Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:
I enjoyed Jack Donovan’s book about manliness, “The Way of Men.” The title has a dual significance. On the one hand it frames the book as an investigation into what it means to be a man in the primeval sense — a sort of “Beyond Thunderdome,” back-to-basics look at masculine modes and forms. But on the other it signals that it’s a “how to” manual designed to light a way forward, to clear a path for 21st-century dudes who feel neutered by our current gynocracy and are yearning for a way to get their balls back.
If you’ve never heard of Donovan I encourage you to Google him. This Wikipedia entry on him is pretty helpful. He’s been flitting around red pill nodes on the internet for a quite a while now, usually writing about men’s issues at sites like The Spearhead and Alternative Right. He also published a book a while back, originally under the name Jack Malebranche, entitled “Androphilia.” Though I haven’t read it, it sounds pretty interesting: it calls for homosexual men to wean themselves from gay culture and identify instead with a type of male-on-male sexuality based on traditional masculine virtues. I’m speculating here, but I’m guessing Donovan endorses the (arguably erotic) masculine love of Achilles and Patroclus over the more cartoonish expressions espoused by Liberace and The Village People.
Possibly because he’s so homed in on issues of manliness, Donovan doesn’t seem much interested in women. When he brings them up in “The Way of Men” it’s usually to differentiate them from men, to say something like: “Yeah, women are out there, and they can often be nice, but they’re doing their own female-centered thing, and we don’t necessarily have to care about it.” I found this stance pretty refreshing, perhaps because I’m so sick of the contemporary impulse to always refract issues through multiple perspectives — and in the process render them virtually meaningless. Whether we approve of it or not, people tend to have their own peculiar ways of seeing things, usually based on their individual (or group) needs and backgrounds, and that’s just how life is. Maybe it’s even one of the great things about how life is.
It seems to me that part of what Donovan is doing here is taking a stand against relativism. He’s standing up on his chair and saying, “I’m a man, this is what I have determined is vital to my existence as a man, and if you don’t like it you can kiss my manly ass.” As Donovan himself acknowledges, this sets him apart from the men’s rights movement, which is more of a reaction against Feminism and all of its political-academic baggage. Donovan, by contrast, isn’t reacting to anything but his own nature, a nature he sees as deriving from the exigencies of existence (he references Hobbes quite liberally). Of course, this means that his book deals with things like violence and exclusion and war-making, all of which are generally considered bad mojo these days. But then these are real things that are out there in the world, and they probably always will be, so why shouldn’t we deal with them in a way that treats them as, at the very least, elemental forces?
This kind of sharpen-the-swords, it’s-us-against-them thinking characterizes Donovan’s writing, and perhaps that’s why his work lights up the hatethink sensors of some among the blue pill set, who tend to envision burning crosses as soon as a white man even hints at an expression of self interest. But I don’t think there’s anything mean-spirited about Donovan’s intent, and in fact his personality as a writer is quite affable. This is simply how he approaches the world, and perhaps this kind of no-bullshit distinction making is itself a vital aspect of the masculine “way” he’s endorsing. After all, if you can’t make the hard decisions — if you’re incapable of separating the wheat of what’s important to you from the chaff of the poisonous and the irrelevant — then what kind of man are you?
Donovan identifies this act of separation as “defining the perimeter,” and he returns to the idea time and again in “The Way of Men.” It’s one of the first impulses he ascribes to instinctual man, and it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that he sees it as an essential part of a man’s understanding of who he is and what he cares about. The perimeter can be actual or metaphorical: it can be the fence you build and guard to keep out the zombies, or it can be the line you draw around the values shared by you and your closest male friends, a unit which Donovan refers to rather colorfully as “the gang.” I suppose it can even be the membrane you maintain between yourself and the culture you find yourself floating around in. Do you have a stake in presidential elections, the War on Terror, and the U.S. Dollar? Or have you banished all of that from the confines of your perimeter?
Donovan’s call to pick your gang and define your perimeter is similar in some respects to the calls which have been sounded by some of the key male-centered cultural things of the last 15 years. It’s analogous to Neo’s taking the red pill in the “The Matrix.” Or the part in “Fight Club” where Ed Norton meets Tyler Durden. And it’s similar to what Game bloggers like Roissy in DC were getting at when they urged readers to quit propping up their illusions about women and let all of their pretty lies perish. The voices behind each of these cultural emanations define manliness in different ways, and they all hit on different solutions for fostering change, yet they’re alike in that they’re urging guys to dream of rebuilding masculinity from the ground up — to think about getting off their asses, making some hard decisions, and hacking out a clearing from the underbrush in which something resembling traditional manliness can be nurtured and cultivated. Like it or not, this has been a major cultural undercurrent in recent years, and I don’t expect it will go away anytime soon.
As a stylist Donovan is as no-nonsense as he is as a thinker and an advice giver. The book is a brisk, invigorating read, and it doesn’t lag even when it’s pulling in bits from sources like “The Epic of Gilgamesh,” Anthony Burgess, and “The Poetic Edda.” Donovan also has a knack for incorporating ideas drawn from evolutionary biology (one of my favorite chapters compares our current society to that of the African bonobo), and the extensive end notes reveal that he’s done his homework on the subjects about which he writes. “The Way of Men” reads a bit like a long, very well put-together blog post, and I mean that as a hearty compliment, because some of the most interesting stuff being written these days comes from the internet. And fuck the publishing industry anyway. (How’s that for sounding manly? Grrrrr!)
You can buy the book on Amazon here. If you buy it for the Kindle it’s only six bucks, and there’s a free sample you can download that’ll give you an idea of what the writing is like.