The publisher's blurb says that this is a practical, down to earth and witty guide which explores the key issues facing men today such as sex, relationships, health and work. The authors in exploring these areas suggest that men could benefit from taking a fresh look at themselves and developing a greater sense of awareness. If men were to do this, the argument goes, they would open themselves up to enjoy the exciting and rewarding possibilities that this would bring.
The MANual is a worthy guide which negotiates its passage through the contemporary crisis of masculinity, dispensing insights and giving advice. Much of what is written echoes the familiar feminist line that sees masculinity as a problematic . The agenda here is about changing men. What's annoying about the book is that it doesn't celebrate men or masculinity. Robert Bly and the mythopoets might be regarded as slightly loony, but at least they are celebratory and have enabled many men to rid themselves of the guilt and condemnation that has been heaped on them since the seventies. Bly and others in refusing to play the blame game have enabled many to see the positives in their own masculinity. Warren Farrell also had a point when he argued that the explosion in writing about gender continually celebrates the light side of women whilst concerning itself only with the dark side of men . This book falls into this trap in its ideological positioning, which is definitely on the pro feminist wing of the men's movement.
In terms of men and their children we get one chapter but only three pages on the problems of fathering apart. Nothing at all on the potential of shared parenting / shared residence following separation and divorce. If you're a pro feminist man into humanistic psycho-babble this could be the read of the year. If you don't fall into these categories, forget it.
Arthur Baker, June 1997