Short Story Friday: The Secret Life of Earl Johnson by Eric Nielson

Some AMV readers may have already read this series of short short stories by Eric Nielson since he posted them at the Blogger of Jared just last year. But for those who missed it the first go round, give it a shot. I make no great literary claims for these stories — and I don’t think that Eric would either — but I agree with Ardis Parshall when she writes that this Earl Johnson character is “sad and funny and wonderful.” By choosing this Walter-Mitty-esque format, Eric gets at some very Mormon experiences but does so in a wistful way.

Title: The Secret Life of Earl Johnson

Author: Eric Nielson

Publication Info: Blogger of Jared Blog, 2008

Submitted by: Eric Nielson

Why?: Eric writes: “A Mormon version of Walter Mitty.

Not sure if this is what you’re looking for.  The link is for the first in a series of five, just replace the roman numeral in the end of the link to get to the others.  If self promotion is bad form I apologize.”

Wm: Please note that Eric was kind enough to update the posts so you can now navigate between each piece in the series easily. And as he now knows, a little self-promotion is just fine.

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6 thoughts on “Short Story Friday: The Secret Life of Earl Johnson by Eric Nielson”

  1. Th:

    Thanks for the comments. Keeping these stories within blog parameters and … genre?.. was a strong consideration. I wanted to be really efficient.

    The cap ‘M’ was more of a grammar thing to me – sort of like a name. There was no other intention from me.

    Anyway, I am open to feedback – even negative.

  2. .

    The reason I asked was because it was always “mother” until Earl had to mother her and then it became “Mother”. Which I couldn’t quite parse, but it was curious.

    Most of my complaints with the story are wrapped up in it being episodic and short. This type of tale can work, we just need more practice at getting it to work properly.

    I’m tempted to give this a shot myself, although my nearly-no-rewrites policy on Thutopia means I won’t be the one to write the first Great Mormon Blogfiction.

  3. I’ve had months now to let this story kick around in my mental lumber room, and I like it now more than ever. Eric has succeeded in saying that ordinary Mormon life and service are great, without being preachy. The home teaching visit, for instance, could threaten a sermon in other settings, but by casting it as a fantasy and kicking it up a notch on the heroic-ness scale, Eric makes it funny, not didactic. Yet that service isn’t mocked, either, because we like and sympathize with Earl and understand why his fantasies aren’t ridiculous despite their unlikelihood. Then when Earl accepts the challenge to be a real hero in the end, all those earlier fantasies don’t seem so fantastical after all.

    Anyway, for that reason and however many others you can identify, “the Secret Life of Earl Johnson” works, and is the most enjoyable piece of Mormon fiction I’ve ever read.

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