TOMMY AND ME by Ben Stein


The Making of a Dad
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This slim volume on fatherhood from former Nixon advisor (now Pepperdine law professor) Stein is so full of strong, often right-wing, opinions, it will not be everyone’s cup of tea, despite its declaration of love and best intentions. In their mid-40s, Stein and his wife adopted a baby boy and named him Tommy. Stein, admittedly self-obsessed, felt put out, so he absented himself to sulk in his crosstown writing studio. Little realizations gradually made it clear to him that the gulf between father and son wasn’t the kid’s fault but his own jealousy and lack of confidence. And, bully for him, he set about building a relationship with Tommy, one that blossomed into an immeasurable love. Seeing that he feels he’s learned a thing or two, here he offers the Stein Way, a handful of advice and social judgments as pertains to parenting. He believes in education and discipline, in honesty and friendship and grit, and who would argue (or feel they are learning anything new)? He also believes in the power of the almighty dollar—“Society is about money, after all”—and in spoiling Tommy: “For a few dollars I can get a few hours of peace of mind, and a happy, smiling Tommy.” It’s not exactly a few dollars; privilege is central to Stein’s notion of being a good provider, and he flaunts it. Crass, yes, but not idiotic, as are a number of other Steinisms: “male energy” is necessary for “solid centers,” easy laughter, and calmness; he chides the Boy Scout handbook for including “up-to-the-minute PC requirements for learning how to stop child sex abuse”; or “The children I see who are wrecked do not look as if they have had too much—but far too little.” Still, Tommy comes across as a good kid, and his father, self-justifying crank that he is at times, loves him to pieces. That’s a sacred combo, never to be dismissed. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 7th, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-83896-9
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998