FATHER TO THE MAN: A Journal by Christopher Hallowell


Email this review


With more and more writers ""getting in touch with their feelings"" these days, the psychic and literary telephone lines are becoming perilously overloaded. Hallowell (People of the Bayou and Growing Old, Staying Young) merely adds to the circuit congestion with this superficial investigation of his reactions to his dual roles as son of a demanding, undemonstrative Boston Brahmin paterfamilias and as post-Women's Liberation father of two. Unfortunately, what might have been a sensitive look at father-son relationships over the past four decades juxtaposed with today's changing attitudes toward child-rearing proves here to be yet another clichÉd tale of parental shortcomings, real and imagined, and more paeans to the joys of shared ""nurturing"" in the 1980's. While Hallowell goes into numbing detail in relating the day-to-day trivialities of young parenthood, he seems curiously reluctant to probe his earlier relationships with his late father. The elder Hallowell was apparently a stickler for the social conventions, though himself something of a rebel during his youth. Sarcastic and, in his son's eyes at least, unapproachable, he so alienated the author that even his death left the by-then adult Christopher unmoved. This much is clear in Hallowell's recital. What Hallowell fails to make apparent is just what it was that lay behind the hedgehog facade and, more importantly, just what the young Christopher sought from his father. ""Acceptance,"" ""encouragement,"" ""understanding,"" ""praise,"" are all too easy answers--and unrevealing ones as well. If Hallowell has gained insights into his past, he has failed to convey them to his readers. Shallow, frequently arch and all-too-familiar, despite some evocative nature writing here and there.

Pub Date: June 19th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow