THE JOURNALIST Jay Teitel tackles fatherhood in the '90s in From Here to Paternity (Viking, 279 pages, $25.99 cloth). If that sounds like a huge task, it is. And it shows when Teitel stretches his ideas into a series of essays on practically every aspect of North American life.
The effort yields some interesting insights, and Teitel has a knack for telling a story. But all too often, my response was, So what? His observations on work-avoidance techniques, the meaning of photographs, fatherson relationships, and "little league fathers" offer nothing new; and the drawn-out narratives about birth and parenthood could be written by anyone who's a parent (and would be of little interest to anyone who isn't).
Teitel's flair for descriptive journalism does deliver some nice gems, such as this description of the birth of his first child:
A moment later the head crowned, white and vegetated, like something from a horror movie parody, and -a second later our daughter was out halfway, her fists raised like Jack Johnson and her mouth wide open as Lucy getting ready to shout "Blockhead!" at Charlie Brown.
More often, though, we're left with genuine but mundane insights such as "My kids have turned me bourgeois in a way I didn't remember being..." and "I have become a cabbie." As a parent, I can only say ... Yes, but so what?