Bright Angels & Familiars: “I Am Buzz Gaulter, Left-Hander” by Darrell Spencer


I’m not a fan of Spencer’s most famous story and it was, until now, the only Spencer story I’d read. This one (read it now!) I liked more, but I’m still mulling it over, not quite sure what to make of it.

The tale is apocalyptic in nature. Earthquakes are threatened, floods are happening (a town’s been wiped off the map; our eponymous hero nearly dives off a washed off road), roofs cave in without warning, wives are kicked out of the house who then leave with dire warnings of the Lord’s return, crazy people execute the innocent, polygamists shoot themselves, deer are dying.

The world is ending and everyone is feeling it as the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

Not a bad story for 2012, winkwink.

Buzz is an aging athlete who moved with his Mormon wife from LA to Orem, picking up the old family house for a song. But now their marriage has fallen apart. His wife has turned into a mad prophet and he finally kicks her out (we don’t get many details as to the nature of their marriage demise, but no one seems to disagree that it is over). The hand of God then arrives, knocking in his roof while he’s driving past the mountains to pick up a Dodgers game (they get destroyed, natch, no salvation in the ninth for them).

And on and on. The world is falling apart.

I suspect this story catches exactly what The End will feel like. Yes, the world is falling apart—like Buzz’s wife, it’s “as out of control as whooping cough”—but it’s also depressingly everyday. Sure Buzz is upset over his wife (he cut their bed in half with a chainsaw, didn’t he?), but the Dodgers continue to lose, his dog continues to subsist on Twinkies, his bartender is still called Stubby.

Life goes on.

And there’s nothing the Army Corp of Engineers can do about it.

Welcome to the apocalypse. Just like every other crummy day, except it’s crummy for all of us.

But why worry? The governor will “go to the White House if [he has] to.”

The Lord has come (or has he?) and everything still sucks. Figures.

* * * * * * * * * *

To the best of my knowledge, literary Mormon writing does not have a huge amount of [post]apocalyptic story available. Sure, there’s a few Mormonized Left Behind series, but besides “When We Remembered Zion” by Thom Duncan and “The Weather Here” by Stephen Tuttle and Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card, I don’t know much else. (Please share examples I’ve overlooked. Perhaps they are legion.)

So, given that scarcity, the question of what Mormon apocalit should look like is an open question. As is this: how will the apocalypse look different, in Mormon hands, when told from the pov of an on-the-left-hander like Buzz, versus those who will find a way to turn “their mourning . . .  into joy“?

Where do you situate this story in our tradition of end-of-world stories?

4 thoughts on “Bright Angels & Familiars: “I Am Buzz Gaulter, Left-Hander” by Darrell Spencer”

  1. To be honest, I found this story utterly baffling. Maybe I’d understand it better if I read more of Spencer’s other work.

  2. .

    From Eugene England’s intro to the book:

    Darrell Spencer, at Brigham Young University, is the contemporary Mormon writer perhaps least focused on Mormon characters and culture. He writes post-modernist, occasionally minimalist, stories, published widely in prestigious “little” magazines and collected in A Woman Packing a Pistol (1987). He shows what this approach can do within a Mormon context in “I am Buzz Gaulter, Left-hander.”

    Which makes it sound like perhaps England wanted to include Spencer and this was the only story that made sense to include.

    That’s one interpretation, anyway.

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