Answer: Michael Chabon.
"Michael Chabon is not an author I want to think less of. He is the great and gifted man behind the expansive and inventive novels “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay” and “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.” So it’s a relief to say that “Manhood for Amateurs” isn’t really Dad Lit, at least not in the Xtreme sense that its user’s-manual-like handle indicates. While it bears some of the hallmarks of the genre — there’s unbridled bris talk, some scenes from the sex life and the altogether gratuitous announcement “I have a rudimentary third nipple” (Why, Mike, why?) — the book is a closer relation to Joan Didion’s “White Album.” That is to say, it’s not a chronicle, but rather a vaguely themed collection of thoughtful first-person essays (most, in this case, originally published in Details magazine) that capture a certain time and mood. The theme: maleness in its various states — boyhood, manhood, fatherhood, brotherhood. The time: now, juxtaposed frequently with Chabon’s 1970s childhood. The mood: wistful.
The wistfulness creeps up. On the surface, this is a lighthearted collection, rife with Chabonian fun and mischief; who else would take down Hanukkah as an “example of voluntary group self-deception,” a second-tier holiday “elevated beyond its station”?
But cumulatively, these essays impart a sad feeling of something irretrievably lost, a sense that “The Wilderness of Childhood” — to use the title of a particularly lovely piece — has been robbed of much of its romance and mystery by the current parenting regime. “The sandlots and creek beds,” Chabon writes, “the alleys and woodlands have been abandoned in favor of a system of reservations — Chuck E. Cheese, the Jungle, the Discovery Zone: jolly internment centers mapped and planned by adults with no blank spots aside from doors marked Staff Only.”
This wilderness, vanishing as alarmingly fast as the Amazonian rain forest, is not a literal one but simply any place where kids can unmediatedly be kids, without the requisite caregiver security details and OSHA-compliant play spaces. Chabon argues that books like “The Hobbit” and “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” captivated young readers like himself not because they came off as wildly transporting works of imagination, but because they seemed faithful to kid life as his and previous generations knew it. “Childhood is, or has been, or ought to be, the great original adventure, a tale of privation, courage, constant vigilance, danger and sometimes calamity,” he writes. Done right, it is a journey undertaken with only a “fragmentary map” constructed “out of a patchwork of personal misfortune, bedtime reading and the accumulated local lore of the neighborhood children."
—David Kamp (Excerpted from the October 15, 2009, Sunday Book Review, New York Times)
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And From the New York Times Fashion and Style Section:
Parents Burning To Write It All Down
By Malia Wollan
Published: October 16, 2009 Berkeley, Calif. — Days before the missing “balloon boy” saturated cable news channels, the novelist Michael Chabon and his wife, Ayelet Waldman, were having a lighthearted argument. He wanted to host his son’s bar mitzvah in a blimp hovering high above the San Francisco Bay.
“It’s not happening,” she said, having no desire to float in a helium airship nor remain alone and grounded while her husband and four children took flight.
The commingling of the fanciful and the mundane is a house specialty in this picturesque Arts and Crafts bungalow in Berkeley with Barack Obama signs still staked in the yard. The literary duo’s primary assignment here — he a Pulitzer winning novelist, she a Harvard educated former lawyer and best-selling writer — is raising their children, Sophie, 14; Zeke, 12; Rosie, 8; and Abe, 6.
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