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!
I haven't actually read this. It's an indication of how ridiculously prodigious is Chabon's output that he's written two books about fatherhood. I mistakenly thought I was reading this; in fact I've just finished the other one!
This charming set of short stories focusing on families and fatherhood have been previously published in an assortment of journals—GQ, atlantic.com, and Details. Chabon’s excellent writing and novel insights are delightful. Recommend.
In these eight brief essays, Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Michael Chabon tells us entertaining stories about his teenage children and shares the vulnerability of parenthood: what it feels like to be reduced to a “minder,” a receding figure of dwindling relevance, looking for the permissible moments to be helpful, striving to be of use. Yet he shares the rewards of parenting too: we see him find those permissible moments, and share his joy as his children grow closer even as they grow beyond him.
The first essay (“The Opposite of Writing”) is an introduction of sorts), in which Chabon—years later, now a father of four—responds to the advice of a famous novelist who told him never to have children. The second piece (“Little Man”) is the best, about a trip he and his youngest son made to Paris for Fashion Week (fourteen-year-old Abe is obsessed with fashion; his father Michael couldn’t care less). The other six essays, though, are good too: “Adventures in Euphemism” (how to deal with the “N-word” when reading Huckleberry Finn aloud to your children), “The Bubble People” (during a visit to a neighborhood Berkeley coffeehouse—where his fifteen-year-old daughter sports a rasberry pillbox hat with a veil—Chabon reflects upon growing up in sedate Pittsburgh, and wonders, “Which one is the bubble?”), “Against Dickitude” (how does a father respond to his teenage son’s callous ignoring of a girl?), “The Old Ball Game” (A daughter and a son help Chabon wrestle with the mythic enormities and the complex realities of baseball), “Be Cool or Be Cast Out” (Clothing—for both him and older son—as a badge of defiance and self-assertion, and “Pops” (a memoir of his own brilliant father).
This book is a brief, but eventful journey, and throughout Chabon shows himself to be a loving, parent, always looking out for the opportunity to attain th the brief, occasional moment of relevance. May we all be so loving and attentive . . . and so lucky.