Sunday 19 October 2014

Dud dads

I once sat and chatted to the author Will Self as we watched our sons playing together in the sandpit on Clapham Common. We were like a couple of knackered old primates, our function on earth fulfilled, now just hanging around as gatekeepers to oblivion as our sons flourished before us.I remember telling him that I thought he'd written one of the few worthwhile things about fatherhood - the introduction to a collection of photographs by David Gamble, published in 2000 and called Perfidious Man

There is no shortage of really terrible writing about fatherhood. Yesterday I came across the following guff from an American publisher. Ready? 

From some of today's most critically acclaimed writers - including Dennis Lehane, Justin Cronin, Andre Dubus III, and Benjamin Percy-comes a rich collection of essays on what it means to be a dad. Becoming a father can be one of the most profoundly terrifying, exhilarating, life-changing occasions in a man's life. Now 22 of today's masterful writers get straight to the heart of modern fatherhood in this incomparable collection of thought-provoking essays. From making that ultimate decision to have a kid to making it through the birth to tangling with a toddler mid-tantrum, and eventually letting a teen loose in the world, these fathers explore every facet of fatherhood and show how being a father changed the way they saw the world - and themselves. 

"One of the first things I learned about fatherhood was that my father was right: it was hard and it kicked the shit out of your life plan."- Lev Grossman

 "I wanted to hold him. I wanted to hold him close and never let go. But we have to let go, don't we?"-Andre Dubus III 

"Bridges are engineered. Children are worked toward, clumsily, imperfectly, with a deep and almost religious faith in trial and error." - Ben Greenman 

"If you counted up the nights I've spent dancing to 'Strangers in the Night,' those hours would stretch three times around the equator."- Garth Stein 

"The most surprising aspect of parenting has been how much my pre-parenting life looks like a cloud in the rearview."- Dennis Lehane 

Contributors include Andre Aciman, Chris Bachelder, David Bezmozgis, Justin Cronin, Peter Ho Davies, Anthony Doerr, Andre Dubus III, Steve Edwards, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Ben Greenman, Lev Grossman, Dennis Lehane, Bruce Machart, Rick Moody, Stephen O'Connor, Benjamin Percy, Bob Smith, Frederick Reiken, Marco Roth, Matthew Specktor, Garth Stein, and Alexi Zentner.

These are 'today's masterful writers'? Jesus wept.

To end on a positive thought (and a suggestion to publishers who share my queasiness about the type of stuff that appears above) - is there a good book for fathers written by women?

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