So no drum roll is necessary as to whether or not I’m going to say, go read this book. You probably already figured out I think you should read Michael Chabon in general and Manhood for Amateurs specifically.
I don’t really want to write reviews of the books I read. I’m not trying to pick apart anyone’s storytelling based on some post-modern theories created by mid-century French thinkers. I more want to share my thoughts – some good, some not-so-good – on the books I take a chance on and read.
That being said, Manhood for Amateurs is an excellent read. It can be devoured in one fell swoop or nibbled as essay at a time. His topics range from his childhood and parents to his own hypocrisy as a father to his admiration for his wife. The theme of inquisitiveness and self-examination winds beneath the surface of all the essays. Chabon is very interested in how he came to where he is now and, I think, more importantly, where exactly that is.
There were some sections that resonated with me on a personal level. Either Chabon’s description of a scenario or a feeling of his mimicked one I have:
I do know for certain that I have never been one to refuse the opportunity to add another father to my collection. (90)
Or it was just plain amusing:
His office, like him, was mostly about golf. The carpet was Bermuda-grass green, the walls were hung with maps of St. Andrews and framed New Yorker covers of duffers, and the various hats, ashtrays, hassocks, cigarette lighters, plaques, novelty telephones, and trophies around the room were shaped like golf balls, tees, mashies, mulligans, and I don’t know what. In the midst of all that sat an enormous black Robber Baron desk with matching black Captain Nemo chair; an old, vaguely Japanese-looking coffee table on its last tour of duty in the house; a cyclopean television; and a reclining armchair and sofa, both covered in wool patterned with the tartan of some unknown but no doubt staunch, whiskey-drinking, golf-wild highland clan. (92)
His style is a breath of fresh air, charming and personal and different from other writers. Like the Washington Post Book World blurb on the back says, “He wants to move and thrill us both, and he does.”