As with his surreal and mystical paintings, Alfred Eaker’s Brother Cobweb portrays both the beauty and the horrifying distortion in the search for self-identity and purpose, all while having been deeply entangled in the swampy roots of a kitschy, hamburger-helper, “slut-for-Jesus” brand of Pentecostalism. And Eaker makes us laugh. A lot. After all, there’s no point in sitting through a holy ghost-inspired three-hour episode of Sunday evening service if you can’t add a few ‘wtf’ guffaws to the caterwauling. But be sure to chew your minty fresh “Testamint” first!
The true gift of Cobweb, however—apart from the gratifying interludes of musical abstractions, for the novel has more (and better) music recommendations than a hipster in a vinyl store—is our young protagonist, Calvin Elkan’s sense of religious adventure. While the typical post-modern hero would rationally turn one’s back on God and religion after suffering abuses and hypocrisies in their name— receiving accolades from the world while cloistering oneself in a bubble of unimaginative atheism—we get to experience the faith journey through the thoughtful artist spirit, which is a more rewarding story. In order for there to be divine justice, moral atonement, and maybe even hopeful happiness, Eaker invites all sincere wayfarers to consider a revelation of Calvin’s: “The Church needs me more than I need it.”
Amaya Engleking, poet, Gospel Isosceles