Hear No Evil: My Story of Innocence, Music and the Holy Ghost by Matthew Paul Turner
Some people like inside baseball books. Some like inside politics books. This is an inside religion book which starts off as being very entertaining before it bogs down…
Initially, Hear No Evil reminded me of Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost (October 2009); Richard Rushfield’s truly hilarious tale of his wild and wooly days at the ultra-liberal arts Hampshire College in the 1980s. Don’t Follow Me was reviewed earlier on this site and while it started off a bit too agressively, it calmed down and simply remained funny until its final page.
Unfortunately, once this reader was more than halfway through Hear No Evil it began to remind me of Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield. Sheffield’s real story had to do with his attempt to woo the love of his life via the compilation of just the right music on cassette tapes. It was cute while it lasted, but it all too soon veered sideways with too much talk of peripheral figures. I loved it before I became bored with it. Yes, Hear No Evil is a bit like that.
This one starts off funny as Turner tells us about his desire to be “the Michael Jackson of Christian music.” And there are some great observations in it – if not necessarily true ones – such as the statement that rock bass players have the emotional maturity of fourth-grade girls. But there’s just not enough here about music. Instead we hear talks about The One True God, God’s sovereignty, Calvinism, etc. Turner himself becomes disenchanted with all of this, “I turned into the punk know-it-all son with a religious ax to grind.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and done that. My second major in college was in Philosophy and Religion, so I once enjoyed rambling discussions about the wisdom of St. Augustine versus one’s favorite existentialist. But I never thought it would be interesting to write a book about those youthful conversations.
For me, Turner’s latest effort is a miss rather than a hit.
A review copy was provided by WaterBrook Multnomah (WaterBook Press), a division of Random House Books.
If there’s one thing you learn as an undergraduate, it’s that trouble can always be found on a college campus. More than a few of us will recognize facets of our own schools in Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost by Richard Rushfield. Rushfield here writes of his years at Hampshire College “in the twilight of the 80’s.”
Hampshire, in Massachusetts, comes off as the east coast version of U.C. Santa Cruz. At this college in the woods there were no grades, students could design their own learning program and attending classes was – well – optional.Rushfield majored in drugs, alcohol and trouble. He found his way into the major trouble-making group on campus, the Supreme D—s. The Supremes sound a bit like the Yellow Turban Alliance from my own first college – a legendary group whose exploits may have been real or fictional. (Very real or highly fictional.)
The first few dozen pages of Don’t Follow can irritate the reader due to the fact that the young Rushfield is not easy to relate to. But whether you wish to or not, you’ll soon be laughing at the exploits of Richard and his friends. At one point in the memoir, they’re already in trouble (with administrators and their fellow students) when they decide to form a 3-member fraternity. Oh, they decide to do this since it will make them eligible for the social activity funds (party money) distributed by the student council. Never mind that they don’t seek recognition from the national fraternity’s headquarters.
You can see where this is going, can’t you? And you can probably see why it took Rushfield two years to learn that he could no longer “try anything” on the Hampshire College campus, and a full five years to graduate.
Once you get a good start on this truly hilarious read, you’ll find it hard to put down! Recommended.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
A review of Don’t Follow Me, I’m Lost: A Memoir of Hampshire College in the Twilight of the ’80s by Richard Rushfield.