Man­hood for Ama­teurs: The Plea­sures and Regrets of a Hus­band, Father and Son

Michael Chabon

  • Review
By – August 26, 2011

Any­onewho has ever received a bad review,” writes Michael Chabon in a some­what dif­fer­ent con­text, knows how it out­lasts, by decades, the mem­o­ry of a favor­able word.” Well, don’t wor­ry, Michael, noth­ing but favor­able­words will be heard here. They may not match the ele­gant style of your word­smith ways,but they are, nonethe­less, favor­able, indeed. You have put your fin­ger square­ly­on the pulse of the Amer­i­can male sen­si­bil­i­ty (at least as far this femalere­view­er can see) and you have teased out some basic truths about us and our soci­ety, our past and our future. 
This book of essays was pre­ced­ed by some buzz. Chabon’s wife, nov­el­ist Ayelet Wald­man, gave an inter­view aver­ring that she loves her hus­band more than their chil­dren. Con­tro­ver­sy, of course, abound­ed and she sub­se­quent­ly pub­lished a book of essays about moth­er­ing (see fac­ing col­umn). Chabon’s col­lec­tion, whether or not a reac­tion to the hoopla, isan intro­spec­tive, deeply per­son­al exam­i­na­tion of fam­i­ly rela­tion­ships, both what theymean and, espe­cial­ly, they feel. Prob­ing his past, cel­e­brat­ing his present, his­prose here, as in his fic­tion, is seduc­tive and allur­ing, draw­ing the read­er into his orbit,evoking sym­pa­thy and a strong sense of iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. Some of us have been sci-fi geeks;some of us have lived through grad­u­al­ly sour­ing rela­tion­ships; most of us havelooked up to a vari­ety of heroes; all of us have been inse­cure and fright­ened; we all­con­tin­ue to learn and grow. As we read, we gaze into the mir­ror and eval­u­ate our own rela­tion­ships, our loves, our lives, ourselves. 
How much of what Chabon reveals here about his life is reflect­ed in his­fic­tion? That is a ques­tion beyond the scope of this review but an inter­est­ing one­for his read­ers to mull. This extra­or­di­nary essay col­lec­tion is a must-read for­men, women and all of the above. 

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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