Sunday, June 14, 2009

Michael Lewis: "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood" (review)

Author: Michael Lewis:
Title: "Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood".
Publication: New York: Norton, 2009. ISBN 978-0-593-06901-5. 188 pages, hardcover. Amazon link.

The author provides some insight into the experience of a heterosexual male intellectual nerd (and writer, that is) experiencing fatherhood, and dealing with all the psychological double standards. The book is in three parts, named after his three kids – Quinn, Dixie and Walker – with lots of whimsical anecdotes, the funniest of which may occur toward the end when he “takes one for the team” and has his tubes tied. His vasectomy sounds like a sacrifice that calls to mind Troy McClain’s gambit in Donald Trump’s “Apprentice.”

He notes that the emotional mores of fatherhood seem to be defined for men by women. It sounds like the old “women tame men” argument of George Will and George Gilder. (His exact word is that the American male got “fleeced”). He feels disinterest, a sense of burden at a new baby, which turns into love quickly as he realizes he is not a monster. (He also says that all kids look at grownups as monsters.) The demands of baby rearing (remember NBC’s “The Baby Borrowers”) become so great that he and his wife live “separately” in the house dividing responsibilities. Gradually, he comes to appreciate the awesome power that comes from being the head of family (and from the sexual intercourse that it countenances) when his son is born, the third child, and he says that he has to inform the two other kids about their “partial disinheritance.” Committed parents tell kids whom they must love and share their substance with – and sometimes that power continues to exercise upon adults. The power comes with trials, as he almost loses his son to a virus called RSV and spends agonizing days in the hospital.

There is an episode where he loses a major manuscript to theft – and one wonders why, as a savvy writer, he didn’t have the manuscript backed up. Why was the manuscript a target for theft?

Marriage and family for him become transformative. Not all of us want to go through that emotional remapping. But in the end he gains himself again.

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