Charming, thoughtful debut memoir of a Baptist adolescent’s drift towards earthly temptation.
As Anderson (Writing/Univ. of Minnesota General College) tells it, his years as a drummer, record-store clerk, and all-around secular slacker in the Minneapolis music scene sharply contrasted with his earlier life as an evangelical minister’s son who was exhorted to live “in the world, but not of it.” Young Mark aspired to the sanctity expected of the pastor’s family, yet was fascinated by what his disapproving parents termed “jazzy music”: rock ’n’ roll from Elvis onward. He was further confused in the early 1970s by the “Jesus Movement,” which sought to fuse the spiritual highs of born-again Christianity with the earthly trappings of the counterculture. Anderson watched Billy Graham’s “Explo ’72” on TV (“It was so me, so where I wanted to be”) and was entranced by itinerant longhaired Jesus freaks, whose tales of accepting Christ were backed by guitar and drums. His fervor made his teenage transgressions complex and poignant: he and his friends smoked pot, drank, and engaged in marathon heavy petting at their strict Baptist summer camp, knowing they’d return to the true path from such backsliding. Strangely, Anderson backslid less once his father was transferred to California, where he fell in with some fundamentalist surfer-boys. Yet later, he became alienated from the faith’s severe dichotomy between sinners and the saved, demonstrated at a 1990s reunion when one friend castigated him for his sister’s insufficiently Christ-centered wedding. Anderson effectively employs a quiet Midwestern humor; his understanding of how transient pop culture can affect personal watersheds reinforces his incremental portrait of a young rocker tempted and transformed. Deeply concerned with discerning larger communities, his narrative is solidly rather than flashily written. While the slow pace may put off some readers, others will find genuine insight in the author’s bemused grappling over time with his strict childhood faith.
Unusual, worthy of consideration, and admirable for the spiritual questions it raises.