Sunday, June 17, 2012
I first learned about MAN MADE: A STUPID QUEST FOR MASCULINITY by Joel Stein in my go-to source for books -- Entertainment Weekly. MAN MADE is Mr. Stein's personal story about his attempts to do "manly" things in preparation for the birth of his son. I thought the premise behind this book sounded so original, and I was really looking forward to reading it. In addition, I knew that Mr. Stein was a columnist with a reputation for being controversial (more on that later!) so I figured this book had the potential to be outrageous and most likely funny!
And MAN MADE was all of those things and more. I did enjoy MAN MADE and I thought Mr. Stein was a very funny guy. When I sat down and read just the Introduction, I had a feeling that I was in for a treat. I enjoyed Mr. Stein's self-deprecating humor as well as his writing skills, and I couldn't wait to read about his adventures.
First and foremost, MAN MADE is a seriously funny book. Mr. Stein is the first to admit that he's not the most manliest of men, so when he found out that he was going to have a baby boy, he decided that he better start becoming one. Not only did he want to be able to teach his son these lessons, but he also figured it would help him to bond with his boy -- pretty good intentions, right? Well, Mr. Stein's pursuit of masculinity turned out to be very funny! I found myself laughing quite a bit at Mr. Stein's quests and the situations he found himself in.
I even appreciated how the book was laid out. MAN MADE is divided into eleven chapters which tell the various stories of Mr. Stein's attempts to become more masculine. Some of the activities he pursued include hanging out with firefighters, going hunting, and basic training with the Marines. He also hung out with some professional athletes, boy scouts, and even an expert on scotch. Even the titles of the chapters were humorous. For example, the first chapter tells the story of when Mr. Stein went to boy scout camp... as a grown man; and it's called Surviving the Outdoors. Another chapter tells about his attempts to learn some basic do-it-yourself things around the house and it's called Building Shelter. It's probably just me, but the chapter titles made me chuckle.
I have to admit that I thought the first half of MAN MADE to be much funnier than the second. I find that this happens to me a lot when I read humorous memoirs. I don't know if I got used to (or tired of) the author's humor or whether I was just more interested in his earlier attempts to be a manly man. I also think I tend to read books very quickly and I might have appreciated MAN MADE more if I had read just a few chapters at a time rather than the entire book in a few hours.
While I did find MAN MADE to be very entertaining, I have to say that the book also touched my heart. While the premise was quite funny, I do think the author really did want to be a good father to his son. I appreciated that each of his adventures taught the author a thing or two about himself. And by the end of the book, Mr. Stein had definitely learned that a man doesn't have to be manly to be a good father. It's much more important that a son sees how much his father loves him (and his mother.) So overall, MAN MADE truly did have a wonderful message for men and especially fathers.
I mentioned earlier that Joel Stein had been a bit controversial throughout his career. As a mother to a child with food allergies, I most definitely was aware that he had written an article for the L.A. Times where he questioned the severity of food allergies. I remember the outrage and I admit that I felt a little bit of resentment towards him. In an extremely unfortunate set of events, Mr. Stein learned that his young son had an anaphylactic reaction to nuts; and he was forced to reevaluate his statements and make an apology. I know some of the food allergy moms felt some sort of vindication, but personally, I would never wish life-threatening food allergies on anyone! I appreciated that Mr. Stein addressed these events in MAN MADE, and personally, I think his candidness shows that he did "man up."
MAN MADE is a hilarious look at one man's attempt to become more masculine, but it's also an interesting look at what our society considers to be manly. I think many men out there would benefit from reading Mr. Stein's story.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.
And Happy Father's Day to all of you dads out there!