James B. Twitchell teaches English and advertising at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His many books include Adcult USA: The Triumph of Advertising in American Culture and Carnival Culture: The Trashing of Taste in America, both published by Columbia.
Where Men Hide is a spirited tour of the dark and often dirty places men go to find comfort, camaraderie, relaxation, and escape. Ken Ross's striking photographs and James Twitchell's lively analysis trace the evolution of these virtual caves, and question why they are rapidly disappearing.
Ross documents both traditional and contemporary male haunts, such as bars, barbershops, lodges, pool halls, strip clubs, garages, deer camps, megachurches, the basement Barcalounger, and Twitchell examines their provenance, purpose, and appeal. He finds that for centuries men have met with each other in underground lairs and clubhouses to conduct business or, in the case of strip clubs and the modern rec room, to bond and indulge in shady entertainments. In these secret dens, certain rules are abandoned while others are obeyed. However, Twitchell sees this less as exclusionary behavior and more as the result of social anxiety: when women want to get together, they just do it; when men get together, it's a production.
Drawing on literary, historical, and pop cultural sources, Twitchell connects the places men hide with figures like Hemingway and Huck Finn, Frederick Jackson Turner's theory of the American frontier, and the mythological interpretations of Joseph Campbell and Robert Bly. Instead of blaming the disappearance of the man-cave solely on feminism, simple fair play, or the demands of Title IX, Twitchell believes this evaporation is due as well to the rise of solitary pursuits such as driving, watching television, and playing videogames.
By blending together anecdote, research, and keen observation, Ross and Twitchell bring this little-discussed and controversial phenomenon to light.
James B. Twitchell recounts the RV's origins and evolution over the twentieth century; its rise, fall, and rebirth as a cultural icon; its growing mechanical complexity as it evolved from an estate wagon to a converted bus to a mobile home; and its role in bolstering and challenging conceptions of American identity. Mechanical yet dreamy, independent yet needful, solitary yet clubby, adventurous yet homebound, life in a mobile home is a distillation of the American character and an important embodiment of American exceptionalism (Richie Rich and Hobo Hank spend time in essentially the same rig at the same campground, albeit for different reasons and in different levels of comfort). The frontier may be tapped out, but we still yearn for the exploratory life. Twitchell concludes with his thoughts on the future of RV communities and the possibility of mobile cities becoming a real part of the American landscape.