Nearly two dozen male writers contribute essays on the trials, tribulations and pleasures of being a father.
Social commentators decry the rise of the "man-child" of the 21st century, who spends as much time now playing video games as he did when he was 15, couldn't fix the plumbing if his marriage depended on it, and so on. They’re the men who can’t find a single thing about their own character to question. It’s an outlook on life that becomes difficult to maintain once one becomes a father, as more than one writer notes in this collection; parenting, like it or not, is a big “fun-suck.” The writers here are a diverse bunch, and they’ve taken widely different paths exploring the human condition in novels, essays and journalism. In the ring with the young progeny, however, they are the pictures of confusion, punch-drunk and on the ropes. Dennis Lehane outlines how all of his delusions about adulthood and fatherhood were stripped away in not-gentle but also not-abnormal ways. Lev Grossman laments the loss of his life as a writer. However, when he returned to the desk, he found the writer not dead but transformed: better, stronger and faster. Ben Greenman, a little further along with a 12-year-old, writes about our memories of those foggy early parenting years, the sleepless nights and how we invent memories from that time that encapsulate events. Other contributors include Justin Cronin, David Bezmogis, Karl Taro Greenfield, Benjamin Percy, Rick Moody, Garth Stein and Andre Dubus III (“So much joy, as if my deepest, truest life could only begin once I became a father”).
This collection could be subtitled “Profiles in Perseverance”: These fathers have fought the battles, and we lucky readers receive this collection of wry, moving stories.