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Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 6, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

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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From Bookmarks Magazine

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.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061490180
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061490187
  • ASIN: B004WB19DU
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,125,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Chabon is the bestselling and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, A Model World, Wonder Boys, Werewolves in Their Youth, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Final Solution, The Yiddish Policemen's Union, Maps and Legends, Gentlemen of the Road, and the middle grade book Summerland.

He lives in Berkeley, California, with his wife, the novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their children. You can visit Michael online at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on October 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Moms who like to read (and write) about motherhood have had it pretty good over the last decade or so. Led by a cadre of "mom bloggers" and others, women have found new ways to connect over the minutiae, the often thankless drudgery, and even the dark side of modern motherhood. No longer are images of motherhood isolated to the hazy pink aisles of Hallmark's Mother's Day section; instead, moms have discovered camaraderie amid chaos as they read brutally honest confessions of the anguish, boredom and terrifying love to which mothers can now admit. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon's own wife, Ayelet Waldman, has become famous (or, in some circles, notorious) for her own brilliantly written but painfully honest writings about marriage and motherhood.

And while it's fantastic that moms have avenues for them to connect and to converse, dads have had to work much harder to find thoughtful writing about fatherhood that doesn't idealize, essentialize, or talk down to them. Now, Chabon has filled that niche admirably with MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS, a wide-ranging but thematically focused collection of his autobiographical writings (many previously published in Details magazine and elsewhere). Here, Chabon touches on many of the motifs that he has explored in his other nonfiction writing and in his novels --- baseball, comics, sex, writing, religion --- but inevitably circles back to what is, for him, at the center of it all: his family.

Chabon, a father of four young children, uses his writing to constantly define what it means --- and what it could mean --- to be a husband, a father, and a man in the early years of the 21st century.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on February 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I'm a father in my late 30s with two daughters and have had plenty of the "I don't know what the hell I'm doing!" moments in my life, but reading 300 pages of someone else saying the same thing is hard to take. It starts out great with an essay on the insultingly low expectations for fathers, and maybe that got my hopes up too high for more great insights. There were some fine moments - a memory of Chabon's relationship with his ex-father in law that touched me, how a random song on the radio can bring you back like a time machine, how no one seems to think about the future any more and a comic book testimonial to the fighting spirit of his wife were some of my favorites. However, some of the essays about animal cruelty, Jose Conseco (huh?) and having sex with his mother's drunk friend at age 15 just left me scratching my head. Obviously everyone's life experience bring you different insight, but this book really wasn't as enlightening as I might have hoped, or the rave reviews might lead you to believe. Glad I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer VINE VOICE on March 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chabon's book is basically a collection of essays on being a man. The subtitle is "The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son." The theme is a perfect counterpoint to his wife's book (Ayelet Waldman's "Bad Mother"), but while Waldman's book stayed on track, Chabon's book takes delightful side-trips into the lands of comic books, baseball and listening to the radio.

My Thoughts

As much as I didn't want to compare their writing (which strikes me as horribly unfair), I got a lot of food for thought from Waldman's book but I fell in love with Chabon's book. His writing pleased me immensely. The way he puts words together thrilled me and amused me and touched me. So much so that I think I'll just spend the rest of this review cramming as many little excerpts in as I can. Why listen to me go on and on about how much I loved this book when you can experience it for yourself?

Consider his essay the "Splendors of Crap." Have you ever heard a more accurate description of modern children's movies than this:

At least once a month I take my kids to see a new "family movie"--the latest computer-generated piece of animated crap. Please don't oblige me to revisit the last one even long enough to name the film, let alone describe it. Anyway, you know the one I mean: set in a zoo, or in a forest, or on farm, or under the sea, or in "Africa," or in an effortlessly hilarious StorybookLandTM where magic, wonder and make-believe are ironized and mocked except at the moments when they are tenderly invoked to move units. I believe but am not prepared to swear that the lead in this weekend's version may have been a neurotic lion, or a neurotic bear, or a neurotic rat, or a neurotic chicken.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A fellow with a keyboard on May 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
On the positive side, this book has a scattering of beautiful sentences and paragraphs. It's a pleasant read with short, easily digestible chapters. It's sometimes funny. Sometimes touching.

Also on the positive side, Chabon doesn't make the mistake of defining manhood as the opposite of womanhood. The meaningful comparison to men is not women but boys. Chabon seems to understand this.

But on the negative side, Chabon makes little effort to say anything about manhood. Instead, it's mostly a collection of musings and complaints about being a father and about how the kids these days are living in a world that suppresses their imagination and they're probably going to grow up to be automatons working for a consumer-driven machine that doesn't care about art or creativity but only greed and profit and oh boy back in my day it was different because we appreciated baseball cards and at least our bad TV shows were fuzzy around the edges so that we could think and dream and be interesting unlike today's youth who are just a bunch of gooberheads. That's paraphrasing, but that's basically Chabon's POV.

On manhood, about the only thing that Chabon has to say is that men are characterized by feigned competence. They don't know what they're doing but it's their manly proclivity to pretend that they do. Er, okay, thanks for that insight. (Can I have my 7 hours back?)

I suspect the reason Chabon doesn't have much to say about manhood is because his values are so cartoonishly, Berkleyishly liberal. My values are fairly liberal, too, but I am at least able to acknowledge the existence and merits of the conservative POV. And I must say that a healthy dose of conservativism seems necessary to talk meaningfully about manhood.
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