Short Stories 

Two reviews

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Jesus Sound Explosion
By Mark Curtis Anderson
(University of Georgia Press: Athens and London) $29.95/hardcover

Mark Curtis Anderson, a self-professed record junkie, experienced dj vu when he came across a copy of Jesus Sound Explosion in a Minnesota junk store. The live concert album from Explo '72, a love fest for Christian teen-agers overseen by Billy Graham and Johnny Cash, marked organized Evangelical Christians' first intentional foray into the world of rock 'n' roll -- carefully chaperoned and with an invitation to accept Jesus Christ at the end of the evening.

Anderson, a Baptist preacher's son, grew up lusting after a personal knowledge of rock stars and their songs, music his parents called "jazzy music." As a teen-ager he wavered between worshiping Bruce Springsteen and honing his talents as a pitchman for Christ. Jesus Sound Explosion is the kind-hearted memoir of Anderson's upbringing and the duplicitous decade that saw The Cross and the Switchblade hit cineplexes while marijuana became the smoke du jour.

Anderson avoids smugness and opens his heart to the forces that molded him in this honest, moving account of growing up Christian in a rock 'n' roll world, winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for Creative Nonfiction.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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The Tournament
By John Clarke
(Theia Books: New York) $19.95/hardcover

Imagine a two-weeks-long, 500-player tennis tournament pitting the greatest artists and thinkers of the 20th century against one another in singles and doubles matches: Amelia Earhart vs. Willa Cather; Anton Chekhov vs. Gustav Mahler; Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan vs. Anna Akhmatova and Hannah Arendt; Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova vs. Robert Benchley and Dorothy Parker.

That is what Australian novelist John Clarke has done in his mind-boggling fantasy, The Tournament. Who will make it to the finals and Centre Court? We're not telling, but the matches along the way are quirky, revealing and often hilarious.

Here's a quick account of Martin Heidegger's match against Groucho Marx:

When it comes to power serving, German Martin Heidegger is a benchmark. ... Drawn against American Groucho Marx, he peeled off a succession of aces to the obvious satisfaction of German administrators. Not much is known about Marx but late in the second set he began to pick the Heidegger serve early and hit it on the up. By the third set Marx was running around his backhand. By the fourth set he was running around his accountant.

Clever and terse, The Tournament is the most unusual novel of the fall crop, a pleasure to read.

-- Kathryn Eastburn


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