal Ashby respectively. I identify with Chance the Gardener, especially as he is played by Peter Sellers.
posted by 2ghouls at 6:45 PM on June 20, 2011

For the young adult male, nothing I've read captures that period of a young man's life as "Space Station Seventh Grade".
posted by Jaybo at 7:25 PM on June 20, 2011

How Late it Was, How Late, by James Kelman.
posted by Abiezer at 7:32 PM on June 20, 2011

The movie Naked did it for me at the time.

Not that this had anything consciously to do with "masculinity" or anything like that for me (although that might or might not be present; I'll leave that up to the critics) but more because of what you were asking about, along the lines of "Hey, this character sees the world more or less like I do!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:44 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hunter S. Thompson.
posted by paultopia at 7:48 PM on June 20, 2011

As it so happens, I asked a similar question a while back. Between this and what other guys have told me: JD Salinger, Jack Kerouac, John Updike, Richard Ford, and Richard Russo are all good entry points (for books).
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:51 PM on June 20, 2011

It's not so much "spoken word," but I can vividly remember being 13 and encountering Black Flag, DOA, the Circle Jerks, etc for the first time and having this immediate sense of connection, based on "wow, I'm not the only person this angry, dumb, and confused." It was incredibly visceral and instant.

I still very much enjoy (and in some ways still connect with) movies about those kinds of confused and angry men/boys. Usually they go on to make all kinds of bad choices, so the last third of the movie is mostly eye-rolling and waiting for him to stab his best friend or whatever, but they are still fun to watch. I'm thinking here of films like This Is England, Romper Stomper, Head-On, etc. My life has been much tamer and I'm all boring and old and mature now, but the anger and hyper-masculinity of those movies is still something I can relate to very directly.

For books, Catcher in the Rye is a classic for a reason, as is Lord of the Flies. But (maybe like what you were describing in your question), I most enjoy it on the odd occasions when a woman writer nails something male that I can connect with. I couldn't name specific stories, but Kathy Acker's writing definitely spoke to me in that way, for example, as do many memoirists. In the backwards mirror of their lives I can see something of myself, maybe.

Lastly, I was really struck by how all over the map the answers here are. I don't think it would be easy to pull out a pattern from this, other than that men read what is available to them and take their lessons accordingly.
posted by Forktine at 8:14 PM on June 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suppose this is obvious, but I remember shaking my head and shooting air out of my nose all through Swann's Way. Some of those elaborate page-long similes really do cut straight into memory.

Also, 4chan.
posted by flechsig at 8:24 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Duelist. Because very often the answer to "Why are you doing this?" is "I don't know."
posted by Bachsir at 8:33 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Catch-22. I originally read (and loved) it in university, but the older I get the more sense it makes.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:40 PM on June 20, 2011

The protagonist of John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor is a pretentious boob who obsesses over inconsequentialities to an embarrassing degree and who habitually misperceives the world as well as his place within it. I saw much of myself in him, and watching his follies play out felt like a grim-yet-loving prediction of the many ways I shall screw myself over in the years to come. It is my favorite book, and the most pleasantly painful to read.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 9:18 PM on June 20, 2011

Films - 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita by Frederico Fellini

Seconding Infinite Jest.
posted by j03 at 10:46 PM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and Withnail & I helped me to identify (but not quite reconcile) who I was versus who I thought I wanted to be when I was in my early 20s.

Oh, and the Iron Giant? Just thinking of the robot saying "Superman" makes me weepy.
posted by Graygorey at 10:47 PM on June 20, 2011

Ransom, by Jay McInerney... and this may be a bit outside what you had in mind, but the collections of mysteries by Henning Mankell, Peter Robinson and Sjowall and Whaloo have resonated, both in a lot of the individual books and what's related over the course of the collections.

The characters age, they grapple with challenges relating to aging parents, kids grow up, relationships start and end, the characters' reactions to things at the age of 45 are different than they were when they were 25, etc.
posted by ambient2 at 11:12 PM on June 20, 2011

Mosquito Coast. If I could write this would have been the book that I wrote.
posted by gonzo_ID at 12:32 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Any number of Raymond Carver's short stories. He grapples a lot with expectations and responsibility and adulthood in the lives of men. A number of stories whose names escape me right now hit pretty close to home.
posted by fso at 12:38 AM on June 21, 2011

Actually, now that I think about it, Wes Anderson's films have a lot to do with how men construct their identities these days. Bottle Rocket is about work and male friendship. Rushmore is about romantic relationships and the arts. The Royal Tenenbaums is about family. The Life Aquatic is about fathers and sons. The Darjeeling Limited... is kind of a mess actually, but certainly has a lot to do with mothers and sons. I don't think Anderson has had a female protagonist yet.
posted by valkyryn at 5:13 AM on June 21, 2011

Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov, the first 100 pages at least .
Alasdair Grey's Lanark.

Wilhelm Genazino - there seems to be only one of his novels available in English.
posted by kasparhauser at 5:36 AM on June 21, 2011

When I was a kid, this book was My Side of the Mountain. Lately I have really liked (really, really liked) A Month in the Country by JL Carr for its depiction of the incredibly important interstitial moment.

When I saw Old Joy I remember thinking that I had never before seen a movie that so honestly and accurately depicted male friendship.
posted by OmieWise at 5:52 AM on June 21, 2011

The Science of Sleep.
posted by mkb at 6:44 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretty much everything Philip Roth has published.
posted by jayder at 6:48 AM on June 21, 2011

They've both been mentioned by others, but Egger's You Shall Know Our Velocity (the original version, not the edited version with the extra chapter shoehorned in), and Krakauer's Into The Wild both cut me to the core (and in the latter case, shamed me with the evidence that I lack the courage of my convictions.)

I associated strongly enough with Spider Jerusalem that I got one of his tattoos myself (the right forearm piece).

As a boy who was estranged from an uncaring, capricious mother at an early age, I can never, ever again watch A.I.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:59 AM on June 21, 2011

I had had abstract thoughts in the various subjects of Ishmael, so when I read it, it was particularly exciting. I had never found the words to describe some of the ideas I was kicking around until then.
posted by evening at 9:21 AM on June 21, 2011

Not too proud too admit this, but I have to add to the many guys here who have mentioned:

High Fidelity

Unbearable lightness of being
posted by ALLLGooD at 9:35 AM on June 21, 2011

Two that haven't been mentioned yet:
Confessions of Zeno by Italo Svevo (which I did not finish, but I think it fits from what I have read)

and A New Life by Bernard Malamud. (see my review - it's the 10th one)
posted by wittgenstein at 1:22 PM on June 21, 2011

Response by poster: Wow. Thank you all for this phenomenal thread. It's going to be a massively thought-provoking summer as I dig into everything you've mentioned.
posted by Ashley801 at 6:41 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

The way A Visit from the Goon Squad got into its characters' heads totally resonated with me. They're all trapped in their own histories and secret embarrassments, and it totally made sense to me.
posted by Rinku at 6:43 PM on June 21, 2011

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers: There's a part where he mentions the horrible fact that children, even those with fantastic wonderful parents, sometimes fantasize about becoming orphans (perhaps because of romantic portrayals of it in literature). There are many other such things in this wonderful book.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind: The closest anything could ever come to describing how I feel about relationships and memories.

Catch-22: The true ridiculousness of living in a a bureaucratic world.

Office Space: Specifically the line "It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."
posted by haveanicesummer at 6:51 PM on June 21, 2011

Oh yeah, came across this hip hop song which nicely sums up a male point of view in a cheeky and fun way.. It's Serengeti's Dennehy, which is a love letter to working class life in Chicago.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:08 PM on June 21, 2011

Mosquito Coast.

That dad was essentially my dad...
posted by jkaczor at 8:24 PM on June 21, 2011

Most books by Kurt Vonnegutt Jr.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:30 PM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

Breaking Away--starting to understand how class works.

Death of a Salesman: my father, and the fathers of some friends.
posted by mecran01 at 8:56 PM on June 21, 2011

All the Fast and the Furious franchise.

Okay, no.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. I don't exactly see myself as Steve, but there's something about his disappointment in himself and the way he tries to deal with it that is very real, behind the absurdity.

I seem to remember thinking The Hours (the book, haven't seen the film) struck me as pretty extraordinary. Been meaning to re-read it.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:12 PM on June 21, 2011

As a child, I enjoyed reading The Giving Tree. I remembered it as a story of a boy and a tree that loved one another. As an adult, I was overwhelmed by the sacrifice of the tree and the self-centeredness of the male protagonist. Thinking about it now still brings up strong feelings of sadness and guilt. The book also very neatly catalogs the preoccupations of men throughout their lives.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:05 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I suggest Thich Nhat Hanh's Peace in Every Step. He just has a way. It helped to get me out of some dark times and appreciate life as it comes. Also, any fiction by Ken Bruen. His Jack Taylor series, starting with The Guards onward is quick-moving hardboiled narrrative set in Ireland. Sure the alcoholism and the downtrodden character is cliche' in other books but his stories always offers some small parts of redemption in the character that seem real. William Styron's Darkness Visible is an AMAZING read about Styron's struggle in the abyss of the mind. It was a wonder he could even write, let alone write a masterpiece. Finally, The Art of Peace was profound in helping me see that force and anger are not necessary ways of settling things. And, as stated above, Haruki Murakami's books. Any of them. You pose a great question! Damn, I love Metafilter.
posted by snap_dragon at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2011

Seconding The Sportswriter. It has the peculiar distinction of being the best book I know that men seem to respond more positively too than women.
posted by vecchio at 6:08 PM on June 23, 2011

Bridge to Terabithia
posted by amitai at 1:25 PM on June 27, 2011

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