Ben Purkert on Toxic Masculinity
In Conversation with Lindsay Hunter on I'm a Writer But
Welcome to I’m a Writer But, where writers discuss their work, their lives, their other work, the stuff that takes up any free time they have, all the stuff they’re not able to get to, and the ways in which any of us get anything done. Plus: book recommendations, bad jokes, okay jokes, despair, joy, and anything else going on that week. Hosted by Lindsay Hunter.
Today, Ben Purkert (The Men Can’t Be Saved) discusses the rich text of toxic masculinity, writing a novel that engages with authenticity and a character who has no idea who he is, the role Judaism plays in the book, poetry being his first love, the dearth of heterosexual male intimacy, writing complex female characters, and more!
From the episode:
Ben Purkert: Growing up with the conception of heterosexual masculinity, I never felt like there was any permission to–not express romantic interest–but even just, like, intimacy. In a way that feels deeply American. The loneliness of men, and their inability to connect. Men are just so inhibited and are taught and sort of forced to suppress any intimate or vulnerable impulses. So to me, it’s not like, well, clearly Seth was in love with this exchange student early in his life and then he left–it’s less definitive than that. I think it’s more about, even if Seth did feel that way, he could never admit it to himself, much less to the reader. And that, to me, is the part of masculinity that cannot be salvaged.
Ben Purkert is the author of the debut novel, The Men Can’t Be Saved (Abrams/Overlook). His poetry collection, For the Love of Endings (Four Way Books, 2018), was named one of Adroit’s Best Poetry Books of the Year. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Slate, Poetry, Ploughshares, Kenyon Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. He holds degrees from Harvard and NYU, where he was a New York Times Fellow. He is the editor of Back Draft, a Guernica interview series focused on revision and the creative process. He currently teaches creative writing at Rutgers.