Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon
Title: Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son
Author: Michael Chabon
Publisher: Harper Perennial
I received this book for free from the publisher. All content and opinions are my own.
Michael Chabon’s second collection of essays centers around manhood, as the title suggests, but it’s more than that. There are pontifications on the shrinking freedom of childhood, on our low expectations of fathers, on our societal need to classify and pigeonhole gender roles. And, perhaps because I recently became one myself, this book struck me as one that deals as much with motherhood as it does with fatherhood.
I read Maps and Legends, Chabon’s first essay collection, and found it captivating in a way that most essays are not to me. I’m not an avid reader of essays. I don’t read very much nonfiction because I tend to find it dry. But Michael Chabon makes you want to keep going. His insights are fresh and new and yet familiar. He brings you in and talks with you. He wants to have a conversation. These essays make you think.
Plus, there is no doubt that Chabon is an excellent writer. Here are a couple quotes:
“Good mothering is not measurable in a discrete instant, in an hour spent rubbing a baby’s gassy belly, in the braiding of a tangled mass of morning hair. Good motheirng is a long-term pattern, a lifeong trend of behaviors most of which go unobserved at the time by anyone, least of all the mother herself. We do not judge mothers by snapshots but by years of images painstakingly accumulated from the orbiting satellite of memory.” From “William and I”
“Where Lego-building had once been open-ended and exploratory, it now had far more in common with puzzle-solving, a process of moving incrementally toward an ideal, pre-established, and above all, a provided solution.
“I resented this change. When my son and I finished putting together a TIE interceptor or Naboo starfighter, usually after several weeks of struggle, a half-deranged search for one tiny black chip of sterile styrene the size of his pinkie nail, and two or three hours of prolonged despair, the resulting object was so undeniably handsome, and our investment of time in building it so immense, that the thought of playing with it, let along ever disassembling it, was anathema.” From “To the Legoland Station”
“Where women were once trapped inside a single narrative of child-rearing and housekeeping, the introduction of a second narrative of fulfillment through work and intellectual accomplishment has left them trapped in a kind of permanent ongoing guest role in both, able to star or to shine in neither. As for the supposed liberation of men, if all the socially viable ways of being a man (not counting those afforded and tolerated in gay culture) were languages or species of plants or animals, we would be living in a virtual monoculture.” From “Like, Cosmic”
And this is such a small taste of what this collection has to offer. If you’re at all inclined toward essays, and even if you’re not, if you’re a mother or a father, or just have a mother and a father, you’ll find something here for you.
Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon [rating:4]