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Good morning, merry sunshine: a father's journal of his child's first year.

Those who agree with Oscar Wilde that it takes someone with a heart of stone to get past the death of Little Nell without laughing will want to turn to Bob Greene's Good Morning, Merry Sunshine for supplementary reading.

Greene's book, subtitled A Father's Journal of His Child's First Year, contains 366 diary entries (from his daughter's birth to her first birthday) which track the unacknowledged male supremacist on his sentimental journey toward caring fatherhood. Our hero longs to be appreciated for his budding sensitivity (his introduction indicates that he always meant the journal to be published), but he gives himself away in nearly every line. Take, for instance, this passage:

I don't know who invented Snuglis,

but they are certainly the eighties version of the pacifier.

Snuglis are those baby-pouches that mothers strap onto themselves. The straps crisscross over the mothers' backs; the babies fit into a carrying compartment in front, facing the mothers' chests. Susan wears one all the time when she is going to be grocery or out for a short walk; even if Amanda has been screaming, she is placid within a minute or two of being put in the Snugli.

Of course, one is amazed that anyone who makes a living as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, Esquire and ABC's Nightline could be ignorant of the Snugli story (Ann and Michael Moore of Colorado got the idea for Snuglis while serving in the Peace Corps in Africa). But what about the rest? To start with, Snuglis are not the pacifiers of the 1980s. Pacifiers are the pacifiers of the 1980s. What kind of father doesn't know that? And what about the description of Snuglis as "those baby pouches that mothers strap onto themselves"? You can't get much closer to a genuine unisex accessory than Snuglis; even a father could strap one on if he were of a mind to. Then, too, there's the plural possessive in the sentence, "The straps crisscross over the mothers' backs." Not wearing a Snugli himself when he is out and about, Greene isn't disposed to see another fathers in one either, and yet he must have encountered a father in a Snugli somewhere along the way. What is Susan Greene jotting down in her journal? Very little time for that it would seem: "Susan wears one all the time when she is going to the grocery or out for a short walk."

There is no suggestion anywhere in Good Morning, Merry Sunshine that Greene has ever changed a diaper or given his daughter a bath. He dismisses himself from active duty but becomes "teary" when Amanda is away for a day or two and he comes upon her food--"all the jars of strained fruits and vegetables, stacked up." Or when she has finally outgrown her Snugli, and Susan says, "I know you like Snugli . . . but my back is starting to kill me."

One day, when his daughter is slightly more than 5 months old, he is on an interview in a Hamburger Hamlet and notices a woman nursing her baby at a nearby table. He later recalls, "I looked away, and hoped that everyone else in the restaurant would, too." This, then, is enlightened fatherhood. This is parenting in the decade of the man who isn't afraid to cry, the decade of Phil Donahue's blandishments (he endorses the book on its dust jacket) and of The New York Times Magazine's "About Men" column. But is one man's foolish memoir too narrow a launching pad for an attack on the entire feeling-father movement? Not if that testimony has been a best seller during much of 1984.

In an essay called "A Wolf in Wolf's Clothing," from his collection American Beat, Greene observes of a swaggering playboy he knows, "It is instructive, and somehow perversely comforting . . . to know that somewhere in the isolated pockets of male America, men like Nick Nickolas exist." Despite some obvious handicaps (vide the author's photo on the book jacket), Greene, I think, fancies himself as such a man, and having Good Morning, Merry Sunshine jump off the shelves like Luvs is perhaps a perverse form of comfort for him.
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Author:Finkle, David
Publication:The Nation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 1984
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