Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Manhood for Amateurs is a collection of essays by one of the most well-regarded living authors in the US today. It is subtitled The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. I enjoy Chabon’s fiction writing and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union was my favorite fiction book read in 2008.

This is an interesting book to pick up if you’d like to know more about Chabon’s family and his thoughts about random things like Jose Canseco or using a murse (a man purse). I think the best essay in the book is the first one entitled “The Loser’s Club.” It’s about 10 year old Michael Chabon and the comic book club he initiates by writing a newsletter and advertising in the paper. You get a hint of how determined he is and yet it is a somewhat depressing view into his life at that age.

He reflects on what he learned then:

“Success, however, does nothing to diminish the knowledge that failure stalks everything you do. But you always knew that. Nobody gets past the age of ten without that knowledge.”

I liked the essays that were about his father or other father figures in his life, like his father-in-law from his brief first marriage. I didn’t enjoy the essays that were more rants about legos or books today and how his children are experiencing a different, more commercialized, childhood than he did. It seems like he could take action to change that.

Chabon lives with his wife Ayelet Waldman, also a writer, and their four kids in Berkeley. She has a memoir out as well, but it focuses more on parenting. It is called Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. She wrote it after some controversy about a NY Times article she wrote where she stated she loved her husband more than her children.

Chabon has this to say about being a parent in an essay about the Obama family entitled “The Binding of Isaac”: “Being a father is an unlimited obligation, one that even the best of us, with the least demanding of children, could never hope to fulfill entirely.”

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