Full of doubts, fears and inexplicable successes as a not executed screen writer (Stanley Kubrick once said: if every studio in Hollywood turns down a script, it doesn't mean it is a work of genius, yet it is a very sure start.), Matthew Chapman, Darwin's great great grandson, decides to write a book.
Using the reenactment of the famous Scopes trial of 1925, where his great great grandfather's teaching are opposed by the law in Dayton Tennessee, ostensibly to find out what, if anything has changed in seventy five years, Chapman sets out to write one book, but luckily for the reader, comes up with a surprisingly fresh and different genre of memoir, accidental as the subtitle reads, yes, but warm, vibrant with and interspersed with questions that lead to more and deeper questions..
He meets a lot of real people down south, all are first introduced as iconic satirical prototypes, but Chapman's intimate curiosity strips the veneer and exposes likable human beings, troubled by qualms yet protected by the bliss of faith; some through ignorance, some through learned resignation.
Than, into this murky lake of fear and backbone America, Chapman starts launching pebbles, and his own life story comes fuzzily into focus: a brilliant enthusiastic and loving father, shaded by his hectic life and by a gap of misunderstanding with his wife, Matthew's mother who is a dazzling, witty woman, but one who fails through a repeated line of episodes to come to grips with growing up, until she drowns herself in a sea of alcohol and unquenched anxieties. Chapman's attempt at redemption through God, through bumming, through love, sex, writing, are all confidentially brought under the microscope, dissected analytically, reduced to a little more than yester-dust and than put back together.
Chapman questions his life, his fears, his angst, his inability for happiness, his touch and go existence from Millionaire to pauper and back in one fast go, and his constant fear of being found out.
Chapman uses the real characters he encounters, together with the historical protagonists of the 'Monkey Trial' of seventy five years ago, as pieces of a mirror, that twist back his reflection, and helps explore another dark place in his persona.
A powerful and sincere piece of writing, as good as any I've read lately, and better than most.
You care about all the characters, the bit players as well as the semi-hero, as they are al alive, human and vulnerable.
A refreshing and pleasantly surprising rendezvous.