Equine Profits for Real Men

by Craig Stark

#39, 21 March 2005

C.W. Anderson
The Gender Gap in Bookselling

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Horses are a chick thing. Why is probably anybody's guess, though more than a few eminent minds have tackled the question, among them Sigmund Freud, who postulated paternal symbolism. Zoologist Desmond Morris suggested something more prurient (I won't go there), and many others have offered more pedestrian explanations - for example, horses are receptive to human care, brushing especially, and given the nurturing nature of the female, this makes them the perfect match. It's also been opined that, contrary to popular perception, many young girls harbor a daredevil within, and sitting atop (becoming one with) a fleet, ground-pounding animal allows them to express it without getting down and dirty with the guys. Like Schulz's Pigpen, an impressive cloud of dust follows them everywhere, but in this instance they get to stay clean.

With guys, it's different. Sure, cowboys wouldn't be cowboys without horses, but with us it's rarely about the horse. It's about cutting and roping cattle, matching wills against fire-breathing broncos, shooting Indians, or winning the Kentucky Derby. Horses, that is, are a means to something else, not something we pursue deep relationships with. In my opinion, this is why guys don't read horse books. Why most guy booksellers don't sell them. And why many g.b.'s have never heard of Clarence William Anderson.

If you're a bookseller - believe me - there are times when it pays to drop your masculine (or feminine) propensities, and this is definitely one of them. C.W. Anderson (1891-1971), as most any educated lady will tell you, was one of the foremost horse illustrators of the 20th century.

He also penned (and illustrated) dozens of horse books, primarily fiction, the majority targeted at a juvenile audience. He's beloved especially for the Billy and Blaze series. The exceptional quality of his illustrative efforts was due in part to a somewhat unorthodox method, explained here in his autobiographical sketch from The Junior Book of Authors:

"All my illustrations are drawn on stone, for I find lithography the most satisfactory reproduction I know of, for you are in reality your own engraver when you work in lithography. The problem is that it permits no changes or corrections but it gets a brilliance and clarity not found in half tone."

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Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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