The Utah Valley Monitor has published a column by C.L. Hanson that apparently was prompted by Patricia’s post on a recent letter from Irreantum editor Laraine Wilkins to the readers of the journal (which is published by the Association for Mormon Letters). Hanson then posted a comment here at AMV with a link to the column and: “Doing my part for the cause… ;-)”
The piece is rather fascinating in that it illustrates the divide (and the misunderstanding of the Mormon cultural scene) that exists between conservative and liberal (or faithful and apostate — or whatever lame labels one wants to use) Mormons (and I should make it clear that I’m speaking for myself and not for my co-bloggers — who are free to chime in with their own thoughts).
Hanson’s column focuses on her decision to submit a ‘racy’ story to Irreantum and her reaction to its rejection by the editor. It’s rather amusing in places and as a frequent purveyor of self-deprecation myself, I have to say that I admire her facile use of that particular mode of humor.
However, Hanson gets the Mormon cultural scene, and, in my opinion, the mission of Irreantum wrong. Or to be blunt, I’m not sure that her cause is exactly our cause. It very well may be, but that’s not really evidenced in her column.
In particular, Hanson writes:
“My impression is that that’s not the way it works in LDS society. You see, if (like me!) you write a story in which most of the characters just happen to be Mormons (some more righteous, some less), throw in a bunch of borderline-inappropriate sex jokes, and top it off by accidentally forgetting to mention how inspiring General Conference is, that’s not Mormon literature. That’s anti-Mormon literature.”
This is, of course, meant to be humorous, but I also don’t see evidence that Hanson understands how rich, interesting and fruitful the field of Mormon letter is — even as it is, admittedly, still underdeveloped. I invite her to engage such works as Alan Rex Mitchell’s “Angel of the Danube,” Richard Dutcher’s “States of Grace”; Margaret Young’s “Salvador”; Doug Thayer’s “The Conversion of Jeff Williams”; Bela Petco’s “Nothing very important and other stories.”
I also wonder how equipped she is to engage with literature that is from a faithful perspective. In other words, it’s two-way street. And to stretch the image a bit too far — unfortunately too many people seem to want to stand on either side of it and point and yell at each other while the real fun stuff is going on in the middle.
At any rate thank you, C.L., for giving me the chance to reinforce the mission and tone of A Motley Vision:
Through criticism, personal essay, news and reviews, we’re trying to build a discourse that fully, faithfully engages Mormon culture and Mormon worldviews. We want to cultivate readers and authors who have moved beyond the ‘if it’s edgy and pisses of Mormons, it’s cool’ and the ‘I find that offensive and in fact think that fiction is suspect you should just read the scriptures’ discourses. Yes, we will do this from the perspective of believing Mormons, but the beauty and danger and allure of narrative and visual arts is that there’s room for exploring the messiness of life.
NOTE: For those interested in Irreantum’s take on content appropriateness for its readers, read “Three Kinds of Appropriateness” (it’s an approach I fully endorse). For my take on appropriate content, read Mormons and media consumption.