Michael Chabon’s WASP Envy
Revealed in new book of essays
Earlier this year Ayelet Waldman extended her resume of confessional writings with the publication of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace. Now her husband, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon, takes a whirl into the world of intimate revelation with Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. “The Hand on my Shoulder,” an essay in the collection excerpted on NPR’s website, describes his relationship with his first set of in-laws (Waldman is his second wife), gentiles who owned a beach house that had been in the family for generations. The place “was more heavily and richly layered with memories, associations, artifacts, and stories than any place any member of my own family had lived since we had left Europe seventy years before,” he writes in “The Hand on my Shoulder.” Such permanence “was a seductive thing to a deracinated, assimilated, uncertain, wandering young Jew whose own parents had not been married for years and no longer lived anywhere near the house in Maryland where, for want of a truer candidate, he had more or less grown up. They were in many ways classic WASPs, to be sure, golfing, khaki-wearing, gin-drinking WASPs. The appeal of such people and their kind of world to a young man such as I was has been well-documented in film and literature; perhaps enough to seem by now a bit outdated.”
Outdated, sure, but rarely dull.