Carrier’s memoir doubles as a treatise that carefully examines life and the Christian faith.
Carrier’s work is roughly broken into three movements: autobiography, ideas and concepts, and a declaration of faith. Throughout all three, he strikes a tone balanced between casual conversation and rigorous lecture—unsurprising given his many degrees, long tenure as a professor, and zany humor. He looks back at his younger self with a careful, analytical eye. As he goes from unwanted stepchild in a mansion to football star in a small Mississippi town at the beginning of the 1960s, his insightful observations reveal the moments that shaped him: for instance, his concern for a beagle above all else or the realization that a black maid was both “invisible and indispensable.” His tumultuous young adulthood as well as transformative religious experiences set the stage for the second section, which moves with a remarkable pace through many major events and changes of late-20th-century America. Intellectual movements, scientific discoveries, and pop culture all play into the notion of zeitgeist, what he calls “The Culture.” He relates all of it back to his own faith, working from a central argument that modern Christianity ought to abandon certain practices and more openly connect with the contemporary secular world. At times, the book’s audacious scope is overwhelming. However, just when readers start to feel lost in a bombardment of references or an especially dense assertion, Carrier’s own life interjects. Bracketed sections break away from the topic at hand to update the reader on his autistic brother, Michael, who was dying of cancer as Carrier was writing. These digressions make the work feel like a naturally unfolding narrative as Carrier moves from tangent to tangent while being interrupted by the unstoppable forces of life.
A broad examination of life, philosophy, and Christianity that still manages to feel personal and powerfully intimate.