Thursday, April 01, 2010

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon

A shy manifesto, an impractical handbook, the true story of a fabulist, an entire life in parts and pieces, Manhood for Amateurs is the first sustained work of personal writing from Michael Chabon. In these insightful, provocative, slyly interlinked essays, one of America's most brilliant and humane writers presents his autobiography and his vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own: as a series of reflections, regrets and re-examinations, each sparked by an encounter, in the present, that holds some legacy of the past. What does it mean to be a man today? Chabon invokes and interprets and struggles to reinvent for us, with characteristic warmth and lyric wit, the personal and family history that haunts him even as--simply because--it goes on being written every day. As a devoted son, as a passionate husband and above all as the father of four young Americans, Chabon renders his memories of childhood, of his parents' marriage and divorce, of painful adolescent comedy and giddy encounters with the popular art and literature of his own youth, as a theme played--on different instruments, with a fresh tempo and in a new key--by the mad quartet of which he now finds himself co-conductor. At once dazzling, hilarious and moving, Manhood for Amateurs is destined to become a classic.
If I look on my TBR pile I will see two books by Michael Chabon. He is an author that I really wanted to read and never seemed to get around to! Then, this book came out and I was doing the Essay Reading Challenge, so I decided to give it a try. I received it as a review copy from Harper Collins and I am very happy that I did because I finally have read Chabon and I love him! Since completing this book I have also read his other essay collection and will be reviewing it soon. Later in the year I hope to give his fiction a try.

Today's review is a buddy review with Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made On. It's the first one we have done in 2010, but hopefully it will not be our last. He asked me three questions which I answered below, and then if you visit his blog you can see his answers to my three questions.

1. Do you think the book is applicable to just the experiences of men, or to humanity as a whole?
I think if this book only worked for men I wouldn't like it at all. He might be talking about his experiences as a father, husband, and son, but he talks about things that everyone faces a lot of the time, so anyone can relate to the experiences in the book. There are a few times where it is a 'manly' book and I didn't really relate to what he was talking about, but that was rare. I think by talking about what it is to be a man in many situations, he is also touching on what it is like to be a human.

2. What did you think of the structure of the book (divided into a series of short essays)?
I really liked the way this book worked. It was like one big book, though, because all the essays related to each other and flowed in such a way that it didn't feel like a different experience every time. I am always impressed by authors that can do that. Every essay was written so well, too. While I liked some more than others, I can't think of a single one that I didn't like at all. Another mark of a good author, I would say!

3. What did you take away from the book as a whole?
Honestly, that I am terrible for waiting so long to read Michael Chabon. Instead of collecting his books to gather dust I should have been READING them. Strange concept, I know! It made me think about my own life, too. I am a few years younger than him, but it makes you wonder what you will think when you look back over your life. Can you look at it like he does as a lesson for others, or will you just see things as giant fails. It's a thinking book and I think every experience with it can easily be different depending on where you are in your own life while reading it.

Thanks so much for another buddy review, Chris! I look forward to the next one. Be sure to head over to his blog to read his answers to the questions I asked him. Enjoy!

This book also counts for the Essay Reading Challenge.

Oh, and my thanks to Harper Collins Canada for the review copy of this book!


  1. Despite two of my favorite bloggers liking this book, I'm still scared to death of Chabon.

  2. I'm a little intimidated by Chabon too, but I'm going to read him anyway. Great interview guys!

  3. I think I would like to give this a go - especially as it sounds like a really interesting form of life writing. thanks for recommending and sharing


  4. "Honestly, that I am terrible for waiting so long to read Michael Chabon."

    Yes. Yes you are :P But it's never too late!

  5. I've just finished my first Chabon as well. (The Final Solution).

    Really enjoyed it and definitely want to read him some more.

  6. I actually didn't like the 2 Chabon novels I've read. But maybe I'd like this?!

  7. This looks intriguing, and I've never read any Chabon either. Maybe I should start with this one?

  8. I've appreciated the Chabon books I read more than I enjoyed them :-). I've been eying this one for a while, this makes it a little more likely I'll get to it.

    Your "You might also like" pointed me to your review of Rampant. I'd been looking for it on and off since it was recommended to me, but I had the name wrong! It's now officially on my TBR list.

  9. I already said this on Chris' blog, but I loved y'alls co-review! :) I definitely want to read this now.


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