I really like Michael Chabon’s latest book of essays, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son. It came out in 2009 with a cover that was quite nice. The title makes cover design a bit tricky – it’s a little arresting, which is good. The graphic originally chosen by the nice folks at Harper was especially well suited to this reflective, tender and beautifully challenging collection. Intricate and neutral, the art appealed to both sexes and a range of adult ages. I was so impressed that I blogged about it somewhere else.
Now they’ve changed the cover. For Fathers’ Day, I think. It currently sports a bespectacled and intense-looking kid in a really, really bad paisley shirt. It’s the author, circa 1968 — and I’m sorry, Michael Chabon, I love your work, but that’s a terrible photo. You can almost hear it bellowing from the shelves as you walk by, “THIS BOOK IS JUST LIKE SOMETHING BY DAVID SEDARIS!”
It’s not. I like David Sedaris a lot, but this is a whole different ballgame.
“I’M IRONIC! I’M EDGY! I’M FUNNY AND GOOFY, BUT KIND OF SAD AND CREEPY IN PLACES TOO!”
Shut up, cover art. This is not that kind of book at all.
Manhood for Amateurs is the kind of book that makes you think. And then makes you fall in love with our whole species for its ability to try and fail and disappoint and come up shining with some ordinary and brilliant gesture of compassion. The book makes you challenge the way you see other people and ask yourself if you’ve looked around lately.
But there’s that cutesy-retro cover, saying “I’M FOR HIP 20- AND 30- AND MAYBE, MAYBE 40-SOMETHINGS! DON’T GIVE ME TO YOUR DAD!”
Because let’s face it, your dad would look at this book and say, “What the Hell? Are you guys trying to tell me something? I would never wear a shirt like that. Who let the kid out of the house that way?”
I’ve given this book to college students and an adult-Sunday-school teacher in her 80s. Mrs. McV especially liked the essay on Christmas. Manhood for Amateurs has something to say to just about everybody, but your dad will never pick it up – not with this cover.