Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction 2008

Wm writes: Every year since 2000, Andrew Hall has put together a Year in Review for all of the major genres of Mormon letters.  AMV is pleased to bring you Andrew’s Year in Review for 2008. The review concludes today with a look at poetry and short fiction. Read the other entries in the series.

Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction

I am aware of two major poetry collections published by Mormon authors in 2008. Neil Aitken’s debut collection, The Lost Country of Sight, won the Philip Levine Prize for Poetry. Aitken, a graduate of BYU, is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California. C. G. Hanzlickek, a judge for the Levine Prize, wrote, “It’s difficult to believe that Neil Aitken’s The Lost Country of Sight is a first book, since there is mastery throughout the collection. His ear is finely tuned, and his capacity for lyricism seems almost boundless. What stands out everywhere in the poems is his imagery, which is not only visually precise but is also possessed of a pure depth. The poems never veer off into the sensational; they are built from pensiveness and quietude and an affection for the world. ‘Travelling Through the Prairies, I Think of My Father’s Voice’ strikes me as a perfectly made poem, but poems of similar grace and power are to be found throughout the book. This is a debut to celebrate.” Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review, Part III: Poetry and Short Fiction 2008”

Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2008, Part Ia

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”

On the History of LDS Literature

In November 2005, I discovered, in a review of the Wikipedia article on Mormon Fiction, that the authors of the article thought Mormon Fiction essentially didn’t exist before 1979. Since I knew this wasn’t true, I corrected the article, and many others have added their own corrections and improvements. (I drew my information principally from Eugene England‘s Mormon Literature: Progress and Prospects, lest someone thinks I’m some kind of expert on the field.)

But last week I finished reading William’s graduate school paper (available in his July 31st post, Slowly Flowering: My grad school paper on Mormon literature), and I realized that I’m uncomfortable with the way that England has presented this history. I’m not sure it tells the whole story. And I’m not even completely sure that most literary histories tell the whole story.

Continue reading “On the History of LDS Literature”

A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson

When I asked Theric Jepson to write a bit about Mormon graphic novels, I didn’t expect that he would launch a full on bibliographic project. But he did — and even though the results make for a very long post, it’s very much worth a read. Indeed, it’s quite the amazing project and must have taken quite some time to put together. Thanks, Theric. ~Wm Morris

I’m also going to make you click through for the full post because the “more” tag seems to be causing some problems with the special formatting for the post.

Continue reading “A Survey of Mormon Comix by Theric Jepson”

What Should Mormons Know About Mormon Culture?

Sor Juana by Miguel Cabrera.

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?

Continue reading “What Should Mormons Know About Mormon Culture?”

On The Financial Motive

There is something deceptive about success stories. You hear a story of someone else’s success, and it is sometimes hard not to assume that you can do the same.

Author success stories are no exception. For Mormons, Stephanie Meyer is the most recent example. She is just like so many LDS authors — a suburban housewife with kids who writes in her spare time. I’m sure she has a Church calling, worries about how well her kids are doing in school and probably finds inspiration in the people she knows. In fact, her life is just like that of half the women in my ward.

The problem is Meyer’s success — or that of Orson Scott Card, Dean Hughes, Rachel Nunes or whoever — is really very difficult to replicate.

Continue reading “On The Financial Motive”