The great and greatly censored Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov wrote a letter to the Soviet government dated March 28, 1930. In it he expressed his frustration with how his work had been treated (it was routinely savaged by reviewers and the media and his plays were often in rehearsal for years or were accepted, but then never stage dby theater companies) and asked for employment at the Moscow Arts Theatre as an assistant director.
This was not his first communication with the government; however, this one led (a month later) to a phone call from Stalin in which the dictator told him to reapply to the Moscow Arts Theatre (where was accepted for a job he had previously been denied).
I won’t go through all the trials of Bulgakov’s life and literary career. But I do want to quote a line from his letter to the government (from Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov – A Life in Letters and Diaries by J.A.E. Curtis):
“Am I thinkable in the USSR?”
I think that sometimes Mormon/LDS artists get caught up too much in the question of whether or not we are thinkable. A brief blog post is not the best place to tease out all the issues involved in censorship (official or otherwise) and support/patronage of creative work in the field of Mormon arts and culture. It all gets a little complicated.
Rather, what I want to do is celebrate the fact that there are a number of choices and venues in which Mormon/LDS artists can become thinkable. Whether that means writing for the home literature market (Anita Stansfield, Gerald Lund) or fleeing into the bosom of contemporary American literature, art and film (Brian Evenson, Neil LaBute, Matthew Barney), or going after the national genre markets (Orson Scott Card, Dave Wolverton, Shannon Hale, Stephenie Meyer) or trying to carve out the middle niche of Mormon letters (Irreantum, Zarahemla Books), etc.
I’m not saying that the institutional church and the various Mormon audiences don’t have a warping affect upon the field. And I’m not saying that certain markets and positions aren’t more supported than others. And I’m certainly not claiming that certain artists and style of art aren’t eviscerated by segments of the Mormon audience. But in spite of the fact that we sometimes use the language of censorship, the reality is that none of us are unthinkable. That’s something to be grateful for.