Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Interview with Carlene Bauer: writer, former evangelical

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More Intelligent Life does the interview:

There is such ease in the language of Not That Kind of Girl, Carlene Bauer’s memoir, that readers may be lulled into underestimating the alchemy that is taking place. Bauer has managed to transform the raw, melancholic, alienating challenges of religious scepticism and literary ambition into a readable story of one woman’s messy struggle for authenticity.

Like all coming-of-age tales, this one mixes the painfully familiar ("we were exhilarated by our loneliness because it meant we were being tested, or destined, or chosen") with the exotic ("my heart would flutter and whirr like a hummingbird until I said it: God"). Bauer describes an awkward youth of evangelical Christian schools and camps against a soundtrack of unbelievers (the Smiths, the Cure, the Replacements, the Pixies). Having looked to such models as Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf for a sense of how to live, Bauer moves to New York City and waits patiently for her life to start. She yearns for a way to be both coolly intellectual and cosily devotional—to both love God and love the world. For a while she quietly keeps both her virginity and her piety. Ultimately (but not until time) she loses both.

This is a gentle, insightful memoir—one that balances painful introspection with quite a bit of clever cultural analysis. It is with deceptive breeziness that Bauer flits from describing her adolescent body ("ovoid and white like a peeled potato, rooted and thick") to the essence of Walker Percy and Graham Greene ("These two men wrote for God by writing against God… They hated the world, hated its trouble, but they were not wishing for the next one to come. You had to love being in the world to write, they knew.").

Here Carlene Bauer talks to us about what inspired her to write this book, what makes her cringe when looking back, and what life feels like when you take God away.

More Intelligent Life: Given your cerebral preoccupations with faith and restraint, what drew you to New York City, that hotbed of iniquity?

Carlene Bauer:  While the message from churches I grew up in was that the city was to be avoided—unless you were ministering to the poor—the message I got from my parents was that the city was a place that kids needed to experience. My dad used to tell this story about how in the early seventies he and my mother took a carriage ride in Central Park and how they narrowly missed having their heads split open by a bottle some random passer-by chucked at their ride. Whenever my father told this story, he told it with clear relish at the high craziness of the city. As a kid [the story] made me think, well, you’ll go into the city and you might almost bleed to death, but hey! You’ll get a story out of it. It’s comedy, not tragedy, whatever almost clocks you there.

Also, I seemed to have a predilection for the urban from birth. Apartments over storefronts on main streets—not a feature of the suburban cul-de-sacs I was raised in—were fascinating to me. Who lived in those lighted windows? I wanted a lighted window. I thought if you had a lighted window, rather than a whole big house, you were living an anonymous, autonomous life. Finally, I wanted to write. Once I figured out that New York was where you lived if you wanted to write, I decided that’s where I would live when I grew up.

MIL: What inspired this compulsion to write? …

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 November 2009 at 10:40 am

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