The Goo Goo Thing

c benson homegame The Goo Goo ThingHome Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood
By Michael Lewis
Norton, 190 pages, $23.95

Here are some things I’ve learned since becoming a father:

—The Queens Zoo is a wholesome and inexpensive place to take two boys, ages 1 and 3, on weekends. Also: It is fine for boys that age to ride the merry-go-round outside the zoo even if the operators run it overly fast and even if their horses are the up-and-down kind, as long as their father stands between the horses and holds the backs of their shirts.

—They can sleep through all kinds of ambient noise at night—clatterings from the adjacent area behind the bakery and laundry and Chinese restaurant; overenthusiastic conversations between in-their-cups parent-friends in the “living room” outside their door—if there’s also a fan running.

—They will try to run into the water again and again at Rockaway Beach, as if they know how to swim, even if the waves are rough and the water is zero degrees.

—They will eat grilled octopus and taramasalata and fried smelt, crunchy heads and all, if said foods are handed to them without ceremony.

—They will eat the gravel at the Beer Garden unless someone intervenes.

—If at least one uncle lives less than a block away, everyone wins.

—The Q66 is fun.

This information is useful to me. It is not much work to keep track of. And it will never seem burdensome to me to review it, even after the information has stopped being useful, because it will evoke specific thoughts about my specific boys, whom I find to be endlessly amusing and fantastic.

But I would tend to hesitate before inflicting this information on other people in anything other than small doses. It just stands to reason: For people I know in circumstances different than mine—they don’t have young children, say, or they have children but don’t happen to live in a part of Northwest Queens in which carp roe dip is widely available—my hard-won knowledge is useless. (Vaguely interesting, maybe, insofar as it tells them something about what my family and I are up to, but useless all the same.)

And for people in circumstances similar to mine—people familiar with the ways of small, horse-and-cow-obsessed omnivores who really, really like pulling the stop cord when it’s time to get off the bus to play soccer in Jackson Heights—it’s all old news anyway.

That’s the weird thing about the subject of parenting. The non-parents shouldn’t really be expected to care what some parent has to say about it, and the parents, who’ve already done it all, should care even less.

And yet. The fathering memoir, as demonstrated by the regularity with which they’ve been pumped out recently by publishers, is a highly gainful commercial genre. The authors don’t have to know anything about anything—that’s kind of the gag—and,  as with reality TV, the source material is cheap and plentiful. Also, there’s always an audience.

Apparently, the market for these books—parents who will pay their own money to read about a stranger’s journey of self-discovery through parenting—is more than robust enough to make up for the rest of us.

 

THIS, SURELY, was the calculation of the publisher of Home Game, a series of Slate articles by Vanity Fair contributing editor and Bloomberg columnist Michael Lewis that have been bundled into book form as an “Accidental Guide to Fatherhood.” (Just in time, naturally, for Father’s Day.)

Given the limitations of the form, Lewis—an effortlessly prolific writer and storyteller—does well.