I have been a Chabon fan since I first read The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, upon wich I chanced following a post on how Esperanto was featured as something outlandish or outdated in that novel’s Hotel Zamenhof…
Having read a good half of Chabon’s books, I still postpone the pleasure of going back to his earlier writings… and in the meantime I have just finished his Manhood for Amateurs, a magnificent compendium of short essays on the art of being a son, a father and a husband.
Incidentally, author and reader are essentially the same age (Chabon 1963, Ertl 1965), or Chabon was 44, like me now, when he wrote these texts. This fact can trigger some expectations – expectations which are partly met, and partly not. Inevitably, the parts on being a father echo with me, sometimes in striking detail. Is there a father who never wondered about the miracle of raising children who are flesh from your flesh, and yet at the same time so different from you? Is there a father who never imagined how, after his passing, his daughter will evoke a moment when his father put a hand on her shoulder, a moment which might or might not have seemed significant when it occured?
But sometimes, indeed quite often, shibboleths of American culture blur the message for me. The author is not to blame for that, to be sure, and a Hungarian book of the same kind, even in English translation, would be a lot more difficult to decipher for the non-initiated.