Alan's Reviews > Manhood for Amateurs

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
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's review
Oct 26, 10

Recommended to Alan by: Previous work; subject matter; its cover
Recommended for: Husbands, fathers, brothers and sons... and anyone who knows one or more of these
Read in October, 2010, read count: 1

Wise and tender, Michael Chabon's words for males speak to me, and in many cases for me, as if he were channeling my own childhood as well as whatever growing up I've managed to do along the way. This is not entirely surprising; he and I are of an age, and we both grew up in the eastern United States... but it is more than that, I think. Chabon not only understands; he can articulate that understanding, and that's a rare gift.

The flood of aphorisms comes thick and fast at first. As the father of a teen and a not-quite teen, it's hard to argue with assertions like this one:
A father is a man who fails every day.
—"The Loser's Club," p. 7
And while I may not believe that
"Every work of art is one half of a secret handshake[...]"
—"The Loser's Club," p. 5
...I do think it's almost always true.

And I've comforted myself with this one, though not so pithily:
"The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard is so pitifully low."
—"William and I," p. 11.

The quotable one-liners become less frequent as the book progresses and Chabon delves into other topics, in splendid ruminations about the benefits of undirected play ("To the Legoland Station") and learning to cook ("Art of Cake"). From the fearlessly ridiculous ("I Feel Good about My Murse") to the tearfully poignant ("The Story of Our Story"), Chabon is in fine form throughout.

Oh, there were a couple of essays that I'd consider clunkers, at least in comparison ("On Canseco," an ambivalent defense of the baseball player), but for far more of these pages I found myself nodding and saying "Yes, yes... it's just that way."
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