Chris Rush was born into a prosperous, fiercely Roman Catholic, New Jersey family. But underneath the gleaming mid-century house ran an unspoken tension that, amid the upheaval of the late 1960s, was destined to fracture their precarious facade. After an unceremonious ejection from an experimental art school, Rush heads to Tuscon to make a major drug purchase and disappears into the nascent American counterculture.
Most people stretch to find enough material to fill a memoir; not visual artist Chris Rush, who only reaches his early 20s by the end of The Light Years — another blond Alice tumbling headlong into the kaleidoscopic wonderland of American counterculture in the 1960s and ’70s ... There’s a lot of darkness in Light, but Rush is a fantastically vivid writer, whether he’s remembering a New Jersey of 'meatballs and Windex and hairspray' or the dappled, dangerous beauty of Northern California, where 'rock stars lurked like lemurs in the trees.'
The challenge for Rush is compelling us to follow the events of that era that feel like familiar standards–the sacrament of dropping acid the first time, for example, is something we feel we know as well as our own memories, even if we’ve never done it. But he breaks through when he reveals that both his drug-fueled adventures and his relationship with his sexuality are really about the way he left the church but never abandoned his search for an experience of the divine that might replace it. This other story, filled with sentences lit from the inside like his paintings, allows Rush to 'make it new'–any artist’s imperative–in telling us the story of his life.