introducing readers to writers since 1995

August 09, 2005

Author2Author: Amanda Filipacchi &
Adrienne Brodeur, pt. 1

by Ron Hogan

I met Amanda Filipacchi at her book party a few months ago, and soon thereafter she expressed her enthusiasm for the Author2Author features here and wanted to know if she could do one. Sure, I said, so she lined up her friend and fellow novelist, Adrienne Brodeur (whose name Poets & Writers fans will recognize from an article on what happens when editors write), and they set about querying each other about their novels: Love Creeps for Amanda, Man Camp for Adrienne.

filipacchi.jpgAmanda Filipacchi: I found Man Camp a lot of fun to read, which you may find surprising when you hear I'm someone who gets pissed when my mother asks my brother to sit at the head of the table because he's a man, or asks me to do the dishes and asks him to do nothing except occasionally take down the trash or other manly activities. I can't stand those stereotypical gender roles and I can tell you they've caused many fights in our family. Even at other people's houses, or at dinner parties, the sight of all the women bustling about, clearing the table, while the men just sit there and talk fills me with a kind of sad nausea. In your book, I found it very interesting to see how you explore the opposite point of view. Your female protagonists want men to be more manly (though I couldn't help noticing with glee that in one scene these women do get irritated when the men don't help clear the table). You describe that point of view very persuasively and I found myself able to see the appeal of a manly man (albeit only for brief instants, because it goes against my nature). When you wrote this novel, did you wonder whether you might be taking a possibly unpopular stance on this subject, and if yes, did that worry you?

brodeur.jpgAdrienne Brodeur: I love this question because, believe it or not, my head was nodding in agreement throughout, especially during your description of "getting pissed" at family gatherings. I've felt a similar fury over the years watching my brother push back from the dinner table, arms often behind his head, as he waits for some eager girlfriend (or worse yet, my mother or me) to clear and wash his dishes. Argh!

But anyone who really reads Man Camp, I hope will recognize the fun I poke at all gender stereotypes. The title of this book is meant to be outrageous. Hell, the concept, if taken seriously, is downright offensive. But therein lies the twist: it is the urban men, initially ridiculed for their lack of skill in the area of manly arts, who end up thriving at Man Camp, the dairy farm where they are sent to go through masculinity boot camp. And it is Lucy and Martha, two completely competent New York women, who struggle and fail when expected to adopt more traditional gender roles. Moreover, Cooper, the man who the women initially idolize as the perfect male and who is the main "counselor" at Man Camp, is discovered to have chinks in his macho armor. Precisely, it is his brand of conventional machismo (doing things the way they've always been done, not discussing problems or feelings, etc) that seems to be undercutting both his financial and romantic success. In the end, the New York men with their new culture of masculinity are the ones who save the day.

Obviously, Man Camp takes a rather light-hearted look at the subject of gender roles, making its points through humor, and while I don't feel defensive about it, I've been surprised by the reaction that somehow I must be an advocate for days gone by. Hardly! Man Camp sets out to tease women every bit as much as men about the seemingly ubiquitous desire to have it all in a mate, when ironically, if there is one truth about love, it is that it requires compromise on everyone's part. And while I'm sure this is unnecessary to state, like all women of our generation, I owe a huge debt to the feminist movement. Over the course of my professional career, I've had the opportunity to be chief of staff in a political office, to found and run an award-winning fiction magazine (Zoetrope: All-Story), and now, to write and publish a novel.

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