Fictional Religious Hypocrites Seem All Too Real These Days

Religious hypocrisy is on my mind at a time when many Christian evangelicals support Donald Trump despite America’s so-called president being an immoral person who has no compassion, cheated on his wives, sexually assaulted women, is racist to the core, is endlessly greedy, is a blatant liar, is pathologically narcissistic, and more. Anything to get their right-wing agenda enacted, I suppose.

Literature includes many hypocrites resembling those evangelicals and the many “religious” Republican politicians who espouse “values” (ha ha). I’ll discuss some of those fictional characters today.

For instance, Benjamin Blake’s Ireland-set A Death in Summer, which I read recently, includes a priest character who runs an institution for troubled boys. Despite his pious exterior, he is well aware that the institution’s rich benefactor is a vile pedophile taking advantage of those boys.

(I followed Blake’s absorbing murder mystery with Alexander Pushkin’s 1836 adventure-romance The Captain’s Daughter, which depicted little religious hypocrisy but is a great novella containing fluid prose and dialogue that seems more 20th century than 19th century.)

The priest in A Death in Summer reminded me a bit of the faux-religious Mr. Brocklehurst, wealthy “benefactor” of the Lowood institution in Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. The girls at Lowood get crummy/inadequate food, little heat in the winter, and are treated in other awful ways — with some dying as a result. St. John Rivers is a more ethical religious figure in Bronte’s book, yet is a rather coldhearted man who displays a colonialist mentality in his desire to become a third-world missionary.

Nathan Price of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible is a missionary in Africa — and that American is as hateful, racist, and sexist as many right-wing evangelicals and Republican politicians are today.

Then there’s the unnamed priest in Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory who’s on the run from Mexican authorities. Not a totally bad guy, but he’s an alcoholic who fathered a child he barely sees. Hardly a religious role model.

The cast of James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain includes Gabriel Grimes, a mean-spirited minister who also fathered a child out of wedlock and left the mother to fend for herself.

Sinclair Lewis might be best known these days for his It Can’t Happen Here novel about a fascist elected U.S. president (sound familiar?). But another of his novels relevant to our times is Elmer Gantry, whose charismatic preacher title character is a hard-drinking, ambitious womanizer.

Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood stories is a jovial figure who loves his food and wine. Maybe not hypocritical, but certainly not as ascetic as one might expect from someone in a religious position.

In the drama realm, we have the supposedly religious title character in Moliere’s play Tartuffe. He’s actually a two-faced guy who tries to seduce a married woman.

Who are some fictional religious hypocrites you’ve found memorable?

The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.

My new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia will be published soon.

But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for Baristanet.com. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Guest Literature Post by Donald Trump!

This blog will be different today, because Donald Trump demanded to write a guest piece. I told him he doesn’t read literature or know much about it, but he insisted. Anyway, things will go back to normal next week, but until then…herrrrrre’s the illegitimate president:

The Donald (me) doesn’t read novels, but I do read the backs of cereal boxes. Lots of back story, ya know?

Actually, I know a yuge amount about fiction. Not the literary kind — the “alternative facts” kind.

I can’t deal with The Wings of the Dove. Why didn’t Henry James write The Wings of the War Hawk? Sad.

The Red Badge of Courage? Stephen Crane — what a loser. Believe me, I showed more courage getting Vietnam War deferments for alleged bone spurs in my heels, even though I played a ton of sports at the time with no problem. They called me The Natural, and Bernard Malamud wasn’t referring to my hair. Colored my hair while flat on my back: As I Lay, Dying.

Also, I bigly love Theodore Dreiser. Sister Carrie? I’d like to grab her by the [deleted]. Make An American Tragedy Great Again? I’m on it!

You see, I have great respect for women. But was George Eliot transblender or something? George is a guy’s name, but that 19th-century scribbler looks female in photos. Lock her up!

“Low Energy Jeb,” “Little Marco,” “Lyin’ Ted,” Chris “Agatha” Christie (And Then There Were None: cabinet positions for him). Was Toni Morrison the lead singer of The Doors? Why did Harper Lee surrender to Ulysses Grant? Were the Brontë sisters at the Women’s March on Washington? How did Richard Wright co-invent the airplane five years before he was born? I have a Tan, but it’s not Amy.

Another George: Orwell. Love, love, love the oppressors in 1984. I even tried doublethink, but I can’t think once most of the time. Ask Herman Melania, my wife’s ancestor, who wrote about a big white male — that’s me! Captain Ahab sounds kind of Muslim, doesn’t he?

Speaking of people with that religious belief, I as the 45th president don’t want refugees and immigrants coming to America from Muslim countries (unless they’re Muslim countries I do business with). Some will die from the horrors they’re trying to flee? That’s The Art of Me Saying “Big Deal.” Call me cruel, call me vicious, call me sadistic, call me anything, but don’t call me Slaughterhouse-Forty-Five. Is that a book?

And The Blacks, The Blacks. Why isn’t novelist Benjamin Black called Benjamin White? Why doesn’t E.B. White use the name E.B. Very White? White Fang rocks. I heard about Zora Neale Hurston’s 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God — how were those eyes watching me nine years before I was born?

Flowers for Algernon — thrilling! I mentally mocked the disabled for pages and pages. Can you beat that? Well, maybe when I bring back torture. The Weight of Water author Anita Shreve needs to write a sequel called The Weight of Waterboarding.

And Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez will never cross our southern border while I’m racist-in-chief, um, sexual-predator-in-chief, um, commander-in-chief. It helps that those Hispanics are dead. Not much border-crossing mobility there…

Mark my words, I’m going to build a wall — paid for by Mexico (aka American taxpayers). We’ll build that big, beautiful fence at The Border — a novel by Cormac McCarthy, whose last name reminds me of my hero Joe McCarthy. Jim Casy of The Grapes of Wrath was a commie, wasn’t he? Not the good kind like Putin. I love Russian literature: War and WarCrime and No Punishment for Me… But Anna Karenina? Overrated! Blood coming out of her whatever (after she was hit by a train). And Alexander Solzhenitsyn? I like authors who don’t get jailed.

Did I mention I drained the swamp? Just so I could have a dry place to burn books by liberal, pinko writers. Ever read Fahrenheit 451? The same number as my IQ. It’s so high! But I didn’t really drain the swamp — I made it swampier. My administration is like a dystopian novel come to life. I have no idea what dystopian means, but Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon mentioned it one day. I think of them as The Sound and the Fury. Me? Pride and Prejudice.

It Can’t Happen Here
? It already has.

Well, that was Trump’s post. Any quips or comments about him and his tenuous connection to literature?

The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.

My new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia will be published soon.

But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Perceiving the Personal in the Pages We Peruse

There are many reasons to love literature, and one of them is seeing things familiar to a reader’s specific life.

Of course, that can mean spotting recognizable emotions, character types, etc., but for the purposes of this blog post I’m mostly talking about other content — as you’ll see. I should add that when authors are accurate or not accurate in mentioning things we’ve experienced firsthand, we obviously know it!

Anyway, I’ll give some examples that are personal to me, and then ask for some that are personal to you.

For instance, I read Sue Grafton’s B is for Burglar this week, and, early in that excellent novel, California-based private investigator Kinsey Millhone flies to Florida and drives a rental car north to Boca Raton to look into the disappearance of a woman. I immediately thought of flying to Florida last April and driving a rental car north to Boca Raton to start a weekend celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday.

Speaking of travel, the mentions of New York City subway rides in James Baldwin’s compelling Go Tell It On the Mountain reminded me of the countless NYC subway rides I’ve taken myself.

Edith Wharton, an author often associated with NYC, wrote some terrific ghost stories. When I read a collection of them last year I was thrilled to see that “The Looking Glass” tale was set in my town of Montclair — the same New Jersey setting for Susan Moore Jordan’s absorbing novel Jamie’s Children, which I also read in 2016.

Then there’s Junot Diaz’s memorable The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which includes scenes at my Rutgers University alma mater in New Brunswick, N.J.

And Audrey Niffenegger’s haunting The Time Traveler’s Wife visits several of the Chicago places I saw during my time as a student at Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern University. Niffenegger even mentions punk clubs, which made me think of the Clash concert I saw way back when — though that was in NYC rather than The Windy City.

Many of us had “interesting” roommates during and after college, and the different-household pairings of Marian and Ainsley, and Duncan and Fischer, in Margaret Atwood’s quirky debut novel The Edible Woman reminded me of my own dorm and apartment experiences as a young adult.

Moving this blog post out of the U.S. for a minute, I saw the great statue of painter Paul Cézanne during a 2007 visit to Aix-en-Provence, where my French professor wife was presenting a paper at an Emile Zola Society conference. Not long after that trip, I read Zola’s dramatic The Masterpiece starring an artist partly based on Cézanne, and immediately thought of that statue. (Zola’s not-so-positive portrayal of fictional painter Claude Lantier apparently ended the author’s lifelong friendship with Cézanne.)

During that same trip to France, we visited the Chateau d’If island prison off Marseille that figured so prominently in The Count of Monte Cristo. That stony jail was in my mind’s eye when I soon reread Alexandre Dumas’ rousing revenge novel.

And if I ever reread Sinclair Lewis’ eye-opening novel It Can’t Happen Here, I’ll think about miserably getting through Jan. 20, 2017 — the day when a man with fascist tendencies became president of the United States in real life. But those huge, fantastic anti-Trump marches the next day — wow!  🙂

Which novels have contained things personally recognizable to you, and what were those things?

(I wrote a “Recognizing Ourselves in Literature” post in 2012, but today’s new piece takes a somewhat different angle and mentions different books.)

The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone.

My new book Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: The Book Lover’s Guide to Literary Trivia will be published soon.

But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

We Like These Vulnerable Characters for NOT Being Like Trump

Thanks to a bunch of gutless Electoral College electors on Dec. 19, the U.S. will soon have a new President who seems totally sure of himself despite being a vile, incompetent, sad excuse for a human being. So it’s sort of comforting to think of characters in literature who are vulnerable and not so confident despite being nice, smart, and capable.

I’ll name some of those characters and discuss the possible reasons why they’re not Trump-like egomaniacs. Many of the reasons have to do with the knocks they’ve taken in life, not necessarily a genetic tendency toward humility.

As you’ll see, I won’t include many protagonists who are straight white males — a “group” with a seemingly disproportionate percentage of “members” possessing too much conceit and vanity. After all, to be female, a person of color, and/or gay in a sexist/racist/homophobic society can do a number on one’s self-worth.

I thought of this topic last week after finishing the first of Sue Grafton’s “alphabet series” — the absorbing A Is for Alibi. We’re introduced to private investigator Kinsey Millhone — a decent, intelligent woman with an appealing sense of humor. Yet she often beats herself up mentally, even as her “go-getter-ness” and competence rarely falter. Why the self-doubt? Well, her parents died when she was very young, she is twice divorced despite being only in her 30s, and she’s just getting by financially (being tight on money hardly boosts self-esteem in our material world). Also, she’s a not-always-respected woman in a mostly male field — especially so in 1982, when the novel was first published.

Contrast that with Philip Marlowe, a male private investigator of the 1930s who does NOT have confidence issues — as I found when just reading Raymond Chandler’s compelling “hard-boiled” novel The Big Sleep. But the skilled, cynical, slang-slinging Marlowe has much more integrity than The Big Bleep: Donald Trump.

(The many people who recommended I read Sue Grafton and Raymond Chandler are thanked in the comments section.)

Other admirable protagonists lacking Trump’s off-putting boastfulness include Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre — who is average-looking, unloved as a child, and spends years in the awful Lowood school where some of the shivering and underfed students become sick enough to die. The smart/resilient Jane’s confidence is almost never totally shaken, but there are certainly moments of despair before she reaches the dramatic ups and downs of her adulthood.

Adolescence can be tough for even the happiest of characters, but Irie Jones of Zadie Smith’s White Teeth and Molly Bolt of Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle face sexism and other serious stuff that partly undermines their sense of self-worth. The brainy, biracial Irie struggles with racism, her weight, and unpopularity at school, while the strong-willed Molly has a rocky relationship with her mother and is a discriminated-against lesbian during a more homophobic time (the novel was published in 1973).

A couple of white guys with confidence issues? One is Silas Marner, who is so buffeted by life (a “friend” frames him and takes his fiancee) that he becomes a recluse and a miser. Yet he has a good heart, which becomes especially obvious in the heartwarming second half of George Eliot’s novel. Another is Philip Carey, whose psyche is undermined by being an orphan, getting co-raised by an emotionally cold uncle, and having the disability of a club foot in W. Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage. So it’s not a total surprise when he becomes masochistically enamored with an unlikable woman who treats him badly. Yet, at the same time, the decent Philip works toward entering a helping profession (medicine) — which is certainly more than someone like Trump would ever do.

Your favorite characters who are nice, smart, and capable but vulnerable and not very confident?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, which will probably be published during the first quarter of 2017. But I’m still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson. 

California Theming

To thank one of the most anti-Trump states in the recent presidential election, California will be the subject of this blog post.

I’ll discuss uplifting as well as depressing novels set partly or completely in The Golden State — whether it be Los Angeles, San Francisco, or less-urban locales.

Last week, I read Walter Mosley’s Devil in a Blue Dress, an excellent crime novel set in Los Angeles — with protagonist Easy Rawlins taking a memorable side trip to the famous Santa Monica Pier. Visiting L.A. and Santa Monica this past summer added to my enjoyment of the book, though it takes place in a much earlier 1948 California filled with disturbing racism that would warm Donald Trump’s shriveled heart.

Among many other crime novels with a California milieu are Thomas Pynchon’s spoofy Inherent Vice (set in 1970s L.A.) and Dashiell Hammett’s iconic The Maltese Falcon (set in 1920s San Francisco).

Beautiful S.F. is one of two metropolises (along with New York City) featured in Robin Sloan’s quirky Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. And the greater Bay Area is where the action happens in Philip K. Dick’s post-apocalyptic Dr. Bloodmoney and Andre Dubus III’s House of Sand and Fog, and where some of the story unfolds in Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner.

Immigrants are a big part of the California story, and that’s reflected in Dubus’ book (an Iranian-American is one of three protagonists) and Hosseini’s novel (which features a family from Afghanistan). The Golden State is also a place where people already in America go to start anew, as is the case with Gauri in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Lowland. Plus real estate is a “yuuge” thing in California, where a dispute over ownership of a modest home sparks the major plot explosion in Dubus’ novel. Then there’s that state’s abundant good weather…unless you start thinking about things like droughts that lead to devastating fires. And the fabled Pacific Ocean, as mentioned in Devil in a Blue Dress and many other California-set novels.

Of course, the movie business is “bigly” associated with California, too, and we see that in novels such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s absorbing but unfinished The Last Tycoon, Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust, and Charles Bukowski’s hilariously satirical Hollywood that fictionalizes the author’s experience writing the real-life film Barfly.

Other novels set partly or completely in The Golden State? Isabel Allende’s Daughter of Fortune (California Gold Rush!), Dave Eggers’ The Circle (Silicon Valley vibe), Maria Semple’s This One Is Mine (which includes music-industry elements), Darryl Brock’s time-traveling If I Never Get Back (20th- and 19th-century scenes in San Francisco), Karl Alexander’s same-genre Time After Time (H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper go back to 1970s S.F.), etc.!

We can’t forget that John Steinbeck used a certain state as the setting for many of his novels — including The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden, Of Mice and Men, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, Sweet Thursday, The Wayward Bus, and To a God Unknown, to name a few. (He did occasionally place his fiction in other locales, such as Europe for The Moon Is Down and Long Island, N.Y., for The Winter of Our Discontent.)

Also, Jack London started The Call of the Wild and ended White Fang with scenes in California, while his Martin Eden is set mostly in Oakland and The Sea-Wolf begins on a San Francisco ferry.

Of course, there are many other California-based novels. What are some of your favorites that I have or haven’t named?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, but am still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

Feel-Good Fiction Can Temporarily ‘Trump’ Bad Feelings

While many of us plan to oppose the Donald Trump presidency in all kinds of ways, we also occasionally need some escape from the awful news of his election. Toward that end, I’ve come up with a number of novels and short stories that might serve that purpose.

Those feel-good works contain happy endings and/or inspirational content and/or loving relationships and/or very funny material and/or other positive things. They may also include downbeat moments and some of the angst we feel in real life, but they leave us feeling mostly optimistic about the human condition.

Most of Fannie Flagg’s novels are pretty darn sunny (while not ignoring racism, sexism, violence, and other harsh things) — with perhaps the sunniest of all A Redbird Christmas. That book doesn’t start in an upbeat way, but, when an ill man living alone in wintry Chicago moves to a small Alabama town, things eventually get quite cheery while skirting the swamp of too much sappiness and sentimentality.

Also opening in a grim way and then making readers feel wonderful is L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle, about a young woman whose life gets infinitely better after being told she’ll die soon. Some very comical scenes, too.

Finding blissful romance is a part of both The Blue Castle and A Redbird Christmas, and in other novels such as Terry McMillan’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back. The bliss may or may not last in the unwritten future after the novels end, but it’s sure nice to see in its initial stages.

Then there’s the release of endorphins you’ll experience when laughing through the pages of Charles Dickens’ funniest novel, The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club. Also hilarious are Colette’s Claudine at School, Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint, Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals, P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves/Bertie Wooster novels and stories, etc.

The pleasures of being a kid growing up in a small town are nostalgically conveyed in Ray Bradbury’s mostly heartwarming Dandelion Wine. There’s also nostalgia, and some sentimentality, in James Hilton’s Goodbye, Mr. Chips and its story of a beloved teacher. Another teacher tale, E.R. Braithwaite’s To Sir, With Love, has its inspirational moments, too, as the protagonist’s students eventually take to his unorthodox classroom approach. (Braithwaite is still alive at 104!)

David Lodge’s Paradise News promises nice things in its very title before telling the story of an Englishman finding love during a stay in Hawaii. The titles of John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday and Steve Martin’s The Pleasure of My Company also accurately promise some happy happenings within.

Then there are utopian novels, such as Edward Bellamy’s time-traveling Looking Backward, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End, and Aldous Huxley’s Island — the last book a sort of counterpoint to that author’s dystopian Brave New World.

There are also novels that mix the downbeat and upbeat, but the upbeat moments are so wonderful that readers finish the books feeling more good than bad. Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is one famous example (the iconic Jane-Rochester romance certainly helps), and Jane Austen’s novels are also sort of in that category.

Some feel-good novels are depressing for almost the entire book before a mostly idyllic ending helps redeem things. Such is the case with (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s exceptional So Much For That, which has a tropical-island conclusion that radiates lovely vibes.

Heck, even totally downbeat novels can leave us with some positive feelings if we see things like resilience, kindness in difficult circumstances, and so on.

Short stories? Those that would bring a smile to your face include Mark Twain’s “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” Herman Melville’s “I and My Chimney,” O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief,” Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost,” and (until the ending) Bret Harte’s “The Luck of Roaring Camp,” to name just a few.

Obviously, there are tons of other feel-good novels and stories I haven’t mentioned. What are some of your favorites?

And…Happy Thanksgiving!

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, but am still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

No Female President, But Women-Centered Novels Are Still to Be Read

When I prepared to write this blog post on November 7, I fully expected the United States to elect its first female president the next day. So I decided my topic would be novels that are very women-centered.

But Hillary Clinton shockingly lost to Donald Trump, and these four things came to mind: 1) Many people dislike what America’s political and corporate elites are doing in this have/have-not country, so Bernie Sanders (or Elizabeth Warren, if she had run) would have had a better chance than Clinton to beat the fake populist Trump. 2) Huge crowd drawer Sanders never had a chance during the primaries because the mainstream media under-covered him or covered him with negative bias, because the supposed-to-have-been-neutral Democratic National Committee backed Clinton, because unelected superdelegates also tipped the scales, etc. 3) Clinton is smart, hard-working, resilient, and experienced, but didn’t fit America’s current anti-elite mood, even as she was slammed with sexism.  😦  4) My topic will still be fiction that’s very women-centered.

(If you want to agree with or dispute my election analysis, please do! I should also mention that my book columns after this one will return to discussing politics only occasionally. But political thoughts in the comments section are always welcome!)

Back to this week’s literary topic: So many novels — and not just thrillers — are male-oriented that it’s interesting when things get less testosterone-y. Books focusing mostly on women are often more subtle, more nuanced, more psychological, more emotionally satisfying, etc. — though it’s of course hard to totally generalize.

One example of a very women-centered novel is Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which I happened to read during this past election week. The elegantly written, heartbreaking book features three generations of women from the same extended family who live in virtual isolation in the Pacific Northwest.

There are also novels that are women-centered mainly because they feature multiple sisters — for instance, five in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and four in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, and Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies. Fewer, but still memorable, sisters in such works as Alice Walker’s The Color Purple.

Other novels spotlight strong female friendships (and sometimes conflict between those friends), as in Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale and Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride.

Then there are books featuring lesbian relationships, including Rita Mae Brown’s Rubyfruit Jungle, Colette’s Claudine at School, and Jane Rule’s Desert of the Heart.

Plus fiction set at women’s colleges (such as Dorothy L. Sayers’ Gaudy Night), set in towns where female inhabitants are the focus (such as Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford), and that feature workplaces of all or mostly women (such as Fannie Flagg’s The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion and Lisa Scottoline’s The Vendetta Defense and other Scottoline novels starring characters from the female Philadelphia law firm of Rosato & Associates).

What are your favorite women-centered novels?

This literature blog and my local weekly humor column usually don’t intersect, but I decided to give the latter a book theme for one week. Many authors and novels are referenced.

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

I’ve finished writing a book called Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Writers, but am still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as “Dear Abby” and Ann Landers, and other notables such as Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.