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liveblogging Michael Chabon's Manhood For Amateurs

This is the first liveblogging I've ever done. I find that fewer and fewer of the entries in my books tag are actual book reviews. Maybe liveblogging will help to remedy that.

Anyway, I have read and enjoyed most of Michael Chabon's novels  and story collections so it was almost obligatory that I pick up  Manhood For Amateurs , a collection of autobiographical essays. I read about a third of it last night.

I hated some of the essays near the beginning of the book. One in particular, "William And Me", is about the double standards society has in judging men and women as parents. At the beginning of the essay he is out grocery shopping with his son. A woman in rainbow leggings behind him in the checkout line, who "might be a little crazy and therefore fond of everyone" tells him "you are such a good dad...I can tell".

This is the starting point of a meditation on how much easier it is for a father to be judged a good parent than it is  for a mother, and how the job of a mother is much tougher. He says of his own father "he didn't do very much apart from the traditional winning of the bread"...as if supporting a family financially were a trivial task. I had mixed feelings about what he had to say. Part of me thought it was  just self-loating and boilerplate man-bashing, but another part of me wondered if it bothered me just because I am a man and that maybe I wasn't being objective.

My feelings became less mixed when he said "the fact of the matter is that-and fuck the woman in the rainbow tights for her compliment-there's nothing I work harder at then being a good father."  Healthy self-criticism is one thing. Self-loathing is another. And self-loathing to the point of lashing out at a kind-hearted stranger who tries to say  something encouraging is beyond the pale. Especially when you do it in an essay that will probably be read by thousands of people. I've known people who don't take compliments well (i'm guilty of it myself sometimes) , but none that take it to the level that Chabon does here.

I found myself fantasizing about being in an Androcles and the Lion situation with Michael Chabon. I would pull a thorn out of his foot, and when he asked how I could thank him, I would tell him to write a public apology to the lady in the rainbow tights. But as I think about it, he would probably respond to me the way he responded to the rainbow tights lady.

I'll admit that's weird. And probably says something about the power of Chabon's writing ability if he can induce such a fantasy in his readers.

I didn't like the next essay, "The Cut", much better. It's an account of his second son's bris. I saw a lot of the same weasily mixture of self-loathing and self-congratulation that put me off the previous entry.

As I read further though, I found a lot that I liked. This book is putting me on quite the roller coaster. I'll write more tomorrow.


Methinks Michael Chabon is the sort who can take a single comment and extrapolate for miles on that...maybe totally misjudging the person who said it on the way?

Then again, maybe I'm saying that because I'm the same way.

Edited at 2010-02-27 10:05 am (UTC)