Joel Stein's 'Man Made' journey

'Man Made' by Joel Stein
Book cover courtesy of publisher

As 38-year-old Joel Stein prepares for the birth of his son, the Time magazine staff writer decided to go on a "manquest" to learn about some of the more manly things in life he's neglected. He spent time with firefighters, Boy Scouts, learns about baseball, goes hunting and becomes a day trader.

In his new book, "Man Made," Stein writes about his adventures in manning up. He joined The Daily Circuit to discuss it.

"Almost all of my friends in elementary school were girls," he wrote. "I owned no Matchbox cars, no dirt bikes, no nunchucks. I never climbed a tree, built a fort, or broke a bone. I had an Easy-Bake Oven, a glass animal collection, sticker albums, a stack of LPs of nothing but show turns, and a love for making stained-glass window ornaments. I'm not equipped to raise a boy. I'm equipped to raise a disappointed contentment on 'Antiques Roadshow.'"

From the New York Times review:

Stein, as Time readers well know, can be hilarious, even if he is to the word "penis" as Tom Wolfe is to the exclamation point. "Man Made" reminds us of his wonderful ability to find the surprise within a cliche -- firemen, he posits, are less superheroes than "social workers and chauffeurs for the poor"; of the rigors of hunting, he writes, "you have to really care about animals to want to kill one." The book is terrifically cast, with sparkly appearances by his much-funnier wife, his actor friend Jason Bateman and a pit bull that eats doors.

As a long-form personal essayist, however, Stein proves emotionally flinty; despite a good section about crying at his son's birth, this pantywaist reader wanted more vulnerability. Stein's self-¬deprecation feels at times like armor. Though his interviewing skills help him out (the supporting players, not Stein, supply the book's occasional pathos), I still wanted more bass notes.

What does it mean to be masculine? Comment on the blog.

Before you keep reading ...

MPR News is made by Members. Gifts from individuals fuel the programs that you and your neighbors rely on. Donate today to power news, analysis, and community conversations for all.