I will be walking down a sidewalk thinking of other things when I remember when Elna Baker said:
I try not to [read what Mormons are saying about me]. . . . Never before in history has there been a time where things increase, where we get more and more aware, where what you create is open to criticism that you have access to. . . . . for the most part I’ve noticed that the reactions are positive, but then as you scroll down and stumble upon reactions that are really strongly negative and . . . you can’t stop it.
And now I want you to compare this to what Mettie Ivie Anderson recently said:
. . . I have rough drafts of several other books in the series, and have planned in my head an arc for Linda’s development as a character up to a certain point. I wanted to get that set in place before the first book came out because I don’t want media attention, and in particular the comments of other Mormons around me, to influence the story I have in mind for her.
I find the similarities and differences here quite striking. Your thoughts?
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In 1941 when Maurine Whipple’s The Giant Joshua was released, her publishers anticipated huge sales and an endorsement from Church leadership. Whipple doubted this very much. In the end—and the publisher blamed this on the advent of WWII—the book was not the breakout success New York anticipated.
The only official statement in a Church organ was John A. Widtsoe’s review in the February 1941 Improvement Era. Based on the vitriol the novel allegedly had hurled against it, I expected this review to be dripping with anger and outrage. That’s not what I found: Continue reading “The love and hate of The Giant Joshua“
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?
Wm uses recent podcasts with Elna Baker and Brandon Sanderson to discuss assimilated-ness and uneasiness when it comes to Mormons and Mormonism.
Let’s get two things out of the way first:
1. This references two podcast episodes that contain content some AMV readers may be uncomfortable with: Sex. Language. Irreverence. Transsexuality. etc.
2. I am an assimilated American (although not fully). It’s likely you are too. But if you aren’t, this post isn’t for you.
Today I listened to the episode Marc Maron’s WTF comedy podcast that was posted this past Monday, a live episode recorded at The Bell House in Brooklyn. After doing his opening bit, Marc Maron brought out Ira Glass and they talked for awhile (about Ira getting drunk, actually) and then (at around the 40-minute mark; and again: content warning) they bring out Elna Baker who reveals that she is no longer a practicing Mormon and talks about why that is and what she has done (as in, you know, “rule” breaking stuff) since making that decision. It’s about what you would expect if you know anything about the three personalities involved. And I say that with fondness. Continue reading “Evidences of uneasy assimilation”
Wm writes: Once again AMV is proud to bring you Andrew Hall’s Year in Review in Mormon letters.
The story of the year in nationally published literature by Mormons was the memoir. Two Mormon women, Elna Baker and Kathryn Lynard Soper produced honest and interesting life stories, to excellent reviews. While other Mormon authors sold more books, few other nationally published author made their Mormonism so central to their story. Other big stories for the year include Stephanie Meyer’s continued dominance of the fiction landscape, Brandon Sanderson’s rise to the top of best seller’s lists, and the continuing flood of young adult speculative fiction. Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2009”
So your whole book is based on the structure of kissing, how did you decide to do that?
It’s funny because the sort of themes or structures that are pointed out to me usually they’re a surprise, like oh I did do that! So I think that I noticed that there were so many stories about kissing and so I just started calling them Take One, Take Two, Take Three and then there were the stories that ended up being about kissing too so we just called them Take Eight, Take Nine and then I found an in an old journal this map of Manhattan that mapped out the different places and I thought it was so funny that I made a copy of it and redrew it for the book. Its something I did when I was 22 but it sort of reflects the 15-year-old behavior and so then I didn’t fill it out when I got older but in the book I just extended the map and filled in all the other people I kissed.
So that raises a couple interesting questions. Before you took the book to the editor—as opposed to how it looks after the editing process—do you think the book is structurally the same now? Did little things like that make a big difference or was it just clarifying what was already there? Continue reading “Elna Baker: A Serious Interview”
Since reading the first chapter of Elna Baker’s The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance, the book has taken me on a ride. Sometimes I was filled with joy and sometimes with horror. Sometimes I felt she was very much my kind of Mormon and sometimes I wanted to slap her. In other words, it’s a good memoir.
1. Damage Control
About halfway through the book, a newly confident Elna (more on that momentarily) decides she will win the most desirable young Mormon man in New York. Her primary competition is an Amber who “is like a Heather only she’s attacking your spiritual worthiness and your dress size at the same time” (128):
And do you know what the craziest part about all this is? Amber’s popular. I’m dumbfounded by it. Not because I’m jealous or want to be popular myself, but because she’s insane. She raised her hand in church one Sunday and said that Katrina happened in New Orleans because sometimes God needs to “cleanse the world of sin.” It’s people like her that make damage control in the non-Mormon world a never-ending task. (129)
I’m with Elna here: It makes it harder for me to feel like a reasonable and respectable person when I’m put in the same category with Ambers. Seriously So Blessed owes its massive success to the existence of Ambers, and that faux Amber’s over-the-top self-righteous snidery rings plenty true — the site has both the insider lovemail and outsider hatemail to prove it.
So yay. Elna is a defender of the faith. Or is she, he said as he turned to the camera, one eyebrow raised.
Do we defend the faith alongside Elna? Or do we defend it against her?
= Continue reading “Damage Control (and 15 other responses to Elna Baker)”