Pops: Fatherhood in Piecesby Published 15 May 2018
|Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces.pdf|
“Magical prose stylist” Michael Chabon (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times) delivers a collection of essays—heartfelt, humorous, insightful, wise—on the meaning of fatherhood.
For the September 2016 issue of GQ, Michael Chabon wrote a piece about accompanying his son Abraham Chabon, then thirteen, to Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Possessed with a precocious sense of style, Abe was in his element chatting with designers he idolized and turning a critical eye to the freshest runway looks of the season; Chabon Sr., whose interest in clothing stops at “thrift-shopping for vintage western shirts or Hermès neckties,” sat idly by, staving off yawns and fighting the impulse that the whole thing was a massive waste of time. Despite his own indifference, however, what gradually emerged as Chabon ferried his son to and from fashion shows was a deep respect for his son’s passion. The piece quickly became a viral sensation.
With the GQ story as its centerpiece, and featuring six additional essays plus an introduction, Pops illuminates the meaning, magic, and mysteries of fatherhood as only Michael Chabon can.
"Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces" Reviews
"Once they're written, my books, unlike my children, hold no wonder for me; no mystery resides in them."
- Michael Chabon, Pops
Fundamentally, this seems like a leaner, thinner, Manhood for Amateurs, (Part II: Fatherhood). It was good, and some of the essays were great even. But like a lame, awkward untwisting of the old the Woody Allen joke from Annie Hall:
"Boy, the stories in this book weren't bad,"
"Yeah, I know; and such small portions."
Well, that's essentially how I feel about the book. I love love Chabon (not a completest, but the horizon is close), adore his prose, his outlook, and his wacky metaphors. I sometimes even got the serious feels with these stories as a husband and father. But, alas, just about when I'm getting all Chaboned-up, the book is over.
Anyway, the thin book contains the followings stories, just in time for father's day:
1. Little Man (in GQ as 'My Son the Prince of Fashion')
2. Adventures in Euphamism
3. The Bubble People
4. Against Dickitude
5. The Old Ball Game
6. Be Cool or Be Cast Out
7. Pops (in the New Yorker as 'The Recipe for Life')
During a time in which the artist-vs-art debate has reached a fever pitch, it is positively delightful to discover that one of my favourite authors happens to be a guy worthy of admiration for both his work and his conduct. Listened to over two hours and change of chores and food prep, Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces is a stellar audiobook compilation of Chabon's reflections on fatherhood. Though I'm more familiar with Chabon's fiction, he does a splendid job infusing the same sense of wonder, intelligence, word-play, and empathy into these essays as he does his imagined tales.
It was a pleasure to discover that Chabon's verbose and superlatively imagined style extends to his nonfiction writing. Chabon's children pop off the page with minuscule details that show his affection for them and attention to their lives. Each of these stories tackles a moment in which Chabon is confronted with his own parenting challenges or when his children have surprised him with their comportment. Each of these stories is warm and suffused with hard-earned wisdom and bolstered by Chabon's decision to narrate the audiobook.
Though the theme of fatherhood unites the stories, there's sufficient variety here that had me listen to the entire running time in a single session. Chabon delivers a thoughtful meditation on male privilege, consent, feminism, and his own fumbles in past relationships that centre around a text conversation between his son and a love interest. A journey to Paris fashion week with his sartorially gifted son makes for a hilarious lambast of high fashion and a touching attempt to understand his offspring. The closing story dealing with his ailing father also makes for a poignant and beautiful finish to the entire collection.
As I've said in a previous review, Chabon never writes the same book twice. Though this is nonfiction, a lot of the warmth and humanity that has drawn me to his previous books is present in Pops: A Fatherhood in Pieces. If his previous book--the partially-nonfictional Moonglow--felt elegiac then, Pops is a sharp turn towards the optimistic and uplifting. Whatever he's up to next, you can be sure I'll be picking it up!
Michael Chabon's been one of my favourites for years, but I don't think he was in my top 5 until a couple of years ago when I read his piece "The Old Ball Game" on his website. It's a beautiful piece about baseball and family that always brings a tear to my eye, and firmly established him in my mind as a writer of another calibre. I'm so excited it's been included here. Chabon's not a sentimentalist, but his writing is shot through with compassion, especially in regards to his family. The beautiful warmth and humanity of his writing here will make you smile and bring those close to you even closer.
Pops is a very slim collection of nonfiction essays. I particularly enjoy Chabon's nonfiction because he is unafraid. He addresses topics that would scare most authors. Specifically, he has no issues admitting that fatherhood, and manhood for that matter, is a bit of a work in progress for him. Even though none of us have it figured out, he readily admits that fact.
Remember, Chabon is a world-renowned Pulitzer Prize winner. He should have an ego the size of a mansion, but he doesn't. His humility is both refreshing and inspiring.
At just 127 pages, Pops succinctly delves into Chabon's adventures in fatherhood. If I'm not mistaken, each of his children serves as the focus of an essay. The themes range from discovering the true nature of a child to seizing upon missed opportunities to trying to teach boys not to act like assholes. There's much more, of course, but the unifying factor throughout is Chabon admitting to his own mistakes and simply trying to do the best he can.
The book ends, interestingly enough, with Chabon writing an essay about his own father. If you are a consistent reader of Chabon, you understand that this is well-covered ground. He is not mean when it comes to his own father, yet he also isn't sugarcoating anything. It's obvious that he loves his own dad, but it's also apparent that he didn't always like the man.
If find it fascinating that in a book about his own trials, tribulations, and triumphs as a father, he ends on a note that helps us to understand the events that forged the sort of father he would one day become. Now, I trust Chabon completely. I've been reading him since 2004, and I've never had reason to doubt his honor or sincerity. However, it is worth noting that in all his recollections regarding his father, we've only had his unique perspective. And now, in writing about himself as a father, we only have his point of view. What would his own children say about these essays? Will they find Chabon's writing compatible with their own personal experiences?
Chabon is incredibly intelligent. It would not surprise me at all if he were to have his children participate in a podcast or an interview or something to serve as a companion piece to this novel. It simply struck me as an interesting thought.
As always, Chabon delivers beautiful prose describing his escapades in parenting. If you love his writing, you'll love this book.
Top of the Pops.
A slender book of essays on fatherhood by my favourite author. I only wish this had been longer. Warm, witty and wise, each piece has something recognisable to say about parenthood and says it in such a way that will bring a smile to the face or a tear to the eye. Ah, Michael Chabon, how wonderfully you write…