Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces, Michael Chabon 2018
Chabon, a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist and essayist, has written a lovely, slim volume about being a son and a father. The book begins with a recounting of advice given him as a young writer by a ‘great man’, who advised him to not have children if he wanted to be a great and productive writer. Chabon with his four children clearly ignored this advice, allowing his children to “steal my time, narrow my compass, and curtail my freedom”, and he says, “I’m all right with that.” and goes on to explain that his children, unlike his books, continue to hold ‘mystery’ for him, are forgiving of his weaknesses, failings, and character flaws, and love him back. The essays tell of his son the fashionista and their visit to Fashion Week in Paris, his struggling with the’n-word’ while reading Huckleberry Finn to his children, the joys of being a baseball fan and the heartbreak of his son’s experiences in Little League, the struggle between individuality (weirdness in Berkeley, CA) and conformity that is the battleground of middle school, the complex interactions between pre-teen boys and girls ( his own past ‘dickitude’ and his son’s current), and in the eponymous final essay, his relationship with his own father. Chabon has the wonderful ability to capture experience in the perfect phrase, and there were many moments in this book where I saw myself, my own father, and my dear children. Amazing how we have no formal training, education, or experience for the most important job we will ever have—-being a parent. Read Chabon’s book and if you’re in your ’70’s, take the opportunity to look back on having a father and being one. If you’re just starting your family, this is a great way to begin to stop and think about your role as a father and perhaps be able to stop, think, and freeze some of those special moments for the future.