Wednesday, May 05, 2010

When the Time Comes: Michael Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs

This morning, it happened. I hit that page. You know the one I mean: the page when you realize you don't have much left in the book you're reading and you'll have to find something else to read — or start the same book over from the beginning.

There are few writers whose work I enjoy enough to do that, but Michael Chabon is one of them. A co-worker let me borrow her copy of his latest, Manhood for Amateurs. Now, my being a man probably makes this a more enjoyable read than it was for her — and she enjoyed it. But, from my perspective, what makes it worth immediately re-reading is that it rekindles thoughts about childhood while simultaneously making me wistful for my future years of parenthood.

Like the best nonfiction, Chabon makes everything in this collection of essays feel like a short story. From his own recollections, Chabon transports me to my special hidey-holes of kid-dom. Those secret paths through the woods where I tracked tribes of Indians. The moments on home movies long since muted when I didn't know I was being filmed. Even the essay about the changing of a radio station's playlist brought back car rides along roads I haven't traveled in years.

Though I sometimes wonder if people who aren't blessed with a good vocabulary and the knowledge of how to use a dictionary can fully appreciate the nuance and virtuosity he applies to each sentence, he also scars the landscape with enough f-bombs to make any 13-year-old boy proud.

So here I am, poised to begin page 301 of his 306-page book, and I wonder whether I'm man enough to do it all over again.


caroline_hagood said...

You know, even as a woman, I adored this book. I'm very interested in gender issues, as you know, and I think I might have enjoyed this book even more for being a woman. I learned so much and laughed so much.

Matt Sinclair said...

I'm glad to hear that this book isn't mostly of interest to men. He's such a good writer that I'm not surprised to hear that it appeals to women, too. He's certainly not hung up on "this is a man's job" or "this is the realm of women." As the book describes, he was happy to become the primary cook in the house as he was growing up, and I picture him doing it now for his kids.

What surprised me is the level of personal story that the rest of his family was willing to share. I was astouned that his wife, his initial reader (or so I've been told) was ok with him including her moments of contemplating suicide and his willingness to show himself as practically denying to himself that she was in trouble. Talk about an honest writer!

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued and shall have to hunt this book down and add it to my ever growing pile.

Thanks for the tip. And yes, you are man enough. Just flip back to page one and soak up all the glorious details you missed the first time around.

Matt Sinclair said...

Thanks, Cat. I love soaking up glorious details.