From Publishers Weekly
An entertaining omnibus of opinionated essays previously published mostly in Details
magazine spotlights novelist Chabon's (The Yiddish Policemen's Union
) model of being an attentive, honest father and a fairly observant Jew. Living in Berkeley, Calif., raising four children with his wife, Ayelet Waldman, who has also just published a collection of parenting stories (Bad Mother
), Chabon, at 45, revisits his own years growing up in the 1970s with a mixture of rue and relief. A child of the suburbs of Maryland and elsewhere, where children could still play in what he calls in one essay the Wilderness of Childhood, he enjoyed a freedom now lost to kids, endured the divorce of his parents, smoked a lot of pot, suffered a short early marriage and finally found his life's partner, who takes risks where he won't. The essays are tidily arranged around themes of manly affection (his first father-in-law, his younger brother); styles of manhood, such as faking at being a handyman; and patterns of early enchantment, such as his delight in comic books, sci-fi and stargazing. Candid, warm and humorous, Chabon's essays display his habitual attention to craft. (Oct.)
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Already less than awed by "alternative" parenting memoirs by moms and dads, many critics seemed primed to dislike Manhood for Amateurs
. But Chabon comes out on top, impressing reviewers with his usual balancing act: on the one hand, a multitude of finely examined details, anecdotes, and references; on the other, a solid core of a story. That he could extract such a core greatly impressed some reviewers, although a couple noted that a few of the essays felt as if they had been written for men's magazines—for which they indeed already had. Others found his balancing act not so exceptional in an era of confessional fiction; nevertheless, they were impressed that Chabon could pull it off without falling into the usual pitfalls of the form.