When traveling in Australia with my brother a few years ago, I came across a book entitled, “Don’t Tell Mum I Work on the Rigs, She Things I’m a Piano Player in the Whorehouse.” I knew immediately that I had to read it. They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but sometimes I can’t help it. This title had the same affect on me. If it truly included even a portion of what the title promised, Jesus, a dysfunctional memoir centered on the author’s father, and spies, how could it be bad?
Entertainment wise, the book made good on its title’s promise. Alas, it is not filled with recollections of spying and intrigue. If you’re seeking a story of how Ian Morgan Cron came upon the sound, doctrinal, truth of salvation or the biography of a role model after whom you should shape your life, you won’t find it here. But it is a great story. However, in the introduction he makes the point that this work toes a fine line between autobiographical fiction and memoir. From the perspective of both the writer and the reader, that is a dangerous place to go.
It has all the makings of a great memoir, vulnerability, humor, hurt, love and loss, celebrations of coming of age, breaking and healing. He talks about his time as a catholic schoolboy, dealing with harsh nuns and apathetic priests. Anger with God and how he handled that; right or wrong you’ll have to decide. Rebellious adolescence. Life lessons learned through seemingly insignificant events. He really seems to connect with and let the reader in. In one instance he opens up about his yearning for belonging and how he found it through the shared experience of leading the neighborhood kids in a forbidden fireworks show. Dealing with a prim and proper mother and a family who insisted on trying to be something that they were not. He shares about his alcoholic father who constantly cycled between broke and prosperous, who also, by the way, had a close working relationship with the CIA. He recounts the realization, one that has come to many of us, that our fathers are men, dealing with their own issues, just like us. One of the most beautiful, heartwarming events came in the last chapter when he makes a momentous connection with his own young son, over cliff-diving, of all things.
The above mentioned statement that this work is a mix of memoir and autobiographical fiction makes some anecdotes hard to parse as it is impossible to separate what is intended as spiritual teaching with possibly heretical religious growing pains. There were several times when I uncomfortably wondered…is he writing from the perspective of a confused boy or man? Is he trying to make a theological teaching point about the nature of God, which is bordering on heresy? Is he using fiction to make a point? Confusion? Sacrilege? Fiction? Which one it is matters significantly and can change the book dramatically. But the reader doesn’t know. This was not a frequent occurrence, but it did come up several times.
I think that Cron writes in a way that will cause anyone to reflect deeply on themselves and their life, if only for a moment. It is a well-written, entertaining book with a great story that will make you think. But spiritual teaching it is not. It should be read critically and those few questionable theological assertions should of course be evaluated against the truth of scripture.