The Rift in Mormon Literature: an interview with Todd Robert Petersen

Some writers might be born great and others achieve greatness, but Todd Robert Petersen had greatness thrust upon him when, in 1998, he won first, second, and third place in the Sunstone fiction contest. The book that came out of those wins, Long After Dark, is Mormon Literature straddling an ontological rift–the rift between simple faith and reality, the rift between easy options and hard choices, the rift between plain ol’ writing and art. If you haven’t read it yet then go ILL or buy it right now–you might be offended or uncomfortable at times but you certainly won’t be sorry you picked it up. If you’re jonesing for a hit of intense, welll-crafted writing to round out the end of your summer reading this is the book for you.

While you’re waiting for your copy to arrive you can read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen. It’ll ease the ache. I promise. You might not agree with everything Petersen says, but you’ll be glad you took the time to think about it.

Oh, and he has a new book coming out! Continue reading “The Rift in Mormon Literature: an interview with Todd Robert Petersen”

The Heroism of the Longshot ( Or, how to be deaf, OCD, LDS and in the NBA)

Whether told from the pulpit, the newscast or the ten-year-old kid next door, sports stories are almost always the same. Courts and fields, with their teams and their referees and their spectators, are the stage on which we create our modern morality tales. When the larger-than-life players stride out they become our heroes and their stories unfold with refreshing simplicity. When it’s just a game, good and bad are easy to understand and we can always triumph–even in our losses, we can be winners. For the fans sports stories are idealism in action.

For the players, our would-be heroes, the story is completely different. When you are the one lacing up the shoes what’s good or bad, right or wrong, smart or stupid, can be startlingly confusing–especially if you are deaf, obsessive-compulsive, fundamentalist Mormon kid who wants to play for the NBA. Or in other words, especially if you are Lance Allred. Continue reading “The Heroism of the Longshot ( Or, how to be deaf, OCD, LDS and in the NBA)”

How to Talk About “Secks” (and other thoughts regarding Mormon prudery)

I’ve been thinking a lot about sex lately. (So have Tyler and Theric!) Mostly it’s because my sister recently sent me her copy of the new Mormon sex book, by Laura M. Brotherson, and I’m surprised by what it reveals about Mormon culture.

And They Were Not Ashamed is the “new’ Mormon sex book because it was published more recently than the one that was floating around when I got married. The one people were giving out as wedding gifts when my DH and I celebrated our nuptials was by Stephen E. Lamb and Douglas E. Brinely. (Tangential question: Why do strangers give newlyweds books about sex? Really, why? Are you so afraid my parents never brought it up that you feel compelled to help out? I just don’t get that.) We received not one but two copies of the hard, silver-jacketed tome with the open-yet-frozen-in-their-separation lilies and I read it–out of curiosity and because all my unmarried friends wanted to know what was in it. Although it was full of useful information, I was disappointed to find that it was pretty much the opposite of its subject matter: cold, clinical, boring. This was how people who believe sex is a gift from God talk about it? Continue reading “How to Talk About “Secks” (and other thoughts regarding Mormon prudery)”

For the Literary Mormon Daddy

Since I posted recommendations for the literary Mormon mommy, I thought I’d put up a few books that I think will appeal to the men in our lives. Of course, most of the contributors and many of the commenters here are male so I assume most of you will have stuff to add to the list.

1. The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Doug Thayer. I loved this book so much that I *almost* wish I were a man so that I could get it for Father’s Day. I haven’t always been Thayer’s biggest fan and the narrator, Jeff Williams, a laid-back California surfer teen who tends to be self-involved and see everyone else at a distance, was hard for me to read at first. But as his return to Provo and his relationship with his sickly, pre-mission cousin changed his worldview Thayer wielded that point of view like a scalpel. Slowly, bit by bit, Jeff’s voice fumbles and falters and changes until, by the end of the book, he is new. He is still himself (short, choppy sentences; monosyllabic dialogue interspersed between Hamelt-esque inner monologues) but he is changed. Stronger. Wiser. Much more of man than a boy. This bildungsroman is probably the best homage to the young LDS male experience to date.

2. Angel of the Danube by Alan Rex Mitchell. If Jeff Williams is the best homage to young LDS males, then Angel of the Danube is the ultimate in missionary novels. With a distinct narrative voice, Angel presents the missionary experience with humor, gratitude, frustration, and depth. Because the characters in the book want to be faithful and are unable to take themselves too seriously it ends up being a little more light-hearted than Fires of the Mind but no less thought-provoking. This book represents some of the best of Mormon fiction.

3. Benediction by Neal Chandler is another humorous title. I’ve mentioned it before as a good example of humor in Mormon Fiction and I think it’s worth mentioning again. If your dad is the kind of guy who could never bring himself to sell Amway or try to use the commitment pattern on business associates then this is the book for him. (Warning: This book also contains some sex-type material-mostly the funny kind and never raunchy or dirty, but it might make conservative readers blush. I’ll admit that I did!)

Also, don’t forget our AMV t-shirts. They are always a classy option. The people around him might not get the joke but you’re dad will know he’s part of an elite group of bookworms!

You might end up paying a little extra for the shipping but any of these books (or shirts!) is waaaay better than the usual. (Photo credit)tutctie_ziggy99atutctie_poulerik96atutctie_kurt96atutctie_poulerik99a tutctie_michael96a

A Litmus Test for Mormon Literature?

Since I’ve been making a concerted effort to read more LDS/Mormon books and since I’ve started reviewing them and recommending them, I’ve realized something important: I have a litmus test for Mormon literature. I have one overarching criteria that defines all of my Mormon literary experiences–whether it’s a book, the scriptures, or a General Conference talk. Continue reading “A Litmus Test for Mormon Literature?”

Mother’s Day Gifts for the Literary Mormon Mommy

Mother’s Day is only ten days away (I think it’s early this year) and now is the perfect time to order a book for the literary Mormon woman in your life. Some books I wish someone would buy me:

* The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper. If I had the money I would buy every single one of you a copy. This is a must-own for every mother. In the story of her baby with Down Syndrome and her struggle to love him and herself, Soper has embedded the story of every mother and the divinity that motherhood can cultivate within us. Soper is writing from a beautifully transcendent (although perhaps fleeting) place. And because of that the book is never preachy but still guides and uplifts. It is honest and gritty but never depressing.

*Psalm & Selah by Mark Bennion is now available for pre-order at You might have to tuck your e-receipt in a nice box of chocolates since the book isn’t coming out until June, but that way it’s like getting two gifts in one!

* People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl Givens. She’s probably already familiar with this tome, but it is a good one to own because she’ll want to refer to it over and over again for its interesting takes on everything from books to dancing to architecture.

Or consider giving the gift that keeps on giving: a subscription. Segullah, Irreantum, Dialogue , or Sunstone would be a pleasant surprise in the mailbox. Again, you might have to put your receipt in a box of chocolates–ooh! Or an edible fruit arrangement; those are impressive!–but I’ve already covered why that’s an awesome idea.

Another option: awesome LDS/Mormon books that are out of print! This is great because used books are cheap and you can buy her more than one.

*The Earthkeepers by Marilyn Brown.

*Where Nothing is Long Ago (a memoir) by Virginia Sorensen.

*Angle of the Danube by Alan Rex Mitchell

So tell me, what are you gonna buy your woman this year? Add your recommendations in the comments!

Psalm & Selah: new poetry from an old source (an interview with Mark Bennion)

I’ve always loved the story of Abish. I love it because it’s about a woman–a righteous woman, a woman with a name–who makes a big difference through her small acts of righteousness. I also love to tell people it’s my favorite scripture story and watch for traces of panic while they try to figure out who I’m talking about. That’s how I knew Mark Bennion was the kind of poet I could relate to. When I picked up my most recent Irreantum and found Bennion’s poem about Abish (and her father) I was intrigued and, while Bennion’s work is not the only poem written about her (Emily Milner’s poem featured in Segullah is an especially nice one), it brought new relevance to an old story. Bennion has a collection coming out in June from Parables Publishing and he graciously agreed to tell me more about it! Continue reading “Psalm & Selah: new poetry from an old source (an interview with Mark Bennion)”