Bright Angels & Familiars: “The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne Guest analysis by Lee Allred

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On my post yesterday on this story, I claimed a certain ambivalence re the story’s attempts and affectations. Lee Allred claims to have cracked the lock and opened to story. And, frankly, he makes a compelling case. His argument (complete with diagram) appears below. (The only changes I made were the addition of hyperlinks.)

Tell him what you think.

Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne Guest analysis by Lee Allred”

Bright Angels & Familiars: “The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne

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I don’t know what this story means. Maybe you can tell me. It certainly intends to tell me something, but I’m leery of drawing conclusions.

It’s starts off as yet another of those once-upon-a-time-in-my-memory-in-the-West stories, then suddenly throws a three-paragraph bit of essay at the reader, then ends with a new vignette from, oh, a couple decades after the first—this story only the slightest bit connected with the first. It left me a little dizzy. And if it weren’t for a genuinely surprising and painful moment in the second story, I might have been left completely confused.

But somehow that moment provided an aesthetic completeness.

Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “The People Who Were Not There” by Lewis Horne”

Bright Angels & Familiars: “The Week-end” by Donald R. Marshall

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Before I can write about this story, I need to talk about Stephen Carter’s “Winter Light” (in What of the Night?) because as I read “The Week-end” I kept thinking This could have been May Swenson.

Carter’s Aunt May is one of the Twentieth Century’s great poets and she was an expat Utah Mormon living in the wilds of New York, leaving behind family and faith for poetry and pretty girls. “Winter Light” discusses May’s career from the point-of-view of her family. Over the course of the essay, Carter becomes more sympathetic to her plight, but the family in general views her as a lost soul, eternally trapped in a waiting place, separated from the family she loved.

What’s lacking from “Winter Light” (and Carter knows it) is May’s own perspective.

And as I read Marshall’s “The Week-end”, I kept wondering if this is what May would have become had she never left Logan. Continue readingBright Angels & Familiars: “The Week-end” by Donald R. Marshall”

Bright Angels & Familiars: “Opening Day” by Doug Thayer

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Since I’ve been something of a negative nelly in this series so far, displaying a rich panoply of bad attitudes and an unpleasant irritability, I feel obliged, before saying anything about my previous experiences with Thayer’s work, that this story was a stunning read. And I mean that more literally than is usually intended in literary reviews. I sit here typing, feeling stunned.

Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “Opening Day” by Doug Thayer”

Bright Angels & Familiars: “They Did Go Forth” by Maureen Whipple

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Like Virginia Sorensen, Maureen Whipple is one who, as Eugene England says in this volume’s dedication to them, “taught us how.” And, like Virginia Sorensen, I’ve never read her. I know her reputation—or, more accurately, I know the towering reputation of The Joshua Tree, a book many people whose taste I respect admire greatly. Of course, there was also the Mormon backlash against this nationally published novel. In the words of Emma Ray McKay, “I am so disgusted with the author of ‘The Giant Joshua’ that I can scarcely contain myself.”

With Sister McKay’s words often the first thing I think of when I think of Maureen Whipple (or Virginia Sorensen for that matter, since I often conflate them), I was expecting “They Did Go Forth” to be a fairly edgy work, pushing the boundaries. And it was through that lens that I interpreted Tildy Elizabeth’s early actions in the story. She’s trying to read the Book of Mormon while sitting with her sick—practically comatose—child. Couple that with the flashbacks of the hardships she and her faithful husband had been though at the seeming whims of Brigham Young and I found myself reading a story about how Tildy had lost her faith after feeling rejected of God; she was now and had long been oppressed by men in the faith including Brigham Young, her husband and the best available quack. Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “They Did Go Forth” by Maureen Whipple”

Bright Angels & Familiars: “Where Nothing Is Long Ago” by Virginia Sorensen

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I’ve just read How to Read Literature Like a Professor and I’m pleased enough with it that I’m figuring out how to implement it into my classes. In essence, it’s all the stuff English majors should know by the end of their sophomore year of college—how to read a text to find patterns like journeys and season, what might meaneth the rainbow, or why, to be fully literate, one must know some Bible, some Greek myth, some Shakespeare. In other words, great stuff for the demographic I teach.

The final chapter contains Katherine Mansfield’s lovely short story “The Garden Party” along with analysis from college students, followed by some from the professor himself. I read the story while walking to school and did not spend much time analyzing it myself before reading others’ responses to the story. I had noticed some patterns etc and figured I had a pretty solid grasp on the story. Then it was pointed out to me that it is a Garden of Eden story and I immediately felt hugely embarrassed. As an Eden junkie, how did I miss this? Reading while walking is no excuse.

It’s in that spirit of contrition that I will now discuss Sorensen’s tale (read online). Continue reading “Bright Angels & Familiars: “Where Nothing Is Long Ago” by Virginia Sorensen”

Bright Angels & Familiars

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I recently was given a copy of Bright Angels & Familiars, a short-fiction collection edited by Eugene England (Signature Books, 1992). I rather wish someone had given me this book in high school. Who knows? Maybe I would have read it and who knows where I would be now!

Fascinatingly, this volume was published seven (seven!) years before his famous essay “Danger on the Right! Danger on the Left!” which decried two recent books of short fiction, one from Signature (1998), one from Deseret Book (1994), that, in his opinion, were more about spreading (im)piety than being good, ethetical and esthetical fiction. Oh, how disappointed he was in this turn in our letters.

For me, as the publisher of collections that, in my opinion, are of high ethical and esthetical value (The Fob Bible, Out of the Mount, Fire in the Pasture, Monsters & Mormons), I’m reading England’s collection with the desire to learn from our history —  a history I am, alas, much too ignorant of. I’ve enjoyed England’s introduction and have read the first story (by none other than Virginia Sorensen). This post serves as an announcement that I will be blogging my reading of Bright Angels & Familiars here at AMV, one story at a time. The posts will be short and I have decided to avoid requiring myself to discuss any particular aspect of the tales (eg, their Mormonness, their ethics, what they teach about the history of MoLit, etc); instead I wish to respond honestly and see where this reading takes me.

Expect my first post, on Sorensen’s story, soon. Then they will appear irregularly as I fit stories into my rather hectic reading schedule.

See you soon.

ps: follow along at home — Signature has kindly made this volume available online