Have you ever contemplated LEGO as a profound life experience? For the intellectuals out there, you can pick up a copy of Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Chabon‘s recent book Manhood for Amateurs where you’ll find an essay dedicated to a stimulating discussion of the author’s experiences with LEGO and how they have progressed through various stages of evolution.
Adult fan of LEGO and college professor Roy T. Cook has read the essay and gave us an academic summary below:
In “To The LEGOland Station”, the seventh essay in Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son (2009, Harper Collins), Michael Chabon briefly relates his own experiences with LEGO bricks: First, there was the “limited repertoire of shapes and the absolute, even cruel, set of axioms that governed they could and couldn’t be arranged” (p. 53) that characterized his own childhood exposure to LEGO. Second are the experiences he had building more contemporary sets – in particular, licensed sets – with his children, an experience he describes as having “far more in common with puzzle-solving, a process of moving incrementally toward an ideal, pre-established, and above all, a provided solution.” (p. 55) Apparently viewing this emphasis on building official models as depicted on the box-front as the sole credo of the ‘new’ LEGO, Chabon reports that he “resented the authoritarian nature of the new LEGO.” (p. 55). The third stage of his evolution is when he observes his children (eventually) disassembling their official sets and recombining them, resulting in models of impressive complexity and creativity. Unfortunately, Chabon characterizes this final, creative revolution as a rebellion, on the part of his children, against the “realism” and “quirks and limitations” of the LEGO system.” (p. 56), instead of recognizing that the passage from building-as-rote-instruction to building-as-original-creation is a transition that was, and is, intended, encouraged, and accounted for in the design of the system by LEGO all along. Thus, Chabon mistakenly characterizes his children’s passage through these stages as a sort of transgressive rejection of LEGO’s “structure of control and implied obedience to the norms of the instruction manual” (p. 55).
You can download Roy’s full synopsis here.