Ever since Scott Hales announced his plans to edit a new anthology of Mormon literary criticism, I’ve been thinking off and on about my own past grapplings with Mormon literature and where I’d want to take them — had I world enough, time, money, and the requisite academic chops. What follows isn’t that essay, but comes about as close as I can manage at present. Consider this my submission!
Why do or should we — as readers, writers, and/or literary critics — care about whether a text is Mormon? Potential reasons are legion, as varied as readers themselves. Among the most typical and (it seems to me) important are the following:
- To understand Mormonism better — as a culture, religion, historical movement, or what have you
- To investigate specific elements of Mormon experience, thought, and culture through literary works
- To explore the purpose(s) and role(s) of literature in Mormon experience and worldview
- To articulate ways that literature has influenced Mormonism
- As a test case to investigate the interrelationships of literature and religion, literature and identity, literature and culture, and a host of other potential intersections
- To understand better particular literary works that incorporate manifestly Mormon elements
- To assert our own membership (or non-membership) in the Mormon community
- To explore what it means to be Mormon and a reader, Mormon and a writer, or Mormon and a critic
- To seek out and encourage literature we think is worthwhile, in whatever particular relationship to Mormonism we endorse: celebratory, investigatory, critical, or other[1. The purposes listed here include many I have seen explicitly or (mostly) implicitly pursued via published essays, blog posts, discussions on the email discussion list once sponsored by the Association for Mormon Letters, and a variety of other venues — plus a few I’ve not seen much of (such as the influence of literature on Mormonism) but that seem like logical and potentially interesting possibilities.]
Continue reading “Parsing the “Mormon” in Mormon Literature”
Earlier this summer, I helped start a book club among some of the more mature couples in our ward. (Yes, I’m aware that I don’t necessarily qualify. On more than one count. Don’t even go there.)
For our second meeting, I proposed three Mormon lit titles: In the Company of Angels, Dave Farland’s (aka Wolverton’s) historical novel about the Willie handcart company; Bound on Earth, by Angela Hallstrom; and The Tree House, by Doug Thayer. The consensus went to Farland’s novel. So that was the one we read and discussed.
Continue reading “Questions and Answers: Dave Farland’s In the Company of Angels”
Now that the 2009 Whitney Awards have been awarded, I was all set to do a detailed post-mortem on them and the 2009 AML Awards. A little compare and contrast. Some armchair psycho-social analyzing. A strong dose or two of obvious oversights. etc. etc. But as that analysis swirled in my head Saturday evening, I realized that I had no desire to do it. Not because I’m going soft (although that’s always a possibility), but for this one reason:
The AML gave the best novel award to Rift by Todd Robert Petersen. (Amazon)
The Whitney voters gave the best novel award to In the Company of Angels by David Farland. (Amazon)
That’s a pretty good year, and if those awards inspired just 10 people each to pick up one of those novels and read them, I’d be quite pleased. They are both thorougly Mormon; they are both thoroughly LDS; they are both challenging and affirming; they are both very well written; they are both by writers who deserve to be remembered decades from now (and awards like this always help with that kind of cultural memory). Well done, brothers and sisters. The bottom line is ya’ll came through in the categories that (in my opinion) matter the most. I’m not going to gripe or quibble about the rest. There’s always next year for that.
First I wasn’t and then I was a Whitney Awards voter. I’m very glad that I hopped on the bandwagon — even if it did mean that my March was a blur of reading and even if I didn’t enjoy reading every single finalist. Before I get to my ballot, etc. a few pieces of housekeeping. Continue reading “My Whitney Awards ballot (and predictions)”
Orson Scott Card said that his historical novel, Saints, was a “love song to my people.” Full of fiery characters debating quintessential Mormon dilemmas against the backdrop of a historically-charged time period, it was a ballad that delighted and disturbed both mainstream Mormon readers and OSC’s readers who subscribed to other faiths. David Farland’s In the Company of Angels (which I received a complimentary review copy of), is an effort in a similar vein–exhaustively researched, unfailingly plot driven, surprisingly modern in its attitudes, full of an apologist’s love–and will probably give readers similar moments of delight and disturbance. Continue reading “In the Company of Angels: the love song of David Farland”
Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters. It is an amazingly detailed work that is both fun to read and important both as a bibliography and as a gauge of the state of Mormon literature. AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008, beginning with a look at Mormon authors being published in the national market.
Andrew Hall’s Mormon Literature Year in Review — Part 1a: National market books
The publishing story of 2008 was a Mormon author, Stephenie Meyer. Meyer was one of three Mormon authors who reached the top of the New York Times Hardcover Fiction Bestseller list, the first Mormon authors to reach that position since 1995. In fact, there were more Mormon-authored novels on the best seller lists in 2008 than ever before. None of these best sellers contained openly Mormon characters or concepts, however. Vampires, romance, heart-warming tales of Christmas, and speculative fiction was what brought the Mormon authors to the top.
The world in 2008 was Stephenie Meyer’s. She is the biggest publishing phenomenon since J. K. Rowling. Little, Brown released her adult science fiction novel The Host in May, and it went to the top of the Times’ Hardcover list. By the end of the year it was still at #5 on that list. August saw the release of the fourth and final volume of her Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. The series has dominated the Times’ Children’s Series list for the last two years (the Times created the Children’s bestseller list in 2000 to clear all of the Harry Potter books off of the main hardcover and paperback lists, and the Children’s Series list in 2004 to consolidate each series into a single entry). At the end of the year the USA Today list, which is a single list for all fiction, hardcover and paperback, had the four Twilight books occupying 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 5th places, with The Host down at 22nd. Without a doubt Meyer was the best selling fiction author of 2008. Bookscan estimates her total at almost 15 million units sold in 2008. Also, the movie version of the first volume in the Twilight series was released in the fall, and was a box office success. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2008, Part Ia”
If you are the type of reader who enjoys the Mormon-tinged/themed elements in the speculative fiction of Orson Scott Card, the best two post-OSC series to read right now are David Farland’s Runelords quartet* and Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy.
I would love to read some in-depth explorations of both of these works (and maybe even write it), but in the interest of sparking some discussion and hopefully getting more Mormons to read these books, I thought I’d post a few things. These are sort of spoilers, but not really. Continue reading “OSC’s heirs: The Runelords and Mistborn series”