My mother used to have a poster hanging in her kitchen of a wild-haired woman gripping a broom. Underneath her was the caption: "Fuck Housework."
These are the opening lines to the Prologue of local author D'Arcy Fallon's newly published memoir, So Late, So Soon. They provide the context against which young Fallon, a romantic 18-year-old, joins an isolated fundamentalist Christian commune at the Lighthouse Ranch in foggy northern California, a "boot camp for baby Christians." There she submits herself to Jesus, 130 brothers and sisters in the Lord, and a young husband.
"I knew that this was my material," said Fallon, who mulled over the story of her coming-of-age for almost 30 years before finally turning it into a book.
A reporter and columnist at the Colorado Springs Gazette until 1999, Fallon worked as a journalist for 20 years before embracing the literary life, completing an MFA in creative writing at Antioch College and taking a teaching job at UCCS. This summer, Fallon and her family will depart Colorado for Ohio where she has accepted a tenured teaching position at Wittenberg University in Springfield.
So Late, So Soon is a spunky, irreverent, often funny but ultimately serious exploration of the time in Fallon's life when she "gave her power" away, experimenting with communal living and fundamentalist Christianity, straining against a restless, curious intellect and her upbringing by fiercely independent parents. The title, says Fallon, comes from a Dr. Seuss poem.
"It says, 'How did it get so late, so soon?'" she explained. "It sums up the sense of missing time, of being in a fugue state."
Her time at the ranch was like that, she says, a time away from time, out of the real world.
"Getting out was really hard," said Fallon. "There's this voice telling you you're not acting in God's will, that you're going to go to Hell."
But the story is less about the tenets of Christian fundamentalism than it is about Fallon's journey toward personal responsibility and authenticity.
"It's very attractive to hand your power over to someone," she said. "They make decisions for you. It's very seductive. You don't have to be responsible for yourself."
Living in El Paso County during the rise of the religious right, she says, "this stuff just bubbled up."
"What I'm really talking about is being honest," said Fallon. She describes many of the followers at the Lighthouse Ranch as genuine Christians with an unyielding love of Jesus. But she was not one of them, though she played the part for two years, hoping to believe but secretly doubting that this was her destiny.
"When you're a hypocrite, you bend, you break," she said. "And when you live like that, you hate yourself."
Fallon struggled not to depict herself as a victim, as someone drawn into a situation over which she had no power, and she succeeded mightily. The D'Arcy Fallon in So Late, So Soon is as full-blown and red-blooded as a character in a Carson McCullers novel -- aware of her deceptions, more than a little crazy, searching for love and, finally, escaping into the open.
"I just wanted to write about how it felt to be me in that situation. I went crazy a little, but we've all been crazy," she said. "It's a story about adolescence, about giving your power away and taking it back."
-- Kathryn Eastburn
D'Arcy Fallon will read from and sign So Late, So Soon
Sat., May 22, 1 p.m.
Hooked on Books, 3918 Maizeland Rd.
Call 596-1621 for more.
(Hawthorne Books: Portland) $15.95/paperback