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Good writing suffers from Chabon's occasional labor of pain

  • May 8, 2012
While I find Chabon a good, at times amazing writer, all of his books I've read to date suffer from what seems a labored effort to go beyond just good, to amazing and beyond.  

Here, the writing is a collection of essays on manhood:  the ways, means, and absurdities of being a son, a husband, and a father.  Some, especially on the subject of fatherhood, are excellent, and contain rare jewels.  "In my children, I have found a band of companions," this father of four writes in "The Amateur Family" describing their shared loves and adventures--in this case of the Dr. Who television series, but it could be of anything shared within that "society of passionate amateurs" that constitutes exactly the relationship my wife and I cherish with our three now-twentysomething children.  

In "Looking for Trouble" Chabon captures perfectly the mind of the private person--who is willing, certainly content, and even hopeful of remaining private and alone--being pulled through the tenuous but powerful draws of sociability and convention into public situations--where he finds his best friend, who in turn ends up introducing him to his future wife.  

At other times,  Chabon seems to be laboring too hard in his writing, just as he labors too hard at life, to be the perfect person or do the perfect thing, or write the perfect phrase.  In his fiction, it seems like an attempt to show (and show off) the skill involved his craft; in these essays it seems less like an attempt than an occasional assumption of rightness that deflates the impact of the essays. 

The good-natured-ness of the body of his work provides evidence that this isn't an incurable arrogance, but a true labor of pain.  Like his other books, I have rated this one as "worth my time" because when he relaxes and just writes he is as good as anyone writing today.

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review by . October 07, 2009
Chabon, Michael. "Manhood for Amateurs; The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son", HarperCollins, 2009.    A Collection of Pieces    Amos Lassen    Michael Chabon's collection of thoughts on being a man ranges from light thoughts to some very poignant and dramatic moments as well as several sustained meditations. If there is unifying themes they are memory and nostalgia. The book is a way to look at the past. However what …
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Todd Stockslager ()
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I love reading and writing about what I have read, making the connections and marking the comparisons and contrasts. God has given man the amazing power to invent language and the means to record it which … more
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An entertaining omnibus of opinionated essays previously published mostly inDetailsmagazine 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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ISBN-10: 0061490180
ISBN-13: 978-0061490187
Author: Michael Chabon
Publisher: Harper

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"A Collection of Pieces"
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