Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #87: Orson F. Whitney on Oratory as Milk

OFWhitneyIn the past 40 years the descriptions of Mormon literature published by Eugene England and his successors have designated oratory as one of the primary forms of our literary output, one that Church members are most familiar with. It is in oratory, as well as the personal essay, that Mormons are sometimes thought to excel. Given the pattern of Mormon worship, that makes sense.

But we also might ask whether a strength in oratory is best for our literature. Are some forms of literature inherently better than others? And does the Mormon view differ from that of others who have examined literature?

Its no surprise that Orson F. Whitney had has opinion about oratory:

Continue reading “Sunday Lit Crit Sermon #87: Orson F. Whitney on Oratory as Milk”

Rick Moody on knowing where the payoff is going to be

I suffer from a malady that could best be described as big-tentism or maybe as omni-sympathetica. I find it easy both to be captured by narratives of many different types and to be hyper-critical of narratives of many different types. On the one hand this is a good thing: I like to read everything from formulaic genre novels to the densest literary fiction to the most experimental fiction. I am easily drawn in to the narrative flow and only egregious lack of craftsmanship is liable to knock me out of it. All that gives me a certain breadth and facility as a reader, a writer and a critic.

The downside, of course, is that it means that almost every read for me is a burst of narrative payoff that then quickly mellows in to mixed success. It also that means that, although I try my best to evaluate stories in relation to their genres and individual goals, as an editor and critic I do have a tendency to want to nudge works in to this preferred nexus of mine of genre, literary and experimental.

So that’s sort of a weird preface to this next part, but I wanted to establish my personal psycho-critical space that informs how I react to the following thoughts from Rick Moody (found in this excellent interview — the whole thing is worth reading or viewing at Big Think): Continue reading “Rick Moody on knowing where the payoff is going to be”

Speaking Anecdotally

When I first started taking Portuguese literature classes, I came across a literary form I wasn’t familiar with, the Crônica. A short short story meant for publication in newspapers, the Crônica may be the chief form of short fiction in Portuguese. Since these stories are almost always told in a chronological order, are based on everyday life and are often slightly critical, they might be best compared to the Anecdote (although they are generally longer). [In Portuguese, the term Anedóta doesn’t exactly mean the same as our anecdote, but instead is limited to humorous stories.]

I guess what surprised me most about the Crônica was that it never seemed like a separate literary form to me. I thought it was simply a short story that appeared in the newspaper, no different from other short stories. In this sense also, I think it is like the Anecdote, a form that is sometimes lost or ignored because of its ubiquitousness, and because it is so often contained in other forms.

In the LDS context, I think the Anecdote is probably one of our most prevalent forms of literature, regularly used both by prophets and most Church members. Continue reading “Speaking Anecdotally”