“How to Be a Man”

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We take literature seriously around here. We take glossy magazines about men’s fashion less seriously. So when Esquire launches “the biggest literary event of the year,” it strikes us as a rather odd beast.

Here’s the deal. Tyler Cabot is the fiction editor at Esquire. (And hey, let’s give it up for any magazine with a rate base of 700,000 that actually has a fiction editor.) He’s also a founder of Narrative4, a new organization that encourages young people from around the world to share their stories in order to promote empathy and understanding. To draw attention to Narrative4, Esquire has commissioned 106 very short stories from established writers (and Fiction Advocate favorites) like Geoff Dyer, Mohsin Hamid, Aleksandar Hemon, and Jess Walter. Their assignment? Write a story whose title is “How to Be a Man.” You can check out National Book Award winner Colum McCann’s entry here. And you can read the other 105 stories at Narrative4 by donating $5.

So yeah, it’s a charity wrapped in a fiction anthology wrapped in a photo shoot with Brad Pitt. But the contributors are excellent (Salman Rushdie, Téa Obreht, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, John Wray, Ian McEwan…) and your $5 is well spent on Ben Fountain’s story alone. Fountain, the author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, simultaneously fulfills and mocks the assignment, turning in a story about a “corrosion engineer” with the über-manly task of eradicating an unsightly rust that has besmirched the Statue of Liberty’s crotch. Like all great fiction, it’s a rather odd beast.

Get it here.

– Brian Hurley

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