Men Can’t Write Good


Author Marian Keyes

“I only read women. I know that men write books. But their lives are so limited. It’s such a small and narrow experience,

Their literature just really can’t match anything written by a woman. I just think ‘**** off’.

I’m tired of women being treated as second-class writers.

If a man is really, really good and I can believe the glowing reviews have any basis in fact, then I will read the occasional one but not really, no, not when there’s so many fabulous women.”

Marian Keyes, promoting her new novel Grown-Ups this week


Author Marian Keyes has confessed she only reads books written by women because she feels men’s lives are too limited (MailOnline)



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75 thoughts on “Men Can’t Write Good

  1. DrainBamaged

    So next comes the 48 hours of “hateful online abuse” in reaction to her comments then the follow up article about how she coped deal with the reaction to her comments. A couple of shoulder pieces maybe about the nature of online trolls, misogyny etc… I’m sure Una will help us understand these comments are ok because of privilege or toxic masculinity.

    Tis a wonderfully cynical symbiotic relationship.

    1. Nigel

      Those clever tricksy women, getting targeted by hateful online abuse, then talking about it, but you see right through them!

      1. D

        Is it really abuse if you want to be abused? Kinky.

        > Keyes considers herself a feminist, and has chosen to reflect feminist issues in many of her books.


        This whole feminism just means equality has died a death lately hasn’t it?

        Or it’s just a joke is it? Women can make jokes because it’s not punching down…

        Double standards everywhere.

          1. D

            your position is either:

            she’s just sending up typical tropes that men write about female authors to gain attention


            she is sincere in what she says

            in both cases she is looking for attention to flog a book, which you are calling abuse.

            so she’s asking for it and you agree with me.

          2. Spaghetti Hoop

            Take a look at her Twitter activity, Nigel. When she goes off on one, it isn’t designed to preserve peace and harmony.

          3. Spaghetti Hoop

            Huh? I wasn’t referring to either – I was referring to Keyes being deliberately divisive on social media to garner publicity.

          4. Nigel

            I was replying to D. That you think a female writer with opinions on twitter must be courting controversy for publicity is just disappointing.

          5. D

            How dare you, a man, suggest a person can’t hold two contradictory positions at the same time! It’s this sort of toxic oppression that is holding back the human race.

            Are you parodying yourself now Nigel?

          6. Nigel

            The idea that women have complex inner lives just like real humans a bit beyond you D? Try reading some books by women.

          7. D

            well that’s me convinced, dare say I’ve not read one since famed racist Enid Blyton (complex indeed, would put you right off) but I’ll start again with what’s her face here.

            then I’ll woke up right along with you, can’t wait!

            oh to be Nigel, a man can but dream.

            beyond parody.

      2. DrainBamaged

        But this has literally been the strategy by politicians of either gender in the past few months. This is more about knowing how to parlay the level of celebrity in to a narrative. 1. Make stupid statement/Fupp up. 2. Wait for abuse to roll in because the internet. 3. Engage victim narrative and swerve away from the initial mistake/idiocy. Didn’t think this was controversial to point out.

        Did no one pay attention to the great demo of this with American chap who came over for the All-Ireland?

        1. Nigel

          Except she hasn’t really said anything stupid, just repeated back stuff said to her with the genders switched. This is one of those rare cases where the reaction really does prove her point.

          1. paul

            she’d be better off rising above such comments and being successful on her own merits rather than wading into the mud with the rest of the troglodytes. If her books sell well without slinging around ‘men are crap’, then fair fecks.

            If someone has nothing nice to say, better to say nothing at all. Closing Twitter completely would solve a lot of these problems though bigotry, sexism, racism etc would probably just find a new home.

          2. Nigel

            Save your lecture for the people she’s responding to, maybe. Why should her being snarky about the comments she’s subjected to equate with her wading in mud?

          3. DrainBamaged

            Right if it’s so important to you I’ll be clear as I can. So out cynical self promotion and relying on the predictability of the internet, she engaged the strategy I’ve previously mentioned without having made the stupid statement because it is satire/parody therefore bulletproof and guaranteed bait for the smoothest ridged brains on Twitter. Definitely groundbreaking.

  2. Spaghetti Hoop

    “…their lives are so limited.” WTF?

    I abhor these sexist comments, especially from people who have a surprisingly large fan base – some of which are probably high-fiving this cheap statement. She’s a stirrer of her own PR and an awful eejit with it.

  3. kellma

    What a silly thing to say….. If what she said was true (that men’s lives are so limited) then one could argue that they therefore have to compensate with their imagination which would make them more creative writers. Either way, its such a daft thing to say. I have read one or two of her books and they are what I would call, light entertainment.

  4. class wario

    stupid comments (probably intentionally so to garner outrage although I reckon he misjudged the extent of these ones) but obvs a bit perturbed about the queues of people always slating her own stuff so felt she’d give some needle back. a bit of a non story

  5. Nigel

    I hate to break it to everyone but that is an assembly of typical comments made about female writers, only changed to apply to men. There’s probably a literary term for it, but it’s the sort of thing that some men only find funny when other men do it.

    1. Listrade

      “chick lit” is a condescending term pretty much implying all those books are about shopping and t-shirts with “Wine O’Clock”. All genre fiction tends to be looked down on as being “low-brow”, but at least that is genre specific, Chick Lit grew as a term for pretty much any general fiction book written by a woman.

      Anyway, I’m not offended by what has been said. She’s probably right. I find the “men write women” satires that pop up on Twitter and Reddit funny and have also ruined many good books for me as it becomes apparent men can’t write women that well.

      But then it is vice versa. I read a couple of highly recommended books last year that I just couldn’t get into. Written by women, one was specifically because the main character was largely a 12 year old boy and it was so far off what a 12 year old boy would be like I (especially in the 80s) just couldn’t get into it. The other had terrible characterisations of men, but the female characters were horrible too. So there was at least consistency.

      The point is, it’s hard to get a character right when it’s not you. So if your interest is in more female led/orientated fiction, you will probably get a more accurate character from a female writer. If you want a female led story that includes a 4 page description with flowery metaphors for the specific shape and form of her boobs, lips and figure, us men have that covered.

      But if you like good stories, go for either. But know that either one can make a balls up of characterising a different gender, sexuality, culture or anything outside of their own experience. Sometimes it’s not essential, but sometimes it’s enough to totally take you out of the story and ruin it.

      TLDR: Marian’s probably right. If your interest is female led fiction, male writers probably won’t do it well.

      1. Listrade

        More comments as this is in my wheelhouse, but only to trigger some of our commentators on here. The key here is diversity of voice. It’s not pushing the existing white, middle class voices to be more diverse in their characters, it’s pushing for more diversity of writers.

        As a working class person, I pretty much only ever see “my culture” represented as either scroungers, criminals, malingerers, alcoholics, domestic abuse or drug addicts. All of which exists, but doesn’t come close to defining the life I had growing up. Some have come close to the normal, fun, loving and laughing I had growing up (amidst all the struggles), but as much as I like Ken Loach, for f*cks sake Ken, it’s a Home Counties view of “Life Up North”.

        And that’s me, white and male. Imagine how it is when you’re from an actual minority. Your life is written as a series of cliches. Every Asian family is overbearing father stopping daughter having a boyfriend she wants. Then when you get a story written by someone from that culture, it’s like my youth, except with better food.

        Plus, sometimes diversity shakes up the tropes of a specific Genre. The Babadook in my opinion is one of the greatest horror films of the last decade, if not century so far. The premise isn’t anything different, but the dynamic and the theme is. Men writing about a single mother would probably have her (in her underwear) doing some Ripley in Alien kick-ass stuff. But in the Babadook, it’s a different horror, the mother hates and resents her son. That’s a perspective (and fear) we don’t see often and it was totally fresh.

        NK Jemisin should just keep winning all the awards all the time for her Fantasy writing. It’s on the nose as hell about civil rights, but it’s a different perspective added to a genre full of tropes. Rebecca F. Kuang’s series (2 books in). Again, theme we’ve seen before but centred around Chinese history and the diversity of culture within China (plus a different perspective of the West and Japan).

        More diverse voices gives us fresher and better writing. You’re free to like what you like, we all read for our own reasons. But accurate characterisation isn’t just limited to men can’t do women and women can’t do men. It stretches down to class, culture, sexuality, race, etc.

      2. Nigel

        It’s not that she’s right, it’s just that she’s parodying stuff that’s been said about female authors since the year dot but it’s been utterly invisible to most of, eg, the commenters here, such that they don’t recognise it and think she’s serious. I mean, she may well only read female writers, but there’s no such thing as the Book Police, so so what? I would also note that she doesn’t really need controversy to sell her books, she already does very well, and pace something else someone said, she doesn’t need to say something controversial to get attacked by misogynst trolls online, but well done suggesting that women talking about that sort of thing are just conniving cynical opportunists loooking to make a quick buck out of being harassed.

        NK Jemsin is awesome.

        1. Listrade

          The stuff about stirring up controversy wasn’t aimed at me was it? Cos I definitely didn’t suggest that.

          We largely agree, it’s definitely tongue in cheek, but as with all satirical stuff, it’s grounded in enough truth…because she’s right.

          1. Nigel

            Heck, no, everything you said was sensible and valid and a breath of fresh air. I have taken note of Rebecca F Kuang, thanks!

  6. george

    This is the same woman who was apoplectic with rage when Colm Toibin said he didn’t like genre fiction.

  7. Captain Pants

    This is true though. ‘The Brothers Karamozov’ is glib and superficial compared to ‘Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married’.

  8. Salmon Eile

    Silly bunt who’se Twitter personality has become her main narrative channel. Stick to writing pulpable tat…

  9. Paulo

    I think Ms Keyes is hoping for some publicity to sell her bukes.

    Helpfully(for her) her target audience is almost exclusively female so the risk of alienating part of her audience is limited (compared to saying I only read Irish writers or I only read writers over 45 with life experience etc).

    There are lots of good books and lots of bad books out there. The name on the cover isn’t really that relevant. She knows that. Silly move.

  10. Brother Barnabas

    eh, I think she’s just ridiculing what some men say about women writers – these are actual comments (about her writing) that men say to her on twitter

    1. Nigel

      But when a woman says them (parodically) about men, men suddenly pay attention and get offended. Unreal.

      1. ReproBertie

        It’s very amusing to see all the lads getting worked up about this without realising what’s going on.

        1. Ironball_McGinty

          It’s carpet-bombing an entire gender to ensure that you insult a small sample that have at some stage peed you off. It’ll be interesting to see how acceptable this tactic is when it’s applied to other sections of society.

          1. ReproBertie

            A small sample that carpet bombed an entire gender. That carpet bombing was met with a shrug but once the fragile male ego is touched it’s completely unacceptable.

          2. Ironball_McGinty

            Met with a shrug by whom? Who was supposed to be monitoring the situation? Marion Keyes has, according to her Twitter, 197K followers. Do any of the people criticizing her have anything like that kind of clout? If they do then maybe they can be considered something slightly more than irrelevant no-mark trolls.

          3. ReproBertie

            “Met with a shrug by whom?”
            Well I don’t recall anyone making a big fuss about it, do you?

          4. Lilly

            Hang on, just because someone doesn’t have a massive following on social media doesn’t mean they’re not entitled to comment. Some people prefer not to spend reams of time on Twitter – that’s not a bar to venturing an opinion.

            She’s prolific on Instagram as well, part of her job I suppose to promote the merchandise, but it’s not most people’s.

    2. scottser

      i have a real wife to not understand and misrepresent, why on earth why would i buy a book bout another woman?

      1. V

        To stay in touch with your feminine side Scottie

        All the real men do it

        I betcha Dwayne The Rock Johnson does

        1. scottser

          I also have two daughters v. If I ran a million miles from it my feminine side would still catch up with me.

  11. Riz

    Her books, at best, can only be described as execrable. I read Sushi for Beginners on recommendation from my wife. Absolute cack.

    1. millie vanilly strikes again

      With all due respect, I don’t think you’re necessarily her target audience.

  12. Lilly

    I heard her on the How to Fail podcast recently (or whatever it’s called, Elizabeth Day) and she clearly has a bee in her bonnet about the reverential attitude towards men’s work in comparison with the trivialisation of women’s. In general, I find her brittle. Take Maeve Binchy, for example: I always got the impression she enjoyed writing, delighted in her healthy sales and didn’t give a fiddlers that she wasn’t hailed as a modern-day Nabokov. She had some humour and didn’t take herself too seriously. I sort of see where Marian is coming from – sees herself as a feminist trying to redress wrongs etc – but she could really take a leaf from Binchy’s book IMO.

    1. Lilly

      AFAIK she didn’t make the comments being discussed here on that podcast, Nigel. She made them during an event at the Southbank Centre.

      1. Nigel

        I think the comments being discussed here were cobbled together from stuff she’s said at various different times.

        1. Lilly

          “I only read women. I know that men write books. But their lives are so limited. It’s such a small and narrow……….. If a man is really, really good and I can believe the glowing reviews have any basis in fact, then I will read the occasional one but not really, no, not when there’s so many fabulous women.”

          She said this at the Southbank Centre. I mentioned the podcast for context only, not to argue that she had been misquoted.

          1. Nigel

            Yeah, right, I just mean she’s said this sort of thing before and every now and then some men notoce and get offended and mad.

          2. Spaghetti Hoop

            Women get offended and mad too. Mainly because she speaks as if she represents female authors – she doesn’t – she’s a chick-lit novelist with an annoying habit of trying to be controversial with cliched statements, conveniently timed with her book releases.

  13. Lilly

    Also, she was probably taking the mick out of Colm Tobin’s comments a while back about not reading genre fiction.

  14. White Dove

    A really good writer writes for themselves not ‘official’ accolades which are pretty uncool and embarrassing anyway. She sells enough to keep writing and has a loyal and devoted coven sorry coterie of readers, that’s all any writer should need. Silly to put others down in this way on the basis of gender.

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