I first met Michael Chabon at last year's Notes & Words event, a big blowout party at the Fox Theater that brings together authors and musicians to benefit Children's Hospital Oakland. He told a story included in his collection of nonfiction, Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, about the first time he spoke with his kids about smoking marijuana. He told the tale with as much candor as he'd shared with his children; Chabon is very charming and often quite funny, and spoke with wisdom and eloquence about being a parent.
|photo courtesy of Michael Chabon|
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is doing a benefit for Oakland's Park Day School this Wednesday night, and was kind enough to talk by phone. When I brought up the story, he laughed, responding: "I forgot about that one. I had no idea, man. That was just a little tiny appetizer of a conversation at the start of a long and often surprising banquet." His kids had taken him off guard, of course, and he'd handled the situation as best he could.
Chabon and wife Ayelet Waldman have four kids, the oldest of whom is a freshman in college; their youngest, ten, attends the K-8 Park Day School, where the other three are alumni.
If I were going to talk with kids I wouldn't even know how to address their relationship with literature right now. I feel like it's changed -- how they're engaging with it must have changed so much since I was in elementary school; can you talk about that?
There's no doubt it's really in flux right now. I think everybody's relationship to the printed word is in flux right now. And I don't think anybody really has a good handle on just what it all means; I certainly don't. But it's my impression that our kids are definitely increasingly digital entities; parents, even younger parents, still tend to be analog, at least to a certain degree, and parents I think tend to have a strong relationship with books, printed books on paper. I think at least through the earliest years when it's story time -- when kids are being exposed to texts -- they're still being exposed to picture books and their parents read to them from books. I'm sure there are plenty of parents who are reading to their parents from iPads, but even so they're reading them eBooks, which is just a digital form of the same thing, with illustrations and words on the page. So, I think kids' initial exposure to literature is still more or less what it has been for a while now. I think as they start to hit the fourth grade, fifth grade and into middle school -- that's when it might start to get a little more confusing, from the point of view of an old person like me, but by then I think there has been a foundation laid for a relationship with books and literature. More »