Jessica's Reviews > Manhood for Amateurs

Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
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's review
Oct 16, 2009

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bookshelves: memoir
Read from March 30 to April 08, 2010

This book is a mixed bag and the essays range from touching to maudlin and from sharp to fuzzy. Chabon is a terrific writer and I've enjoyed several of his novels, but he does tend toward the purplish end of the prose spectrum and I wanted to take out a red pen and mark out some adjectives.

The essays in this collection attempt to outline, in no specific order, Chabon's journey from childhood to manhood: father, husband, professional writer. I loved reading about his successful efforts to teach himself to cook as a young teen, after his parents divorced and his mom went back to work. One essay used the piles of art projects children create as a metaphor for childhood itself, and I think I am not the only parent who would read it with damp eyes. I also loved Chabon's explanation as to why mp3s of one's choice are not the same as randomly hearing your favorite songs on the radio.

Chabon also reminisces about his days as a pothead and after reading some of these essays, I wondered if he was dipping back into the weed. Some of them seem convoluted and his writing about his daughters, while clearly heartfelt, ventured a bit into trite. I think even the best writer would struggle to fill a book of essays about his or her personal reflections without getting too sentimental and in a way, it is reassuring to see that even Chabon falls down a bit on the job. Hard to know whether to recommend this book--the pieces I loved were worth reading the book to find them, but I didn't like a lot of the essays.

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