Twilight and the CleanFlicks Aesthetic

NOTE: This is a paper I presented at a conference to a largely non-Mormon audience a few years ago (April 2010 to be precise). Since the final Twilight movie hit theaters this morning at midnight, I thought it might be worthwhile to dust off this paper and present it for your review. Overall, I like the basic idea of the paper, although I think certain ideas and distinctions need to be further developed and drawn.

Vampire stories, argues William Patrick Day, are supposed to “viscerally [excite] us with primal, forbidden, terrifying images and scenes of flesh and blood, fangs and stakes, violence and death” (5). Yet, if this is true, why is Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga so devoid of such “terrifying images and scenes”? Already, much has been written about the “erotics of abstinence” in the Twilight novels, or their lack of explicit sex–premarital or otherwise (Grossman). Less has been said, however, about how these vampire stories flout the conventions of the vampire genre by avoiding bloody, violent spectacles.

Indeed, one of the earliest reviews of Twilight–a brief write-up in Publishers Weekly–points out that the “novel’s only weakness” is a “rushed denouement” that mostly “takes place offstage” (207). In the climactic scene, Bella is in danger. James, a bad vampire who has become fixated on her blood, lures her to a dance studio where he plans to slake his thirst. The suspense builds as James, true to his nemesis role, monologues about his skills as a tracker, his desire for Bella’s blood, and his disdain for the Cullens, Bella’s good, “vegetarian” vampire friends. Using his super vampire strength, James throws Bella against a wall of mirrors, breaks her legs, and cuts a gash along her forehead. The situation looks bad for Bella:

His eyes, merely intent before, now burned with an uncontrollable need. The blood–spreading crimson across my white shirt, pooling rapidly on the floor–was driving him mad with thirst. (450)

James strikes at her, bites her on the hand, and Bella–our first-person narrator–passes out.

And that’s all we get.

Continue reading “Twilight and the CleanFlicks Aesthetic”

The Three Nephites and Mormon Literature

In preparing my weekly poetry for Gospel Doctrine Lessons (aka Literary BMGD) post on Times and Seasons for this week, I discovered an interesting statement in the current Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine lesson manual for lesson #42 (covering 3 Nephi 27-28 and 4 Nephi):

Note: Stories often circulate about the three Nephites who were translated. Members of the Church should be careful about accepting or retelling these stores. You should not discuss them in class.

I won’t be surprised to find that this statement has been in the various Book of Mormon manuals for some time. And I understand why. Telling Three Nephite stories could easily change the lesson from something spiritual to something like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

Continue reading “The Three Nephites and Mormon Literature”

Update: Stan Bronson’s Down from the Mountain at Proud Earth Music

Two years ago I reviewed Stan Bronson’s album Down from the Mountain for AMV.   My family has really enjoyed Bronson’s appealing singing voice and musical take on San Juan County history.   My impression of the album was that anyone interested in Mormon-themed folk music might find Down from the Mountain a fun listen.

The website I linked to went down shortly after the review.  I contacted Bronson directly and received an e-mail response asking me to direct interested parties to an e-mail address, but readers commented that the address bounced their queries. 

Well, I have good news.  Ken Dixon, vice president of Proud Earth Music, e-mailed me to call my attention to Proud Earth’s new website, featuring Bronson’s music among others’.  Especially fun: If you click into the catalogue you can listen to short clips of tracks from the album.  Bronson’s music is distinct, so even in those brief clips you’ll get a fair idea of what the album is like.   Both CDs and individual tracks are downloadable.

Mormon Couple-Creators

Back when William first approached me about guesting on AMV, he offered this as a possible topic:

A guest post on you and your wife and your creative processes (and even how family impacts them). How do you find time to write? What helps you write? Where do your creative processes and ambitions collide/feed off of/interact with/entangle with your wife’s creative processes and ambitions? (and this even if your output her output of work isn’t huge — certainly family dampens things).

I think he asked because I had approached him about us, my wife and I, possibly doing a comics story for Popcorn Popping. We hadn’t started working on it yet, but I thought PP might be a venue for such a work, if the work tasted Mormon enough. William then had the grim responsibility to tell me PP had been shut down (two days later, the announcement appeared on the site).

Everyone has a list of someday-I-wills and one Lynsey and I share is creating a graphic novel together. But as William hinted in his suggested topic, things like family (to say nothing of desperate poverty) have prevented some of our more ambitious planned projects. Continue reading “Mormon Couple-Creators”

The Experiences of Black Mormons: a gap in Mormon letters?

Since February is Black History Month I’ve been thinking: what do we know about the history and experiences of black members of the LDS church?

For me, the answer is not much.  I mean,  I’ve heard my dad tell his story about having to defend the Church and it’s policies in a high school history class and I remember the black character in God’s Army and I’ve read Mary Sturlaugson Eyer’s memoir trilogy, but all those are rather superficial experiences.  My dad isn’t black.  The guy in God’s Army was a relatively minor character. Eyer’s memoirs  add up to just barely three hundred pages all together.

Arianne Cope tangled with questions about black Mormon identity in her story, “Salt Water”, which was published in the most recent Irreantum.  But her story seemed a little too much for me.  It wasn’t enough that the character was supposedly the first black male to be ordained to the priesthood. He had to be fatherless and his grandma had to kill herself. The story is interesting, but, in my opinion, it was a lot to take on.   Maybe more than the form could manage.  Whatever your feelings about the story, it simply doesn’t do much to enrich the narrative legacy of Black Mormons.

A quick Google search turned up some interesting hits:

*The FAIR LDS Bookstore has a whole section dedicated to black mormon studies. Has anyone actually read any of these books? Are they accessible to the average reader in the Mormon market? Are any of them written by black Mormons themselves or is their history being filtered through white Mormon writers?

* has a lot of good info but isn’t an artistic attempt. The testimony section is interesting but it also makes me wonder what a book by a black member would read like.  Again, it doesn’t do much to enrich the narrative and artistic legacy.

*Then there’s the movie Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons.  It sounds interesting and like a relatively good artistic step, but I haven’t seen it. Have any of you? What did you think? I wonder if I can ILL movies . . .

I know Deseret Book (through their Shadow Mountain imprint) has published a series,  Standing on the Promises by Margaret Blair Young and Darius Gray, but I haven’t read those either.  Have any of you? What do these books do to flesh out the narrative legacy? Are they aimed at a YA audience or adults? Are they artistic attempts like Young’s other books or are they more in the let’s-teach-history-the-fun-way camp (like Gerald Lund’s books)?

Now,  I know I’m  not the best read person when it comes to Mormon Literature, but I would argue that I have read more Mormon/LDS books than the average Latter-day saint.  Most of my book choices are taken from book lists, like the AMV canon (which I would link to if I knew which post it was!),  the AMV book club recommendations, and lists of former AML  award winners along with what I come across in my Deseret Book catalogue. I’ve really made an effort to become well-schooled in Mormon arts and letters.  But none of those resources I’m used to looking to cover the subject of black Mormons–at least not that I have found.  So you tell me. Is this a gap in Mormon letters?  And, if so why?

Playing Indian: The Voices of San Juan Pageant

In July, I was visiting with a Navajo Mormon neighbor on another matter when she asked if I thought my eleven-year-old daughter might like to perform in the local Mormon pageant, The Voices of San Juan. I had never seen the pageant but said I thought that she would like very much to take part. Then my neighbor told me that my fair-skinned, blond-highlighted girl would be playing a Navajo toiling among other Navajos in a segment portraying “The Long Walk.” The idea of my very white daughter playing a Navajo in this reenactment of one of the most tragic events in Navajo history startled me, and I laughed out loud. My neighbor laughed, too. But she was serious. Continue reading “Playing Indian: The Voices of San Juan Pageant”

Ahem! Where are your manners of expression?

During November 2007, Latina poet Fila Harris and I organized a local chapter of the NEA’s “The Big Read,” a literacy project designed to restore literacy to the center of American culture.   We conducted a series of book group discussions centered around one of The Big Read’s selected novel’s, Bless Me, Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya.  For our final book group meeting, we managed to snag author and folklorist Barre Toelken. Continue reading “Ahem! Where are your manners of expression?”

An Interview with Larry Ogan

Visual artist Larry Ogan was born in Clearfield, Utah in 1948 at the Hill Air Force Base Hospital. His ancestors on one side were Mormon pioneers that came to Utah from Nauvoo; ancestors on the other side immigrated to Utah from Australia. More of his family is from Missouri. Says Larry, “My Baptist … ancestors chased my Mormon … ancestors out of Caldwell County, Missouri.” Larry married Ellen Chadwick, from Ogden, and they now live in Santa Fe, New Mexico with their fifteen-year-old grandson, Jeremiah, four cats and a big red dog named Malcolm. He is Elder’s Quorum President of his Santa Fe Ward. He is also the executive director of the Santa Fe Council for the Arts, Inc. Currently, he is organizing and producing PhotoArts Santa Fe, a ten-day biennial festival for the photographic arts. His artwork has appeared in numerous exhibits from 1975 to the present. You can visit Larry’s website here.

Larry, please describe yourself and your work.

I’m a chubby, 59-year-old artist with a ponytail and white beard. When people meet me they think I’m either an artist or a biker. Continue reading “An Interview with Larry Ogan”

Breathing In, Breathing Out

A few nights ago I took my kids to a local storytelling festival.  The storytellers were all Native Americans or had Native American heritage and the stories they told were trickster stories — Coyote stories, etc. — that traditionally may be told only during the winter months. Continue reading “Breathing In, Breathing Out”