A compact collection of thematically linked essays, perfectly timed for Father’s Day.
Acclaimed novelist Chabon (Moonglow, 2016, etc.) takes a breezy approach in these meditations on fatherhood. The author demonstrates subtly how his own relationship with his father, whom he plainly loves but finds removed and difficult, has influenced his relationships with his children. Will his kids ever write, as he does in the powerful title essay that concludes the collection, that their father “will in other ways disappoint, disillusion, or unfavorably surprise me over the coming decades”? Not if he can help it, though he recognizes that the child-father relationship is fraught with challenges and is perhaps inherently problematic. Though he loves baseball, Chabon finds himself discouraging his son from playing for some of the same reasons his own father prevented him from playing it (pressure, failure, parents behaving like jerks). Yet he ultimately permitted his son to join—throughout, he is a very permissive parent, more permissive than his father’s generation was likely to be—and his son had a miserable time. This caused the father to question his own lifelong devotion to the sport. His lament about kids no longer having sandlot pickup games is by no means original, but rarely has it been expressed so well: “I got reminded, every game, that this was the world my children live in: the world in which the wild watershed of childhood has been brought fully under control of the adult Corps of Engineers.” The author combines perfect pitch of tone with an acute eye for detail, whether reporting on his 13-year-old son’s unlikely emergence as a fashion savant—“where’d you get this kid?” designer John Varvatos once asked him. “I really have no idea,” responded the author—or trying to navigate his way through reading Huckleberry Finn aloud to his children without repeating a word that makes him recoil.
Even when he’s driving at cruising speed, Chabon takes his readers for an enjoyable ride.