No discussion of the contemporary Mormon novel could happen today without some comment on Bady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist, a nationally-published novel that looks at modern polygamy in Southern Utah. In many ways, The Lonely Polygamist is unlike other contemporary Mormon novels because it does not address contemporary mainstream Mormonism, but rather a fringe group that has no official ties to the Mormon Church. In fact, throughout the novel, the mainstream church is church is characterized as a monolithic sell-out denomination that lacks the authority and blessing of God. At the same time, however, Udall–who comes out of a mainstream tradition–does much to draw parallels between his polygamist sect and mainstream Mormons; in fact, I would argue that the novel itself uses polygamy as a way to exaggerate many of the cultural dilemmas within contemporary mainstream Mormon life: large families, the continuing legitimacy of patriarchy, interaction with non-Mormons, and the construction and definition of cultural boundaries and limitations.
At the same time, however, Udall situates these issues within the broader culture of post-war America. In fact, while Udall’s polygamists are mostly separate from their Southern Utah mainstream community–which itself is largely separate from the rest of America–they nevertheless cannot avoid the intrusion of something like American popular culture. Romance novels, for example, run rampant through the novel, primarily for the way they privilege and romanticize monogamous heterosexuality, but also how they construct and affirm traditional gender roles–which contrasts significantly to the way Udall’s polygamists live, providing even a form of escape for one wife, beset by depression, who consistently fails to find the promised meaning and blessing in her non-traditional marriage.
Continue reading “Thoughts on The Lonely Polygamist as Hysterical Realism”
I hadn’t heard of Eric Freeze until last year. I suppose this isn’t surprising, what with him being Canadian, ha ha, but for a Mormon with as long a fiction CV as he has, I’m sorry I hadn’t. Plus, he’s an academic who writes about comics and I really needed one more of those back in 2010 when I was finishing up the Sunstone comics issue. Ah well. I’ll know where to turn next time.
Dominant Traits is a US reprint by Dufour Editions of Dominant Traits from Oberon Press, the orginal Canadian collection of Freeze’s stories, all but one of which have been previously published in a variety of reputable literary rags. The exception is “Goths”; we’ll talk about it later.
The collection is a complex mix, and so I’m going to break this review into pieces. Also, we’re going to try mixing the review with an interview. I’ll end each bit of review in the form of a question. Then get Brother Freeze to reply.
Shall we get started?
2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review:
By Andrew Hall
Part 1: National Market, 2010
(Note: I am now posting at Dawning of a Brighter Day, the blog of the Association for Mormon Letters, a weekly column covering the world of Mormon literature. The focus is on published fiction, but I also cover theater and film. I also link to recently published literary works, news, and reviews. I hope to make the brief column a convenient gathering place for authors and readers to announce and follow news about the field each week.)
Mormon authors continue to enlarge their presence in the fields of nationally-published young adult and middle grade novels. Brandon Sanderson is becoming a leading light in the epic fantasy genre. Stephanie Meyer published another bestselling book. Glenn Beck sold nearly as many novels as he did non-fiction. I appreciate the width and depth of the work that Mormon authors are producing, and feel tribal pride in their success. But only a small percentage of the nationally published novels Mormons are producing what can be called adult literature. And only a miniscule amount of these novels specifically address Mormon doctrine, culture, or history. Brady Udall is a nationally recognized literary craftsman of the highest order. The fact that he has taken his skill and used it to explore a subject fundamental to the history of Mormonism, and did it with such skill, humor, and charity, thrills me to the core. For these reasons, without a doubt the 2010 Mormon novel of the year was Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist. Continue reading “Andrew Hall’s 2010 Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market”
Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist (Amazon) (AMV review) has been making a splash. As of this writing, it’s holding on to the last spot of the NYTBSL and I’ve been seeing articles about Udall all over the interwebz.
Here at A Motley Vision, we are “devoted to exploring the world of Mormon arts and culture. Or to be more specific: Mormon literature, criticism, publishing and marketing — plus film, theater, art, music, and pop and folk culture” (cite) and generally we interpret this to mean the culture of faithful Mormons.
With Brady Udall, whom, many of those reports report, is rather less faithful (at least as compared to his wife and kids, apparently), the question arises: How do faithful Mormons (interested in the arts or not) view our less faithful artists?
Continue reading “Brady Udall’s Paranoia: Is there a culture war between Mormons going on?”
Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist (Amazon) is in stores this week and early buzz is good. Will it claim title as the Great American Novel? Will it be this year’s big bestseller? Will it successfully lower our cholesterol? I don’t have answers to these questions, but I will say it’s a book that could keep an academic busy for a long long time. Were I employed by a university (which, as my administration constantly reminds me, I am not), then this book, even on one read, would give me enough juice for a dozen papers. I have one in my head about minor characters Nelson and Nestor, for instance, that I am not planning on sharing with you or, indeed, ever writing ever.
This is a good place to point out that what I am writing today is not really a “review” so much as analysis of one core aspect of The Lonely Polygamist. If you must have a review, roll over here, but I want to be the first to publicly taste the meat. That said, be aware that this post will include some minor spoilers—though not many when you consider the opening line of the book is “To put it as simply as possible: this is the story of a polygamist who has an affair” which affair does not show up for a long long time.
Disclaimer: I am reviewing an ARC sent me by the publisher, W W Norton. This copy was free and, being early, had some obvious copyediting errors still in its pages. It is thus possible that I am perpetuating errors in the quotations below and that what I’ve typed will not match your own copy. Just so you know.
Continue reading “The Radioactive Family”
This is the third and final entry in this series. The first part of our interview was about Ms Hallstom’s novel-in-stories Bound on Earth. The second was about her editorship of the literary journal Irreantum. This third portion is about the short-story collection, Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction, that she edited for Zarahemla Books (review).
Let’s start with what criteria a story had to meet to even be considered for inclusion. What were the ground rules going in to this anthology? Continue reading “Angela Hallstrom and the Art of Short-Story Arrangement”
In November 2005, I discovered, in a review of the Wikipedia article on Mormon Fiction, that the authors of the article thought Mormon Fiction essentially didn’t exist before 1979. Since I knew this wasn’t true, I corrected the article, and many others have added their own corrections and improvements. (I drew my information principally from Eugene England‘s Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects, lest someone thinks I’m some kind of expert on the field.)
But last week I finished reading William’s graduate school paper (available in his July 31st post, Slowly Flowering: My grad school paper on Mormon literature), and I realized that I’m uncomfortable with the way that England has presented this history. I’m not sure it tells the whole story. And I’m not even completely sure that most literary histories tell the whole story.
Continue reading “On the History of LDS Literature”