Book Review: This Will Make a Man of You

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posted on November 29, 2016
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Despite physiological facts, gender identity is now an area of great confusion, apparently. Somewhere between America’s innate fairness and a recognition of the facts of life, men and women tend not to be what they used to be. While some (me included) would prefer to ignore all that, we need to understand that men confused about who and what they are represent a major provocation in the “culture war” presently threatening our rights to own firearms and to hunt.

Likely that was not lost on Frank Miniter as he wrote This Will Make a Man of You, released last month by Skyhorse Publishing. As a star reporter/commentator on firearm and hunting freedoms for NRA Publications and other media outlets, Frank practically lives on the frontlines of the war for American values. Even so, Make a Man of You has a far different purpose. Rather, Miniter traces how his highly personal quest for trial by fire echoes the storyline in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and reflects on what both have taught him about being a man in today’s world.

In both narrative threads, the trail leads to Pamplona, Spain, site of the Running of the Bulls, where every July thrill-seekers commit to being barricaded inside narrow streets to run amongst fighting bulls released to charge into, through and over the crowds. It is a risky undertaking that rewards survivors with a profound adrenaline rush and perhaps more. Miniter is one of those who has attained more, including an understanding of what he contends is the ideal of manhood, as embodied by many of Hemingway’s leading men. Miniter’s deconstruction of the novel shows the leading characters forming a tense triangle, and though plenty smart and seemingly full of promise, somehow their lives are empty. Their journey is recreated as Miniter joins a group of Hemingway pilgrims and then in the afterglow of dodging peril, makes discoveries that rock his self-identity.

While this isn’t a hunting book, the author does draw parallels to hunting, including his observation: “To build character we have to push ourselves, to test ourselves, even to take reasonable, if sometimes silly, risks. If we enjoy the challenges, all the better.” Not coincidentally, that’s nearly word-for-word my reply to questions about pursuing dangerous game or wild sheep. Indeed this is travel writing in its highest form, where the writer is far more than a surrogate sightseer, but instead serves as a conduit for the self-discovery that comes from enduring new and trying experiences.

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