I’ve finally got around to reading Irreantum 12:2, the fall/winter 2010 edition of the Association for Mormon Letters literary journal. Okay, so, how come none of you have mentioned that Doug Thayer sums up the entire field of Mormon fiction in its pages? Maybe you did, and I just wasn’t listening. And I don’t agree with everything he says. But still, his essay “About Serious Mormon Fiction” (which is a revised version of his 2008 Eugene England Memorial Lecture* at Utah Valley University) is remarkable for its breadth. In it he discusses:
- Why he writes Mormon fiction
- What he means by “serious” Mormon fiction
- What he thinks about the “great Mormon novel”
- Why serious Mormon fiction will offend Mormon readers (but in a useful way)
- What he defines as the Mormon audience and how thinks it can be reached
- The state of Mormon publishing and what he thinks is missing (in particular he sees a need for “a major popular web site for serious Mormon literature” [and also suggests that it might need a rating system, which we have also discussed around these parts])
- Some theories on why Mormon literature “doesn’t flourish as it might be expected to”
- How he answers LDS-centric criticism of serious fiction
- Possible “themes, conflicts and plots” for Mormon novelists and some of the types of Mormon novels he would personally like to read
- How Mormon doctrine might inform the themes of serious Mormon fiction
- Who is going to write these Mormon novels (not his creative writing students, he says)
- The craft of fiction writing
- The fact that the novelists he is hoping for are likely to be Mormon women (and why)
That’s a lot of ground to cover and Thayer basically tackles here all of the major issues of the field and ties them together and sums it all up, and it’s well worth seeking out.
*It’s a pity these aren’t better documented.