"Big Four" Highlights


That Other Fatherhood Book

Conservative pundits tell their dad stories

By Brian Caulfield, FFG Editor

Full disclosure. Lest I be accused of hiding my self-interest in reviewing this book (in the style of an ABC anchorman in regards to another book), let me say from the start that I have edited my own book on fatherhood, published by Pauline Books and Media. Yet let me assure the reader that in no way will I use this review to promote my own book (called Man to Man, Dad to Dad) or stretch ethical standards by trashing this new dad’s book while touting my own.

Of course, in the interest of full disclosure, I am obliged to point out that my book (Man to Man, Dad to Dad) was published two years ago, and like the fatherhood book under review here, has a single editor named on the cover (me) who also wrote the introduction, which is followed by a series a chapters on fatherhood topics written by some noteworthy authors.

Thus informed, the reader may wonder if the book that I am now reviewing may in some way have borrowed an idea or two from my book (Man to Man, Dad to Dad) or even violated U.S. Copyright Law in choosing its topic and format. But be assured that I do not intend to demand a huge monetary settlement or even to hire a lawyer to press charges under U.S. Copyright Law.

Rather, in the spirit of a faithful Catholic journalist (who edited a book called Man to Man, Dad to Dad) I will point out in true Thomistic tradition that the two books are related more in the way of an analogy (i.e., they are “somewhat the same but simply different”) than in the way of the later book slavishly styling itself after the earlier one (called Man to Man, Dad to Dad). Thus, I have no intention – along with my heirs in perpetuity – of pressing charges in U.S. Copyright Law court (if there is one).

I will also say – full disclosure – that the book I am reviewing, titled The Dadly Virtues: Adventures from the Worst Job You Will Ever Love, is a very good read, but it will be even better after first reading another book that was published two years ago. Kidding!

If you, dear reader, have followed this rather lengthy and (hopefully) humorous introduction, please know that you have not completely wasted your time in trying to find out whether to get a copy of The Dadly Virtues in time for Father’s Day. In fact, your reviewer has ingeniously written in the style taken by many of the authors in The Dadly Virtues, and so, without knowing it, you already have a fair notion of what the book is like. After all, if one book can copy the topic and format of another book, then a review can take the style of that book as well, as Aquinas may have said.

You know from the cover of the book that you’re in for a few laughs. There is an illustration of two dads, one who is laughing a little too gleefully as the other holds a baby that has just spit-up on his shirt. Dads, we know that scene, but rarely do we have the humor of P.J. O’Rourke, the famous humorist who has a chapter in the book, or the tongue-in-cheek insight of Jonathan V. Last to keep things in a rollicking perspective.

The flow of fluids continues from the cover to Page One. In his introduction, Last describes in detail how, as he changed his son’s diaper, the little tyke began “micturating” (which, to save you a Google search, means “peeing”). After meditating on the ways that fatherhood can rob a man of his dignity and double the laundry, and can cast an innocent dad in the role of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant or Christ with the Cross, Last concludes, “I’m not going to lie to you. In fatherhood, there is much – so much – to be lost. But there is much to be gained, too. … Which is, more or less, what this book is about.”

Reader be aware. This is not a specifically Catholic book, though there is nothing directly against the faith. The 16 chapter authors are an all-star lineup of conservative pundits, most of them associated with the Weekly Standard. There’s Fox News analyst Stephen Hayes writing that the best gift you can give your kids is brothers and sisters; National Review’s Jonah Goldberg makes the “moral case” for getting your kids a pet (not surprising for anyone familiar with his updates on his dog’s life); Matt Labash talks about talking about the birds and the bees; Rob Long explores love and marriage, and so on.

The themes run the gamut from infants, to teens, to college, to empty nesters to the joys of being a grandfather. The funniest chapter is by Fox host Tucker Carlson, who takes aim at the helicopter-parent syndrome by telling how he and his brother used to ride the roof of the family station wagon while their dad drove madly over bumps to knock them off, and how Tucker approximates such thrills and spills for his own kids today.

There is fun, and even some instruction, in these pages. You will laugh, maybe see yourself in the predicaments and predilections of the authors, and likely come away feeling that you’re a pretty decent dad compared to these guys.