Monday, October 19, 2009

Books of The Times
Boy to Man: Amazing Adventures

By MICHIKO KAKUTANI writing in The New York Times, October 18, 2009

MANHOOD FOR AMATEURS The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son
By Michael Chabon
306 pages. Harper. US $25.99.

In one of the funniest and most resonant essays in this collection, Michael Chabon writes about the evolution — or devolution — of Lego. How the basic Lego colors he remembers from his youth — red, white, blue, yellow, green and black — have given way, in his children’s sets, to blocks of “light blue, aquamarine, orange, purple, maroon, gold, silver, plum, pink” and many shades of gray. Squared-off blocks have mutated into “a strange geometry of irregular polygons, a vast bestiary of hybrid pieces, custom pieces, blanks and inverts, clears and pearlescents.” And the little blank-faced humanoid figures have given way, he observes, to a multicultural population that includes “Frankenstein monsters, American Indians, Jedi knights and pizza chefs, medieval crossbowmen and Vikings, deep-sea divers and bus drivers, Spider-Man, Harry

Photo of Michael Chabon by Stephanie Rausser

By the late ’90s, Mr. Chabon writes, “abstraction was dead” and “realism reigned supreme in the Legosphere.” Whereas children of his generation created Legolands that sprang full-blown from their imaginations, today’s kids, he says, can buy Lego kits to build “precise replicas of Ferrari Formula I racers, pirate galleons, jet airplanes,” not to mention “Star Wars” kits and other “ventures into trademarked, conglomerate-owned, pre-imagined environments.”
In many of the essays in “Manhood for Amateurs” Mr. Chabon expounds further on the increasingly organized, chaperoned nature of childhood in modern, middle-class America; about the changes in entertainment from the era of “Star Trek” and “Planet of the Apes” to today’s computer-generated family-friendly movies; and about the comic-book heroes and heroines he loved as a boy and his efforts to hand down his pop-culture enthusiasms to his children. In other chapters he muses on the passage of time, and his own passage from being a boy in search of father figures to becoming a father himself.
The full review at NYT.

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