Admin: Guest blogging at Times & Seasons

Today I begin a two-week stint as a guest blogger at Times & Seasons. There’s at least one post I need to make here at AMV very soon, but other than that it’s quite likely that blogging will be light to non-existent here — unless there is breaking news.

I had planned on branching out a bit — taking advantage of T&S‘s more general format — but it’s looking like a healthy percentage of my posts over there will be related to Mormon culture and aesthetics (and boy do they need it).

Times & Seasons posts:

1. A (minor) defense of official LDS discourse

Exclusive AMV note on this post: I had thought of also doing a post specifically on the LDS Church and public relations (I work in the field of marketing/communications/pr) but have decided against it. Without going into detail — I feel like I should hold on to any such commentary or critiques until the point in time (should it arise — and it’s fine with me if it doesn’t) that I can do it in a more authoritative (and more likely to be actually heard) way. Right now it would just be a young turk spouting off for the love of hearing himself talk. Some things can wait (and there are creative projects on hold for the same reason).

2. Best practices in reactivation

Exclusive AMV note on this post: I really hate calling people on the phone. Which seems odd considering that I work in pr. All I can say is I’m lucky that I began my career in the era of e-mail. Actually, I do okay when I’m calling in some sort of official capacity. When that’s the case I can treat it as a performance and have some sort of built-in authority and credibility. It’s when my relationship and expectations aren’t that clear cut or where I’m just another dude that needs something that I have problems. For instance, I hate calling a store to see if they have a certain product in stock.

Bonus exclusive AMV note: In the first post on official discourse, I was thinking of cutting into a canteloupe or honeydew melon when I write: “Of a state of awareness (a stillness, perhaps) where the words cut deep, slicing open the fruits of the spirit releasing a fragrance that enfolds and sweetens the entire experience.”

I very much associate such smells with my southern Utah upbringing. The best melons, if I recall correctly, come from Green River. I’m not sure if that refers to a specific town or just the area, but I remember there being a certain amount of excitement when the Green River melons became available in town.

3. The last dance

Exclusive AMV note on this post: Were you a teenage boy in Provo in 1987-88? If so, did you wear maroon and gray to church? Perhaps it was just my ward (which was up on the hill between State St. and the diagonal — we were the poor ward in the stake), but we all wore maroon and gray. The usual combination was gray pants with a pink dress shirt and a maroon tie, but there were many variations. One of my prized possessions was a maroon, knit polo by Ralp Lauren tie. My grandfather picked it up for me at Emporium Capwell’s basement (outlet) in the Bay Area.

4. Mormons and kitsch part 1: reckless theorizing

Exclusive AMV note on this post: I have to admit that part of the reason I picked up Faces of Modernity is because Matei Calinescu, the author, is a Romanian expatriate. Oddly enough, however, I haven’t read any Mircea Eliade. Or at least anything he published in the U.S. I have read a history of Romania that he wrote while serving as a diplomatic attache in Spain (or was it Italy?) way back before he become a comparative religion demi-god.

5. Mormons and kitsch part 2: My kitsch picks

Exclusive AMV note on this post: It turns out that Times & Seasons guest blogger Jana Riess wrote an article that was published in the June 1999 edition of Sunstone titled “Stripline Warriers: The Cultural Engagements of Contemporary Mormon Kitsch.” Unfortunately, it’s not yet available online.

6. Mormons and the professions

Exclusive AMV note on this post: The apologizing for swearing in the workplace thing seems fairly common for Mormon professionals. You know, when a colleague swears and then apologizes for it. I’ve experienced it several times (one or twice every six weeks, I’d say). How about you all?

7. The boy in green

Exclusive AMV note on this post: Here’s a link to the Bucharest Subway Map. The Piatsa Victoriei stop — where the children’s hospital is — is where the blue and the red lines meet. The Gara de Nord stop — where the story ends — is where the green and red lines meet. Here is an NPR story on Bucharest’s street children.

8. Mormon Literature: Come on. You know you want to.

You know you do.

Admin: AMV now comment friendly!

Thanks to the intrepid Ebenezer Orthodoxy, A Motley Vision has added two features that make reader interaction much better.

1. A “Recent Comments” section on the sidebar on the home page.

2. A javascript hack that lets readers post comments without logging on to Blogger. Simply fill out the form at the bottom of each post.

Ebenezer’s Blogger modifications can be found at Blogger Hacks.

About the site: My pretensions

My college coursework was in literary studies; I work in the field of public relations. This blog reflects both backgrounds. Thus, my interest in Mormon literature ranges from the content of the texts themselves to how they are created, edited, marketed, distributed, read, reviewed and, finally, canonized, taught, referenced or forgotten.

The subhead mentions film, theater, music and pop/folk culture. What I intended for that to indicate is that I’m interested in all forms of Mormon narrative art. What makes a work “Mormon” is a huge question that I’m not prepared to answer, but hope to explore in some form with this blog.What makes a work a “narrative” is another great question, but I don’t think I’m going to even touch that one.

I’m also interested in Mormon pop and folk culture so there may also be some forays into semiotics and material culture.

For all this I owe a huge debt to the AML-list, the e-mail discussion list of the Association of Mormon Letters. I spent six years on the list — four of those as an active poster. It allowed me to become familiar with the field and betray my obsessions with topics that will pop up here regularly. And for that — a special shout out goes to Ben Parkinson, Jonathan Langford and (currently) Jacob Proffitt for the thankless, time-consuming work of moderating the list.

About the name: A Motley Vision

A Motley Vision takes its name from “Love and the Light: An Idyll of the Westland” a rather didactic verse epic written by Orson F. Whitney. Published in 1918, the work was intended to combat the secularism and “Higher Criticism” which Whitney felt was creeping into Utah society. At one point the hero of the poem, a Harvard man who converts to the LDS Church, visits the Grand Canyon while traveling by train to Utah. Whitney launches into an extended description of the Canyon, drawing upon vivid imagery and wild Classical- and Christian-inspired metaphors to present a complex portrait of its sublime beauty. It’s the best passage in the entire work.

Several stanzas into the passage, the hero describes the Canyon at sunset:

Glorious and grotesque presentment,
Good and ill, a motley vision,
Half-alluring, half repelling;
Rainbow-hued, yet shorn of radiance,
Like to Lucifer the Fallen;
Beautiful, though sadly brilliant,
Blazing with satanic splendor
In the sunset’s dying glory;
All the hues of hell and heaven
In one blare of lurid blazoning,
In one master stroke commingled.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should have chosen “Blare of Lurid Blazoning” instead.

This is a genre friendly blog

Although this blog heavily reflects my major interests in literary fiction, criticism and speculative fiction (sci-fi/fantasy/horror), I hope to make this a genre friendly place. Indeed, any person who is serious about Mormon literature needs to pay attention to the genres that dominant the field — romance, historical fiction, Young Adult fiction and (to a lesser extent) thrillers and mysteries.

This doesn’t mean that I won’t critically examine individual works or authors or that I will refrain from pointing out the limitations of a particular genre in representing the Mormon experience. I am, however, interested in why certain genres connect with certain segments of the Mormon audience, and I intend to treat that connection with respect. Above all, I hope to take a greater interest in these genres than I have in the past. In fact, I welcome reading suggestions.

I’m especially interested in signs that certain genres or authors are producing higher-quality or more innovative works and that publishers are becoming more sophisticated and interesting in how these works are marketed.

Have a review of or observation about Mormon genre fiction? See my submission guidelines.

Submission guidelines

Motley Vision readers are welcome, of course, to comment on individual posts by clicking on the ‘comments’ link at the bottom of each post. But there may also be times when you have something that deserves its own submission. Feel free to e-mail if you want to submit something or have a post idea, but here’s what I’m looking for:

1. Brief reviews of works of Mormon fiction, poetry, theater and film. Preference will be given to reviews of works that are new, obscure, unique, well-written or all four. That means I’m not interested in reviews of Charly or God’s Army. If in doubt, e-mail me.

2. Reports of Mormon marketing events such as film/theater premieres or author readings that are either major [i.e. big enough that the mainstream news media would report on them] or have a unique or interesting element to them. Example: An author reading/signing where the author reads and signs is not of interest. What I want to hear about is an author reading where the author leads the audience in the singing of LDS hymns or juggles flaming tennis balls or storms out halfway through because someone asks a dumb question.

3. News that impacts the field of Mormon publishing or studies — major author signings, new publishing companies, theater companies, or film studios, strategy shifts for established Mormon publishers, key management and personnel changes, changes in practices or policies regarding author/editor or author/publisher relations, new academic courses on Mormon literature, teasers of upcoming papers or presentations on Mormon literature, etc.

4. Reports of interesting, unique, quirky, evocative or unintentionally hilarious products or books, cd, or dvd promotions and ads, both print and Web.

5. Short works of Mormon criticism and theory. I’m especially interested in:
a. criticism of works that deal explicitly with the Mormon experience
b. criticism that attempts to use Mormon thought to comment on ‘gentile’ literary works
c. criticism that explores Mormon literature as a field — e.g. issues of canon formation, literary history, audience reception, institutionalization, etc.

Mechanics: Submissions should be sent in the body of an e-mail to: motleyvision at gmail dot com [that means no attachments]. Don’t forget to include links to cited or related Websites. Also remember that I’m a Web editor at my day job — I place a premium on the ability to be concise yet informative/entertaining. I will only consider anonymous or pseudonymous (that include Internet handles) submissions for news or events coverage where the use of a “real” name could create difficulties for the submitter. All others must include a byline.

About the author: William Morris

Obligatory switch to third person:

William Morris lives in Oakland, CA, with his wife and daughter. He is a Web editor, Elder’s Quorum instructor*, casual carpool rider, fair weather Giants fan and champion binky wrangler. He considers himself a “gentleman scholar,” which means that he’s too proud of his degrees in English lit and comparative lit to label himself an amateur and too lazy and unfocused to pursue a career in academia. He became enthralled with the idea of Mormon literature when he discovered two and half shelves of Mormon fiction and poetry in the library of the Berkeley LDS Institute and became the first person in decades to check out such titles as Clinton F. Larson’s “The Mantle of the Prophet” and Cracroft and Lambert’s groundbreaking Mormon literature anthology “A Believing People.” He promises to return the work that inspired the title of this blog as soon as he finishes that one essay he’s trying to write.

*After an eight year run (including three different wards), my luck ran out (or rather, I was granted an opportunity to dedicate more of time to the Lord). I’m now a member of the EQ presidency. And I’m still working on that essay. The first draft is finally finished.