David Minor's Reviews > Manhood for Amateurs

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
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's review
Nov 15, 2011

it was amazing

“Manhood for Amateurs” is essentially Michael Chabon’s memoirs. However, it is not told a straightforward autobiographical piece where he tries to describe his entire life story in a chronological order. Instead the book is a series of essays on extremely wide ranging topics. These topics range from what he learned in the MFA program at the University of California, Irvine to his disappointment with the state of Lego toys today. What is common is that most of these topics are merely a jumping off point for what he has learned about himself, his family, and how to be a father throughout his adult life.

What is most noticeable about the book is the contrast with the breeziness of Chabon’s voice and the fact that the prose is almost effortlessly poetic. It creates the great effect that compels the reader to like the author on a very personal level, and also makes the reader know that this guy knows what he is talking about. It could be called authoritative casualness. This is particularly effective because later on in the book he goes on to discuss his time in the MFA program and also mentions some of his works that have been published. This could very well have led to him sounding like he was callously bragging about how amazing he is, but after reading all the essays that preceded it, the reader is made to understand how and why this man became a successful writer. Then again, he never really does fully brag about any of this, instead he starts off an essay about writer’s workshops and how people ask his opinions on them based on his experiences at Irvine, but this turns into a launch pad for his thoughts to go into how this experience humbled him and turned him from being “a little shit” trying to get girls to sleep with him all the time, into a more grounded and well-rounded adult man.

What I can take away from this book, aside from all the truly wonderful examples of how to be a good caring father and husband is how to master my authorial voice. Chabon occasionally deals with some tough and/or uncomfortable issues such as his own drug use or deciding whether or not to allow his son to be circumcised, but he never loses his own way of explaining his thought processes on these. He is often times self-deprecating and has a wry sense of humor. I’m not saying my own authorial voice would be exactly like his, but his writing style, with its well thought out rhythmical patterns and usage of strong vocabulary, is as good an example to live up to as any I can think of. Having not read any of his fiction, I can’t speak for that, but at least for creative non-fiction writing “Manhood for Amateurs” is a great example of an author creating a very strong and unique voice for himself in a very short amount of time.
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