Fourth Estate, £16.99 Order for £15.29 from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

Manhood for Amateurs, By Michael Chabon

In the name of bungling fathers

An essential element of the business of being a man is to flood everyone around you in a great radiant arc of bullshit," declares Michael Chabon in his "impractical handbook" on "the pleasures and regrets of a husband, father and son". Chabon achieved vertiginous success early in his writing career, but he has remained firmly grounded. In 1988, at the age of 25, he published his first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, which became a bestseller and, with his striking good looks, he was an instant celebrity. People magazine wanted to feature him as one of their "50 Most Beautiful People", but he turned them down: "to be praised for something like that is just weird."

Chabon wears his populism with pride. His father inculcated in him a love of Star Trek, Japanese monster movies and the Marx Brothers. He professes to be the geek father of a family of geeks, although, more kindly, he has raised his four children to appreciate "obsessive scholarship, passionate curiosity and curatorial tenderness" – the world of the heedless and whole-hearted amateur.

Manhood for Amateurs is a resolutely enquiring, robust and funny exploration into the tricky business of being a passionate amateur man – the nerd, geek and fanboy in all of us guys. Fatherhood is a constant battle with a cartoon spectre of failure: "at one time or other, if not on a daily basis, each one of us fathers is the biggest asshole in the world".

He argues that men refusing to ask for directions hides deeper cartographic disorders. Imposture and faking it, in order to downplay men's lack of fitness for the job, has resulted in a grim encyclopaedia of calamities, the worst of which we are suffering now.

It takes a brave writer to claim that "misogyny comes naturally to a young man in his late teens", even though Chabon's misogyny wore a beret and quoted Nietzsche. Chabon's humanity and deep common sense allow him to address the most sensitive issues. "What is a waist, anyway?" asks his youngest son as he tries to make a snarl of lines on a piece of paper resemble a woman.

The depiction of women in Chabon's fiction is a mystery that, he confesses, "damns me to defeat and ineptitude", even though it is a mystery he will never stop trying to solve. Manhood for Amateurs is generous and witty, tender and tempestuous, startling you with the arcade-game fire-power of a precision mind free-ranging over a universe he knows so well: the "baseless optimism" of being a man.

Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Arts and Entertainment
U2's Songs of Innocence album sleeve

tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men

Arts and Entertainment
Alison Steadman in Inside No.9
tvReview: Alison Steadman stars in Inside No.9's brilliant series finale Spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk