Manhood For Amateurs Lp Paperback – Oct 1 2009
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Language:Chinese.Paperback. Pub Date: October 2009 Pages: 352 the Publisher: HarperLuxe Ashy manifesto an impractical handbook. the true story of the fabulist an (entire life in parts and pieces. Manbood for Amateursis the first sustained work of personal withwriting from Michael Chabon . In these insightful. provocative. slyly interlinked essays. one of our most illiant and humane writers presents his autobiography and his vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own: as a series of reflections. regrets and re-examinations. each sparked by an encounter. in the present. that holds some legacy of the past. In the process. he illuminates what it means to be a man today. At once dazzling. hilarious. and moving. Manhood for Amateurs ...
Top Customer Reviews
The best essays are near the beginning, which have Chabon ruminating on the evolution of Lego, the worlds we create as kids and how parents obsessed with safety are set to infringe on these worlds, the bastardization of childhood by consumer culture and corporate movies that package and sell children's imagination back to them. He then goes on to essays about his childhood, his sexual awakenings, his difficulties as a father dealing with such subjects as drugs, sex, and faking how to install the towel rack in the bathroom. Chabon literally covers pretty much every angle that masculinity can be approached from, and he does so with flair and originality, coming at topics that we've heard of so many times before at different angles and making you see them in a new light. He's also hilarious, and deeply philosophical at times. The writing sometimes poetic, but often conversational as if a friend has taken you aside to let you in on a secret.
I will definitely be keeping this book for a long time, as these are essays that I know I will turn to time and time again for inspiration, laughter, and nostalgia.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
And while it's fantastic that moms have avenues for them to connect and to converse, dads have had to work much harder to find thoughtful writing about fatherhood that doesn't idealize, essentialize, or talk down to them. Now, Chabon has filled that niche admirably with MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS, a wide-ranging but thematically focused collection of his autobiographical writings (many previously published in Details magazine and elsewhere). Here, Chabon touches on many of the motifs that he has explored in his other nonfiction writing and in his novels --- baseball, comics, sex, writing, religion --- but inevitably circles back to what is, for him, at the center of it all: his family.
Chabon, a father of four young children, uses his writing to constantly define what it means --- and what it could mean --- to be a husband, a father, and a man in the early years of the 21st century. He defines his own role in comparison to his well-meaning but distant father and also in the context of society's (embarrassingly low) expectations of what fathers can and should accomplish. Chabon's writing is unapologetically male-oriented (female readers will learn what fanboys are really thinking when looking at those buxom, Amazonian comic book heroines). But he writes in a way that continually questions the implications of masculinity. For example, he speaks appreciatively of his forced adolescent introduction into the culinary arts when his mother returned to work and of the implications of a man carrying a (gulp) man purse, or "murse."
Throughout, Chabon utilizes the kind of wry observations and exquisite literary craft that have made his novels both popular and critical sensations. Almost all the essays are simultaneously thoughtful, cohesive, and very, very funny. But Chabon's writing is most affecting and emotionally open when he's writing passionately about his wife and beloved children (even when he's commenting on their odorousness or their tendency to ask difficult questions about embarrassing subjects). His observations on marriage and parenthood are specific enough to resonate with other parents but universal enough to speak to any reader who has considered thoughtfully the role of the family in American life or the changing responsibilities and expectations of the sexes.
I used to have a hard time finding gifts for friends about to embark on the journey of fatherhood; most in my circle would just roll their eyes at a sugary gift book about the meaning of fatherhood. But Michael Chabon's new memoir is so much more than that: it is an exquisite blend of the mundane and the mind-blowing, all broken down into short essays just the right length to read while giving Theo a bottle or waiting for Sadie's soccer game to start --- the perfect book for young dads to stash in their murses.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
As much as I didn't want to compare their writing (which strikes me as horribly unfair), I got a lot of food for thought from Waldman's book but I fell in love with Chabon's book. His writing pleased me immensely. The way he puts words together thrilled me and amused me and touched me. So much so that I think I'll just spend the rest of this review cramming as many little excerpts in as I can. Why listen to me go on and on about how much I loved this book when you can experience it for yourself?
Consider his essay the "Splendors of Crap." Have you ever heard a more accurate description of modern children's movies than this:
At least once a month I take my kids to see a new "family movie"--the latest computer-generated piece of animated crap. Please don't oblige me to revisit the last one even long enough to name the film, let alone describe it. Anyway, you know the one I mean: set in a zoo, or in a forest, or on farm, or under the sea, or in "Africa," or in an effortlessly hilarious StorybookLandTM where magic, wonder and make-believe are ironized and mocked except at the moments when they are tenderly invoked to move units. I believe but am not prepared to swear that the lead in this weekend's version may have been a neurotic lion, or a neurotic bear, or a neurotic rat, or a neurotic chicken. Chances are good that the thing featured penguins; for a while, the movies have all been featuring penguins. Naturally, there were the legally required 5.5 incidences of humor-stimulating flatulence per hour of running time. A raft of bright pop-punk tunes on the soundtrack, alternating with familiar numbers culled with art and cruelty from the storehouse of parental nostalgia.
Chabon has a gift for writing about the little moments of life and making them instantly familiar and relatable but then layering on his own unique style and viewpoint in a way that makes these essays as delicious and satisfying to read as dark chocolate or a warm roll with butter (or substitute your guilty delight here). As my Little One embarks on his school career, I've begun to realize that the sheer amount of papers he'll generate in the coming years could account for an entire forest of trees dying. So I thoroughly enjoyed "The Memory Hole," in which Chabon writes about dealing with the creative works of four children. Let's read a little of it, shall we?
Almost every school day, at least one of my four children comes home with art: a drawing, a painting, a piece of handicraft, a construction-paper assemblage, an enigmatic apparatus made from pipe cleaners, sparkles and clay. And almost every bit of it ends up in the trash. My wife and I have to remember to shove the things down deep, lest one of the kids stumble across the ruin of his or her laboriously stapled paper-plate-and-dried-bean maraca wedged in with the junk mail and the collapsed packaging from a twelve-pack of squeezable yogurt. But there is so much of the stuff; we don't know what else to do with it. We don't toss all of it. We keep the good stuff--or what strikes us, in the Zen of the instant between scraping out the lunch box and sorting the mail, as good. As worthier somehow; more vivid, more elaborate, more accurate, more sweated over.
In typing that last excerpt, I realized that what makes Chabon's writing so good is how specific he is. He doesn't just say "We throw it in the trash and make sure it is buried deep." He describes the art ("laboriously stapled paper-plate-and-dried-bean maraca"--who among us has NOT made one of these or had one given to us?) and the trash ("the collapsed packaging from a twelve-pack of squeezable yogurt"). It is this specificity and detail that delights me and creates such memorable and relatable writing.
Yet I think Chabon's true genius is taking a specific event like dealing with the flood of artwork from your children and turning it into a deeper, more philosophical musing. Consider the end of the essay excerpted above:
The truth is that in every way, I am squandering the treasure of my life. It's not that I don't take enough pictures, though I don't, or that I don't keep a diary, though iCal and my monthly Visa bill are the closest I come to a thoughtful prose record of events. Every day is like a kid's drawing, offered to you with a strange mixture of ceremoniousness and offhand disregard, yours for the keeping. Some of the days are rich and complicated, others inscrutable, others little more than a stray gray mark on a ragged page. Some you manage to hang on to, though your reasons for doing so are often hard to fathom. But most of them you just ball up and throw away.
I wish I could keep going; I must have marked at least 30 other passages that I thought were particularly memorable or amazing or just spoke to me. Like his essay "Radio Silence," which talks about how listening to the radio can suddenly make you a time traveler--winging you back to the first moment you heard that song.
I had every intention of giving this book away for a giveaway when I was done with it, but I can't. This is a keeper. This is a book I want to keep close by: to dip into when I need to be reminded what good writing is, or when I face the inevitable moment when my son asks me about my past and I need to walk the same tightrope Chabon does when his kids ask him whether he's ever tried drugs1, or when I just want to relax and revel in what a gifted writer can do with English language.
Also on the positive side, Chabon doesn't make the mistake of defining manhood as the opposite of womanhood. The meaningful comparison to men is not women but boys. Chabon seems to understand this.
But on the negative side, Chabon makes little effort to say anything about manhood. Instead, it's mostly a collection of musings and complaints about being a father and about how the kids these days are living in a world that suppresses their imagination and they're probably going to grow up to be automatons working for a consumer-driven machine that doesn't care about art or creativity but only greed and profit and oh boy back in my day it was different because we appreciated baseball cards and at least our bad TV shows were fuzzy around the edges so that we could think and dream and be interesting unlike today's youth who are just a bunch of gooberheads. That's paraphrasing, but that's basically Chabon's POV.
On manhood, about the only thing that Chabon has to say is that men are characterized by feigned competence. They don't know what they're doing but it's their manly proclivity to pretend that they do. Er, okay, thanks for that insight. (Can I have my 7 hours back?)
I suspect the reason Chabon doesn't have much to say about manhood is because his values are so cartoonishly, Berkleyishly liberal. My values are fairly liberal, too, but I am at least able to acknowledge the existence and merits of the conservative POV. And I must say that a healthy dose of conservativism seems necessary to talk meaningfully about manhood. Words like duty, loyalty, sacrifice, responsibility, and discipline seem to be the main qualities that separate men/adults from boys/children, and yet they are completely absent from Chabon's vocabulary. Instead, he'll talk about passion and imagination and open-mindedness and tolerance. Fine qualities to be sure, but, uh... things that tend to characterize children more than adults.
Bottom line: I would give this book 3 stars if it were re-named to "Opinions on the Demise of Our Vulnerable Children in a Capitalist, George-Bush-Era Society (Plus 5 bonus chapters on how incompetent I am / men are!)".
P.S. - Michael Lewis's Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood was, for me, a much more interesting and insightful look at fatherhood. And William Deresiewicz's A Jane Austen Education was easily the best book I've read on what it means to be an adult.
Chabon's use of language is magnificent. No matter the subject, it's the sort of text where you want to grab anyone in the vicinity and just start reading aloud. I knew I was hooked when I began tearing up while reading the first essay, "The Loser's Club" which recounts a rejection suffered in his youth. "That was the moment I began to think of myself as a failure," the Pulitzer prize-winner writes. Chabon is vulnerable within these essays, sharing deeply personal details of his life, and letting that streak of neurosis shine through. But don't worry that the collection is one long, drawn out therapy session. There are more laughs than tears and as I noted above, Chabon is a very likeable fellow. "I Feel Good About my Murse," for instance, is delightfully silly. Even so, Chabon's got something real to say about masculine identity amidst the laughs.
Not every single essay is a slam dunk. The Lego one sort of left me cold. For you it might be another. But overall, this collection is so strong that it must surely be a go-to gift for fathers, husbands, sons, and all lovers of great writing for decades to come.
Oh, and I've seen him playing with his kids--he really is a great father.