June 3, 2009 / 1:53 AM / 10 years ago

"Liar's Poker" author likens fatherhood to trading

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Author Michael Lewis says there really wasn’t much difference between being a Salomon Brothers bond trader and becoming a father — he was woefully ill-prepared for both jobs.

Lewis, who made his reputation by capturing 1980s Wall Street excess in “Liar’s Poker,” has some unexpected views on domestic life in his latest book “Home Game: An Accidental Guide to Fatherhood.”

“It’s ‘Liar’s Poker,’ it’s me being plopped down into this situation that I was not prepared for,” Lewis said of his newly published book. “The same motivation that I had for writing ‘Liar’s Poker’ was the motivation for this.”

“It seemed like a senseless experience, I could not believe this was happening to me, and nothing had prepared me for it,” he said.

The book offers a wry view of fatherhood from an author best known for writing about more manly topics, such as business (“The New New Thing”) and baseball (“Moneyball.”)

Lewis writes candidly about initially feeling scant affection or love for his children and pokes fun at the modern American pact where fathers share child-rearing duties.

“No one explains that it is not necessarily true that when this thing comes into the world that you are going to feel anything in particular for it,” Lewis said.

For Lewis, affection for his first child, Quinn, came slowly.

“Before I felt the beginnings of real attachment it was probably six months and before I felt and manifested feelings that my wife recognized with approval, it was two years, maybe longer,” he said of his daughter, the first of three kids.


If his feelings came slowly, he said, perhaps it was because she suffered colic.

“The conditions she created in our house were like Guantanamo; it was sleep deprivation, constant noise. If you handed this child to a terrorist and said, ‘You have to take care of this thing for a week,’ he would tell you everything he knew,” Lewis told Reuters in an interview.

Lewis initially wrote many of his pieces on being a father in real time over eight years, charting good days and bad, for online magazine Slate.

Those pieces were expanded for the book, which prominently features his belief that modern American dads have been given a raw deal.

“The deal in theory is that women enter the work force and men take over some of the child rearing. So, men have some of the financial burden lifted from them and women have some of the domestic burden lifted from them and everybody’s life is richer and less tedious. That’s the theory,” he said.

But the reality, he said, is that for women returning to work is optional whereas it is mandatory that men help out domestically.

“You are left with all the responsibility your father had — the business end of the household — plus you have all this other stuff,” he said, adding that many men were treated by their wives as “a derelict junior employee.”

Lewis said it was purely coincidental that this latest book from one of America’s best-known business writers comes out at a time when the U.S. economy is suffering its deepest crisis since the Great Depression.

Still, he sees a possible silver lining to that for him.

“All these guys who read the financial books and the sports books are now unemployed and at home with their kids,” he said. “Maybe this will help them.”

Editing by Michelle Nichols and Philip Barbara

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