Thursday, February 25, 2010

Manhood for Amateurs, by Michael Chabon

I'm a relative newcomer to the leagues of devoted Chabon fans. Until The Yiddish Policemen's Union came along, honestly, I just didn't get him. (I suspect this disclosure is more a give-away of my rather shallow reading history and lack of endurance when trying new forms than anything to do with the Chabon's books.)
In the personal essays department, Ayelet Waldman, Chabon's author-wife went first. (A review of Bad Mother, her foray into this genre, will be posted soon.) Chabon's book, much like his wife's, riffs on the simple, seemingly "nothing" moments that fall between the achievements and events that usually claim front-and-center on the stage of our lives. He leads us, through sparkling clear insight, down roads that explore the underpinnings of being male, of being a husband and father. Chabon's thinking and writing is so dazzling and clear, his sentences so gorgeous, that I finally understood the accolades bestowed upon him for his prose.
Let's see, the opening chapter: The Losers' Club. Here we see Chabon as a boy, a fledgling nerd, trying to create a comic book fan club. As the author sits with the memory of its failure, he speaks to accepting his imperfections, and about the inevitability that, as part of the human condition, he, like all of us, is doomed to fail, over and over.
Two other favorites: In a nonjudgmental XO9, he tells us of the OCD that runs through his family and, in the end, how it relates to the art of writing; in Xmas, he calls the naked emperor out by exposing the rampant, and usually unspoken, hypocrisy behind the secularization of Christmas as well as the Christmasization of Hanukah.
I found myself saying, "Oh, yeah", over and over as I read these essays, realizing how many basic truths had never, until just then, been put into words.
A "Must Read", or a "Must Listen" as Chabon himself reads his book for the audio version!

1 comment:

  1. I'm a big fan of Chabon, although I haven't read all of his books...yet! My favorites are Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Wonder Boys. I'm looking forward to this one. Amy K.