Manhood For Amateurs by Michael Chabon

Today I’m doing a review with my pal Kelly over at The Written World. And it’s for an incredible book; Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon. A book that I think should be read by everyone. Certainly not only by men. We each gave each other three questions to answer about the book. You can click on over to her blog to read the answers to the questions I asked her. Here are my answers to her questions:

1. If this the only Chabon book you have to judge by (and I think it is) what do you think about his writing? Will you read more by him based on this collection?

It is the only Chabon book I’ve read! And it certainly will not be my last. In fact, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship. Honestly, I was scared to death of Michael Chabon before reading this book. He won a Pulitzer. That alone makes me scared of an author. But I’ve always just assumed that his books are too smart for me. And that is absolutely NOT to say that his books are not smart. This book was very smartly written, but so well presented. The language just flows perfectly. I’m glad I started with a work of non-fiction with Chabon. It gives me a sense of his true voice. This is a collection of essays, short essays. His tone goes from whimsical to comical to philisophical to absolutely beauty in a matter of sentences. It worked just perfectly for me. Felt almost conversational at times. He painted beautiful pictures in my head that made me laugh aloud at times, took my breath away sometimes with a couple of words – just in the way he would phrase something, and would bring a tear to my eyes at other times.

What I found I loved more than anything about Chabon’s writing is that as a whole, it’s wonderful. But he throws in little gems here and there that just catch you. Little special moments that just make you stop. And reread that one line over and over again. I remember going over a line a few times in this book and thinking to myself “that’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve read”. It’s like he can paint a masterpiece with a few words.

2. What was your favourite essay in this collection? Why?

Sorry, but I’m going to give you a total sell out answer here :p I can’t pick a favorite essay in this collection. I had many. Many, many favorites that stood out to me in this collection. For so many reasons that I’ll get into more in the next question. There was the essay on being assumed to be a wonderful father just because he had his son with him in the grocery store, the essay on circumcision and the reasonings behind it and on if it’s cruel, the night he took his son to the park when Obama was elected president and held him on his shoulders, the time he bought a man purse and enjoyed it, the essay on why men do not use instruction manuals and the deeper philosophy behind it, the evolution of legos, his first sexual encounter with an older woman and the feelings associated with it (not what you might expect). I loved this mans thoughts. I really did.

3. This was supposed to be a book for manhood. Did you learn anything?

I don’t know that “learned” would be the right word to use here, but I was so happy to have read this book. Because I related to it so much and it felt good to see a man be so open and honest about his feelings. We live in a world that is so divided by gender and it seems to become more and more divided by gender. All of the -isms seem to be focused on the differences between each other, when it’s been my view that it should focus on how we are similar. How we are and should be equal. Of course, no two people are going to share the same interests. I understand that, but this book made me a little more comfortable with myself and I thank Mr. Chabon for that.

It’s become acceptable these days, not just acceptable, but expected, that men fit a certain role. And personally, I think it’s a disgusting role. I see it so much all the time…we all do. A guy is expected to find a nice little girl that’ll take care of all his needs, in the bedroom and out, give him bragging rights to his friends, get drunk and make an ass of himself and it’s cool, you’re supposed to LOVE sports, you should probably love hunting and fishing, baseball caps, drive a truck, etc. I’m NOT saying here that I have anything against anyone who likes any of the above things. What I do have a problem with is societies expectations that men SHOULD love all of the above things. And if you don’t, then you’re a freak, or not a real man.

Personally, I don’t like many of the above mentioned things. Chabon does like a lot of the above mentioned things. At least he likes sports and I know he’s gotten drunk quite a few times. I’VE gotten drunk quite a few times and like my fair share of sports too. But guess what? I also like long baths, I like to read, I like nature, I’m trying to learn to crochet. And what I loved more than anything about this book is that Chabon challenges these stereotypes of “maleness” too. Over and over again in this collection. And I thought he did it wonderfully. In a way that all men and women can relate to. I don’t think this is a book just for men, though I think it is a book that any man can benefit from reading. I think this is a book for anyone that is human to read. After all, isn’t that the one thing that we all have in common?


14 Responses

  1. Gah, what are you doing? This isn’t supposed to be up for a few hours! :p

  2. as always it sounds like you enjoyed the book.. i’ve long ago come to the conclusion that you are easily pleased and i wish I were as easily pleased as you are!! lol.. I am always glad to hear when you like a certainly gives pause to the books you are not enthused over!

  3. Still scared to death to read Chabon…

  4. I wasn’t crazy about Kavalier and Clay, but I admit I’m curious about this one! Mostly because Katie Roiphe attacked Chabon and compared him unfavorably with Manly Men Writers like Normal Mailer and Philip Roth, and I feel like any un-friend of Katie Roiphe should be a friend of mine. πŸ˜›

  5. I’m going to blow the dust off my scimitar and go after you and Debi the next time you say something is too smart for you. Just warning you πŸ˜› You need to read Kavalier and Clay, Chris!

    Stereotypical “manliness” is a horrible thing. Just like stereotypical “femaleness”. Hooray for breaking out of the binary!

  6. I am really looking forward to reading this – especially since I just finished Maps and Legends!

  7. What?!?! You don’t like baseball caps?!?! Our friendship is now officially ended.


    Sounds like a book I would like to read. Stereotypes are interesting to a point and there is certainly a degree of truth in them, but when they lead to feeling bound into certain roles then they have way too much power. Personally I’ve never really felt any pressure from family or friends or those around me to conform to any rigid male stereotype. I’ve always loved sports, but was never really involved with them at a high school level because I was too small and not driven to overcome that with great skill. I’ve always like art and music and crafting as well as sports and comic books. I love chick flicks every bit as much, often more, than the latest Michael Bay film, although I can appreciate and enjoy those as well. I’ve always been much more interested in being myself and one of the things I love about the internet is that it has given me an opportunity to connect to kindred spirits like yourself.

    Since you enjoyed Chabon I would suggest reading that book I reviewed at the end of last year, The Final Solution. It is a really short novel, probably a good next step before working up to his bigger works.

  8. Loved everything about y’alls co-review! I saw this somewhere else, and thought it sounded interesting, but now I want to read it RIGHT NOW.

    And, I’m dittoing Ana: read Kavalier & Clay!

  9. Chris! You HAVE TO read The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. YOU HAVE TO DO IT. Trust me. Everything in it is something you love. Read it. Read it. READ IT. Now!

  10. You ARE the coolest. Just my opinion.

  11. Kailana, Oops :p

    Deslily, You seem to like books ALMOST as much as I do! Which is a good thing!! But yeah, I’m one that’s very easily pleased with what I read.

    Amanda, Oh no no no no!! You must try him!! He’s really really good I promise!!

    Jenny, I wouldn’t call Chabon a “manly man” writer at all!! In fact, what I liked about him so much was that he didn’t take that manly man attitude that I truly abhor so much. Hope you decide to try this one out!

    Nymeth, >> Sorry bout that! I truly do think that some things are just way over my head though and they scare the bejeezus out of me. Like Chabon did before I actually tried him. Hooray indeed for breaking out of the binary πŸ˜€

    Carrie, I have that on my shelf! I think I’m going to try some of his nonfic first and then go for that one.

    Carl, I should say I don’t like wearing baseball caps :p Because they look absolutely horrible one me :p I have tons of them (including the Saints NFC and Superbowl hats!) but I just have them to have them, lol. You’re totally right…I think there is a certain degree of truth to stereotypes, but what bugs me is when people get trapped into those stereotypes and are afraid that they are not normal if they go beyond them. One thing I’ve loved about blogging is, like you mentioned, that I’ve met people who are like minded in going against stereotypical thinking. I totally need to read The Final Solution!! I forgot about that one!!

    Eva, HEY YOU!!!! You’re back πŸ˜€ I saw your post earlier today on being back in town, just haven’t had the chance to comment yet. Good to see you. You most definitely have to read this right now by the way πŸ˜‰

    Heather, I will I will I will!! I promise! In fact, I’m doing a group read of it in July, I just forgot who I’m reading it with :/ But now you have me even more excited to read it! I’ll love everything in it?!?!? Wow πŸ˜€

    Care, Well THANK YOU madame! But I have to disagree…because YOU are the coolest πŸ˜‰

  12. […] and Klay, and I’ve had my eye on his essay collection Manhood for Amateurs since reading Chris’ and Kelly’s co-review earlier this month. As much as I adore the Women Unbound Challenge, […]

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