Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Manhood for Amateurs - Michael Chabon

This book is a collection of Chabon's thoughts and musings on fatherhood. Given the subject matter, I had no real reason or interest in this book, but I am a fan of (some of) Chabon's fiction, so I figured I might as well read it. I thought it started out quite strong - Chabon tells a little anecdote about how he is at the grocery store with one of his four children, just waiting in the check-out line and not being particularly attentive to his kid. A woman looks over at him and comments something along the lines of, "You are such a wonderful father, I can tell." Chabon's response is to think that he wasn't doing anything to merit such a comment, and that mothers every day do a million times more and are never credited for their parenting skills. I'm definitely on board with this opinion, though I'm not sure I am on board with the direction Chabon then chose to take his book. The underlying acceptable position seems to be that men are clueless morons who love their children, but just aren't that well equipped (for myriad reasons) to be as competent as their female counterparts when it comes to raising them (huge overgeneralization and hetero-normative, I recognize). But Chabon's point in writing his pieces did not seem to be a recognition of this double-standard, or any attempt to equalize the primary care-taking responsibilities in his hectic household. It was just a random collection of his thoughts and experiences of being a son and a father. I did appreciate that the essays weren't completely self-deprecating, and that he didn't make his wife out to be a saint (one essay about his wife's bi-polar disorder or near suicide attempt was particularly heart-breaking), but after such a strong opening, I felt a bit let down from the hodge-podge approach he took with the rest of the book. Given the scatter-shot approach, I thought some of the pieces were funny/clever/entertaining, and others just fell flat. Definitely food for thought on the idea of what it means to be a parent and part of a family, and what it means to want to raise one's childrens differently (or perhaps similarly) to the ways in which they were raised. Insteresting, but nothing earth-shattering.

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