Short Story Friday: Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg by James Goldberg

I like to reward work of Mormon narrative art that is well crafted AND made available for free online so I awaited the Mormon Artist Contest Issue (which my sister Katherine co-edited and my other sister Ann helped copyedit) with much anticipation. It features work by Mormon artists under the age of 30, and AMV’s own Tyler Chadwick scored an honorable mention with his poem “For the Man in the Red Jacket.”

However, to my dismay, short fiction was not to be found among any of the winners or honorable mentions — we have 3 poems, a personal essay and a short play. Certainly all well-w0rth reading (and it’s interesting how many of the works featured play with scripture in somewhat similar ways to my Speculations series and Theric’s The FOB Bible), but my core literary love is fiction, and so it was a delight to discover a bonus addition to the issue — a set of tales by special edition co-editor James Goldberg that are informed by his interesting mix of ethnic identities.

Title: Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg

Author: James Goldberg

Publication Info: Mormon Artist, Nov. 2009

Submitted by: William Morris

Why?: Wm says: “I like how Goldberg takes these three ethnic elements from his own poly-ethnic background — that is Mormon, Sikh, Jew — as well as certain elements from each of those cultures storytelling traditions and melds them together. It both legitimizes and complicates the concept of Mormon ethnicity, but setting aside all the theory — it’s a fun series of mini-tales to read.

Also: how can I not reward a mixture of humor, folk tale and parable?”

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7 thoughts on “Short Story Friday: Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg by James Goldberg”

  1. Wm: I too was disappointed with the lack of short fiction in our contest issue. Of all the entries we received, we only had a couple of short stories. The majority of submitters sent poetry. We also only received a few personal essays and shot plays. I was surprised–I thought we would mainly get short stories, but that wasn’t the case at all.

    Thanks for giving a shout out to “Tales of Teancum Singh Rosenberg.” I like it for itself and I also like it for being unique in the true sense of the word–I’ve never seen a Mormon folktale done like this before.

  2. This is one of the most interesting pieces I’ve read in this SSF series. It makes the old scriptures make more sense by unmooring them from a literal-objective-reality reading and instead treating them as part of a body of half-forgotten legends.

  3. .

    Shoot. I planned to read this during lunch, having forgotten that Mormon Artist is blocked at work. (The stuff on that site, I swear.)

    But I did read Goldberg’s play “The Prodigal Son” over the weekend and it was brilliant so I’m looking forward to reading this soon.

  4. Wow! It’s exciting to find myself featured for one work and praised for a completely different one. Thanks to all.

    I am thinking since today about how I like stories that invite the reader to think at once metaphorically and literally. To be honest, this thought is semi-stolen from my brother, who saw Stephen Schwartz’s “Children of Eden” at BYU shortly after reading the Adam and Eve pieces in the Mormon Artist Contest Issue.

    In my brother’s perception, “Children of Eden” treated events in Genesis as being primarily allegorical and thereby open to reinvention as allegory, whereas the pieces in Mormon Artist tried through fictionalizations or added symbols to get at some aspect of the Adam/Eve experience that belongs to very real and objectively extent ancestors as well as to us as Adams and Eves in a way that is mystically real every bit as deeply as it is metaphorically real. More deeply, even.

    I hope that Tales of TSR works in a similar way in at least some passages. For example, I think the passage about the Wailing Wall works best for those who approach it not simply as a metaphor for the truth, but also as being in some ways actually true.

    I don’t know quite what I’m saying except that I hope we realize that there are some lovely literary things that become possible when you’re fortunate to have an audience with just the right amount of literalism in their faith. Literalism is a powerful way to connect with words, one I wonder if we sometimes undervalue for recognizing the power of its opposite.

    I think.

  5. .

    The story makes me dizzy. At once it reminds me of the few stories from Eastern European Jews that I know, yet filled with distinct Mormon references and further references that I can sense but not grasp. A curious experience, reading this story.

    Afterwards I read through the explanation of names on the MA site and although it explained things I did not know, I felt that a cursory after-the-fact understanding of who a character was less of an experience than discovering a character I knew, no matter how slightly. To reread the story in two years knowing more of the names would, I think, be deeply pleasurable.

    Story may be intangible, but it doesn’t matter less for that seeming disadvantage. They cover us and wrap us an envelop us and finally become us.

  6. “I am thinking since today about how I like stories that invite the reader to think at once metaphorically and literally.”

    Me too. And you should absolutely read The FOB Bible and Speculations: Trees if you haven’t already. And my follow up “Speculations: Oil” (which is even better than Trees) should appear in Dialogue in the latter half of 2010.

  7. .

    From Jack Harrell’s interview with Angela Hallstrom re: his story “Calling and Election“—

    Many readers have questioned whether or not Jerry’s brain tumor is intended to indicate that Jerry’s experiencing a delusion. Although I’m sure you’re reluctant to impose your authorial interpretation on this story (its open-endedness is part of what makes this story effective, in my opinion), could you speak in some way to how the brain tumor functions in this narrative?

    In the conclusion of my novel Vernal Promises, Jacob, drunk and confused, bails out of the bishop’s moving pickup and has a vision of Christ while injured on the side of the road. Some readers could call his experience non-miraculous and explainable, due to his drunkenness and injury. They could say he’s just imagining it all. But for me, the vision is literal. I feel the same way about Jerry’s experience. I think it’s an interesting reading to call it all a hallucination–I’m open to the possibilities there–but I don’t read it that way myself.

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