You Review: Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Reviewed by Michael Minneboo

Michael is the man behind Mike’s Webs, an excellent blog on media, comics, and other marvelous stuff that your blogmistresses are sure you’ll like. Go say hello from us. 🙂

manhoodforamateursEver since the movie and the novel Wonder Boys, I’ve been a fan of Michael Chabon‘s writing. Although I’ve read some of his books, such as Wonder Boys and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, his debut novel, Chabon himself remained something of an enigma to me.

That’s why, when the opportunity arose, I took the chance to read his autobiographical book Manhood for Amateurs. The book is a collection of semi-interlinked essays in which Chabon looks back upon his life: a series of reflections in which the author examines what it means to be a man, a husband, a parent and a child these days. The essays are grouped together by themes such as ‘Techniques of betrayal’, dealing with parenthood; ‘Styles of manhood’ in which Chabon is brutally honest, confessing that ‘the trick of being a man is to give the appearance of keeping your head when, deep inside, the truest part of you is crying out, Oh, shit!’

The essays grouped within ‘Elements of fire’, solely deal with Chabon’s love life and the women he’s met. Although it’s interesting to know that Chabon slept with one of his mom’s friends while he was only fifteen and that he met his current wife because for once he decided to take a chance and go on a blind date, it’s the chapters in which he reflects upon the parallels and the differences between his childhood and the way his kids grow up I found most enlightening. For instance, in The Wilderness of Childhood Chabon explains that when he was young his parents allowed him to explore the neighbourhood and the woods near their house and how this exploration of undiscovered areas triggered his imagination. Nowadays, kids don’t ride a bike on their own, because parents escort them by car from door to door, to keep them ‘safe’. This keeps them from exploring new grounds on their own, and from meeting other kids for that matter. Chabon states that if: ‘Art is a form of exploration, of sailing off into the unknown alone, heading for those unmarked places on the map. If children are not permitted – not taught – to be adventurers and explorers as children, what will become of the world of adventure, of stories of literature itself?’ It’s good for all of us creative adults to realise the importance of the call to adventure and daring to take a dive into the unknown.

And thumbs up for Chabon’s parents for letting him be an explorer in his childhood-days, because we readers are beneficiary to his creative mind and the wonderful prose through which he shows us a bit more about who he is, how he came to be and how he views this world.

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