My guess is the age of the average blogger would prevent many from remembering Wacky Packages. I found them mentioned in Michael Chabon’s wonderful little book Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasure and Regrets of a Husband, Father and Son. In his book, Chabon reveals his age and based on when the book was written, he would be just slightly older than myself. His works have interested me for a while now; however, before this book, I had only read his novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which happened to be the first book I wrote about on this blog.
Manhood for Amateurs weaves Chabon’s incredibly sharp humor with pop culture both now and then (when he was a kid) and with some social commentary about the way he sees things and with personal stories of his family both then and now. Because it’s written in the form of a series of short reflections about all of the above topics, it’s difficult to write about everything the book brings up. However, I’ll mention a few.
His reference to Wacky Packages took me by surprise because I had completely forgotten about them; however, as a kid I remember walking to a Seven-Eleven in Fairborn, OH to buy them. They were similar to Baseball cards in nature with the pink bubble gum stick made of who knows what. The cards made fun of various food or household products by adding typical “gross out” characteristics that most kids loved. Chabon includes these items in his thoughts on the ability of kids today to be able to “rebel” against the adult world. In his mind, these cards were the beginning of adults taking advantage of and endorsing kids desire to “rebel” and therefore negating the rebellion.
He writes a heart-felt section about his wife and her sometimes superhuman qualities in dealing with him and their four kids. He follows that section with an analysis of the female comic book superheroes he enjoyed as a kid. He was partial to someone called Big Barda as opposed to the more popular ones such as Wonder Woman and Super Girl. Then he relays a rather comical conversation he had with his sons while they were attempting to draw female super heroes.
Towards the end of the book he speaks of the phenomenon of radio songs becoming nostalgic. It seems to him that the time it takes music to become “oldies” is getting significantly shorter, something I seem to notice myself. I could relate to the paragraph he wrote about radio songs reminding him of places and people of the past:
No medium is as sensuously evocative of the past as radio. No other medium deploys that shocking full-immersion power of random rememberance. But for the power to have its maximum impact, the process of remembering has to be random at both ends. Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” is playing over the PA in a Gap store at the Mall in Columbia on an unremarkable afternoon when you’re sixteen, and then one day you’re forty and driving to get your kid from nursery school and the song comes on, and there in your minivan you can smell the chlorine from the mall’s fountain, and hear your best friend telling you about Pauline Kael’s review of Last Tango In Paris as reprinted in Reeling, and see the vast blue wall of denim before you, and remember the world in which Bill Murray was God and Jimmy Carter was president and in which, at the Gap, they sold nothing but Levi’s.
Ultimately, I think what I enjoyed the most about this book was experiencing the point of view of a man who loves to read and write fiction.