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)”
Benson Parkinson, founder of the AML-List and co-founder of Irreantum, was kind enough to send me a copy of his essay “Three Kinds of Appropriateness” for posting here at AMV. It used to be posted on the Association for Mormon Letters website, but it got lost in the shuffle a while back. It hopefully will be back up on the AML website soon, but since I refer to it often and will be referring to it again in the future, I’m thankful Ben has given me permission to post it here. It originally ran on the AML-List in January 1997 (and sadly those early days of the List, which featured several excellent essays/columns are no longer archived online).
LITERARY COMBINE: Three Kinds of Appropriateness
Morality is a mark of Mormon literature. It probably wouldn’t have to be that way, but even the most fringe Mormon offerings generally get around to taking a moral stand. People say that everyone has a different idea of appropriateness, a different degree of tolerance for sex, violence, bad language, and depictions of sinful behavior. I find that, when it comes to appropriateness, Mormon literature tends to be of just three kinds. Continue reading “Benson Parkinson’s “Three Kinds of Appropriateness””
Mormon culture too often loses something when LDS authors and artists choose the national and international market over the LDS market. I call this the Randy Bachman Syndrome.
Last week on the NPR radio program On The Media, in a segment titled “Vanishing Reviews,” I heard a great story from Steve Wasserman, a past editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review. It seems that Wasserman had been told by Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes that his ignorance of an early Mexican writer and Saint, Sor Juana de la Cruz, would be, in the Spanish-speaking world, “as if you said the word Shakespeare and got a blank stare.”
So, when Penguin Classics came out with an English translation of the works of Sor Juana de la Cruz, Wasserman decided to feature the author on the front page of the Book Review. But his American-educated superiors at the Times objected saying “Sor Juana who?” Wasserman then carried the mockup of the issue into the executive lunchroom and sat it on the table while he ordered lunch. There, a Mexican-born waiter noticed it, and exclaimed: “Sor Juana!” Wasserman asked, “You know who this is?” “Yes,” the waiter replied, “every school child in Mexico knows Sor Juana de la Cruz.”
Wasserman won the day and the issue was published and gained a flood of reader response. It seems one third of the Times’ audience speaks Spanish as their native language. The responses acclaimed the Times for finally recognizing their culture.
Now, I have a couple of questions about this:
- First, could you substitute a Mormon writer who is as important to Mormons culturally as Sor Juana de la Cruz is to Mexicans? Is there a writer that fits this bill? Or is it just that you don’t know enough about Mormon literature to know if there is one? *(see my note on this at the end of this post)
- Second, If there were such a writer featured in a major book-related publication, would most Mormons even know who the writer is?