Summary and book reviews of Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Manhood for Amateurs

The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son

by Michael Chabon

Manhood for Amateurs
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2010, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Julie Wan

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About this Book

Book Summary

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author— "an immensely gifted writer and a magical prose stylist" (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times)—offers his first major work of nonfiction, an autobiographical narrative as inventive, beautiful, and powerful as his acclaimed, award-winning fiction.

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 our most brilliant and humane writers presents his autobiography and his vision of life in the way so many of us experience our own lives: as a series of reflections, regrets, and reexaminations, 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 presents his memories of childhood, of his parents' marriage and divorce, of moments 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.

Below is the complete text of an essay from Chabon's collection

The Hand on My Shoulder

I didn't play golf, and he had never smoked marijuana. I was a nail chewer, inclined to brood, and dubious of the motives of other people. He was big and placid, uniformly kind to strangers and friends, and never went anywhere without whistling a little song. I minored in philosophy. He fell asleep watching television. He fell asleep in movie theaters, too, and occasionally, I suspected, while driving. He had been in the navy during World War II, which taught him, he said, to sleep whenever he could. I, still troubled no doubt by perplexing questions of ontology and epistemology raised during my brief flirtation with logical positivism ten years earlier, was an insomniac. I was also a Jew, of a sort; he was, when required, an Episcopalian.

He was not a big man, but his voice boomed, and his hands were meaty, and in repose there was something august about his heavy midwestern...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Throughout, Chabon's prose moves elegantly from humor to honesty to poignance. He strikes just the right amount of vulnerability - truthful but not divulging, candid but not crass. Even in nostalgia and regret, the voice is neither sentimental nor self-absorbed. Chabon simply tells his stories.   (Reviewed by Julie Wan).

Full Review Members Only (383 words).

Media Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle

... hilarious, moving, pleasurable, disturbing, transcendent, restless and sometimes a trifle cantankerous - but almost never dull.

Los Angeles Times

Chabon proves excellent company, an insightful chatterbox, curious, erudite, occasionally profane and ultimately wise to the delusions of masculinity.

Publishers Weekly

Candid, warm and humorous, Chabon's essays display his habitual attention to craft.

Booklist

Chabon takes a big, fat swing at the essay form with his second collection and achieves success ... These warm and thoughtful essays underscore just how good a wordsmith Chabon is - regardless of the form he chooses.

Library Journal

Readers seeking the intelligence of Updike; the gentle, brainy appeal of Sedaris; or the literary virtuosity of Nabokov will thoroughly enjoy what the publisher bills as Chabon's first major nonfiction work.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Wry and heartfelt, Chabon's riffs uncover brand-new insights in even the most quotidian subjects.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Ayelet Waldman's Bad Mother
Several months before the release of Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs, his wife, writer Ayelet Waldman, published a memoir called Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, which offers another look at the Chabon/Waldman family.

The book stems partly from Waldman's controversial essay published in the New York Times' "Modern Love" column, in which she confessed to loving her husband more than her children. In these 18 essays, Waldman fleshes out her relationship with her four children and her husband, writing with raw, sometimes funny, sometimes heart-wrenching candor about the challenges of motherhood in modern times. Included in the book is an essay on her...

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