My 2009 Mormon Literature Wish List

For those of you keeping track: this year I read sixty-eight books (if you don’t include the Calvin and Hobbes and Fox Trot compilations I skim while brushing my teeth and the countless picture books I’ve read my kiddos) and twenty-four of them were Mormon–not quite as many as last year and not enough of them are Mormon classics, but I still stumbled on to some really satisfying reads. Here’s my ranking of the Mormon books I encountered during 2009. (Here’s my 2008 list.) Just in case any of you are still looking for Christmas gifts I’ve conveniently linked the titles to Amazon.com (which means if you buy them after clicking through from AMV some of your money will support the hosting costs for our site! Thanks in advance!!).

Books I wish I owned:

Byuck by our very own Theric, er, I mean, Eric Jepson. This is the best link I could conjure up for this quirky never-published novel about the fight to stay single while attending BYU. So sad it never made it into print. Maybe if we’re all really nice Theric will serialize it on his blog!

No Going Backwards by Jonathon Langdon. Gay Mormon teen. Need more? Then check out the website.

Slumming by Kristen D. Randle (To read my interview with Randle click here.) What I loved about this book was how uncompromisingly Mormon it was and how uncompromisingly national market it was. Okay. It wasn’t exactly Gossip Girl, but the fact that the book works in both worlds made me so happy.

Breaking Rank by Kristen D. Randle. This one had closet Mormons but the teenage protagonist’s decision making process was so true to teenage Mormons. I loved it.

Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems I had no idea how awesome Mormon poetry was until I bought this. It was truly the best forty-six cents I ever spent!

The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper. If you know a Mormon mommy who loves memoirs and haven’t bought this book yet for her, then now is the time. Seriously beautiful book.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. I read this one for an ecobiography writing seminar and I was glad. TTW is a controversial and watershed figure not only in Mormon environmental writing but also in Mormon feminist writing and Mormonism as a culture and not just a religion. This book, part memoir and part ecology lesson, is a great place to start with her.

Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen. This book really pushed my litmus test, making me extremely uncomfortable in the process, but I felt like it was done artfully and purposefully and that made me glad. Read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen for more.

The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Douglas Thayer. This book about a California teen’s summer in the heartland of Mormonism is the novel that will shut the mouth of all the your Mormon fiction naysaying friends. Beautifully written, intensely thoughtful, this is one that demands repeat readings.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. For you readers who love teen fiction (it’s okay to admit it; I do too!) or just enjoy having a thought provoking book to read with your kids, this creative amalgam of Norse mythology and the Cupid/Psyche myth will delight. George is popular for her Dragon Slippers series and if you liked those you will LOVE this one.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I love tween literature that encourages questioning and viewpoint broadening without being all Lord of the Flies or One Fat Summer about it. By creating an old lady of dubious motivations who makes candies that give kids super powers Mull does a great job of entertaining and pushing kids to think about consequences without preaching or settling for easy answers. I’m still waiting for a ten year old to read this book so I can chat with them about it. Really well done.

Books that were worth the inter-library loan:

Benediction: a Book of Stories by Neal Chandler. (Not everyone loves this book. A lot of people find it offensive. But I thought it was such a great parody of some of the wilder small town personalities I grew up with. Read my original post here.)

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle. (Basically a novelization of the old “Cipher in the Snow” story. Interesting!)

Secrets by Blaine M. Yorgason (Quintessential Deseret Book “issue” novel. Tackles an important subject but tends to gloss over the difficulties.)

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens (Probably the most important book for Mormon culture scholars and you should read it. But you might not tackle it more than once.)

A FUTURE FOR TOMORROW – Surviving Anorexia – My Spiritual Journey by Haley Hatch Freeman (Read my original review here. I also believe that this book should not be read without also reading Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine–just to give some context the psychotic break of it all.)

Books that are worth reading if someone hands it to you:

Circle Dance by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

Hold On, the Light Will Come: And Other Lessons My Songs Have Taught Me by Michael McLean

Abinadi by Heather B. Moore (For more of my thoughts on this book read here.)

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern)River Secrets (The Books of Bayern, #3) by Shannon Hale

Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA by Lance Allred (My original review.)

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale

Dragon Flight (Dragon Adventures) by Jessica Day George

All this has got me wondering, what Mormon books did you read this year and what did you think? Any you enjoyed enough to shell out money for? I need recommendations for next year!

LDSfic1stlines

Back in 2005, I posted a semi-humor piece called First lines for Mormon fiction. Back in June or somewhereabouts, it occurred to me that that same concept would be fun to use the motleyvision Twitter account for. I created the hashtag (a way to tag posts in Twitter) #LDSfic1stlines and started posting. A couple of other Twitter users thmazing (otherwise known as Theric Jepson) and chosha also got in on the act.

Twitter’s search functionality is kinda messed up (a bit ironic since the service just signed real-time search deals with both Bing and Google), but I was able to painstakingly grab most of the LDSfic1stlines that have been posted so far and have reproduced them below (not necessarily in chronological order). Here they are for your enjoyment — feel free to post your own in the comments or on Twitter (just make sure to use the hashtag so I’ll see them — or direct them to @motleyvision):

Wm: One fateful year, the Nielsens, as a show of solidarity with their Lutheran neighbors, gave up Jell-O for Lent.

Th: Porter Rockwell took a swig of his nonalcoholic whiskey and shyly waved at a lovely (yet modest) professional dancer. Continue reading “LDSfic1stlines”

Will Elna Baker Get Respect?

Sunday’s New York Post gossip column, Page Six, contained an item I can identify with, because several of my relatives don’t seem to like New York, where I live.  Elna Baker’s mother worried when her daughter headed to NYU for college instead of BYU, warning her to beware of smoking, drinking, drugs, homosexuality and exotic dancing in sin-filled New York City. Elna says, “I left thinking, ‘Great, my mom thinks I’m moving to the big city to become a lesbian stripper.’ “

Continue reading “Will Elna Baker Get Respect?”

Ric Estrada: Grounded in reality

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I love the form; I’ve always have a, always had a love/hate relationship with comics: I love the form, but some of the content are not to my liking.

Yeah, I’ve read you’re not a big superhero fan.

No, I’m not. I’ve done a lot of superheroes, but basically I’d rather have more uh, less fantastic stories.

I read — I read also that you, um, prefer war stories over other types because of the Cuban Revolution? Would you agree with that?

Well, not really, what I said is I prefer war stories because having been raised in the 1930s in Cuba and having seen a lot of fighting, a lot of terrorism around me. The first memory of my life was my house being surrounded by a mob —

Oh dear.

— and shot to pieces by a mob.

Mmhmm.

When I think of war stories, of the children, I think of the grownups going through all that horror and it is very real to me; and superheroes flying in the air are not very real to me, frankly.

I can understand that.

Yes. So, you know, and, uh, also, during my teens, that was the time of World War Two, and the movies and the newsreels and the air just sizzled with the idea of winning the war against the Nazis.

Mmhmm.

And so so that’s very much in my consciousness. And the two kinds of stories that I like are either war stories where you see an ordinary person become a hero —

Mmhmm.

— or stories of uh human relations.

Continue reading “Ric Estrada: Grounded in reality”

Theater Review: Scott Bronson’s _Every Day a Little Death_.

bronson1 Scott Bronson has been a strong presence in Mormon Drama for a few decades nows, the pinnacle of his work being his drama _Stones_ (which tells two intimate stories about Abraham and Isacc, and then Christ and his mother Mary). He has tirelessly advocated the cause of Mormon Drama. With Thom Duncan, he started the glorious (but now dead and gone) Nauvoo Theatrical Society, whose one impressive, but short lived season was centered solely around Mormon plays. And now as the Artistic Manager for the Brinton Black Box Theater at the Covey Center in Provo, Utah, he has been slipping in work by Mormon playwrights amidst the other plays performed there. Thankfully, he hasn’t been too shy to include his own, including great performances of  Stones, Dial Tones and now Every Day a Little Death , which closes Saturday, May 2, 2009, at the Covey Center. 

Although not as strong as its predecessors Stones or Dial Tones, yet Every Day a Little Death , still shows why Bronson is still a vibrant and powerful voice in the Mormon Theatrical Community. Intimate vignettes from the lives of a couple who we follow throughout the play (labeled simply “Him” and “Her”), the play is a thoughtful, philosophical meditation on the little… and big… ways we confront death in our day to day lives.  Continue reading “Theater Review: Scott Bronson’s _Every Day a Little Death_.”

My new comedy, “Uneaten Cantaloupe,” closes this weekend

My new comedy Uneaten Cantaloupe, which started last Friday, ends this weekend at Provo Theater Company through the New Play Project (the same place and group which put on my play Swallow The Sun, for those of you who were able to attend that). For those who have seen my plays before, you should know that in this one…
 
There is no polygamy.
There are no mythological archetypes.
There is no tragic ending.
There are no pining immortals.
There are no theological discussions between famous literary characters. 
There are no headless horsemen on the rampage.
There are no sad farewells to an eden-like past.
It’s not even a drama.
In short, it’s unlike any of my other plays.
 
It’s just fun, frothy weirdness on the rampage. A wacky, reality bending comedy appropriate for the whole family (although, fair warning, there is a lot of kissing!). Go in there expecting something more along the lines of a Warner Brothers cartoon rather than my usual melodrama or spiritual morality tales and you’ll be prepared. 
 
We have two places where you can see a trailer which was made for the play:
 
 
or for those of you on Facebook:
 
 

Show Dates

  • November 14th, 2008 @ 7:30pm
  • November 15th, 2008 @ 2:30pm
  • November 15th, 2008 @ 7:30pm

Tickets

Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students/seniors. You may purchase tickets online at http://newplayproject.org/tickets/ or at New Play Project’s box office (starting 1 hour before showtime). You may also call (801) 369-7242 to reserve a ticket.
 
Hope you can come and have fun with us!

Laughing at the Sacred, Part 1: The Problem of Reverence.

I’m a non-discriminatory laugher. By that I mean that I’ll laugh at anything I think is funny. I don’t have any ideological limitations on my sense of humor. For example, I don’t need to “agree” with the point of a joke to think it’s funny. I mean, I laughed all the way through Fahrenheit 9/11 and I thought it was all a bunch of rubbish. I’ll also laugh at things that offend me and I’ll even laugh at things I think are mean. Continue reading “Laughing at the Sacred, Part 1: The Problem of Reverence.”