Let Me Drown with Moses by James Goldberg (2015)
This collection consists of just fewer than fifty poems so no single description will cover all it has to say, but here, I think, is a key thought to carry into reading it: The speakers of these poems (generally, one assumes, Goldberg himself) genuinely love what they are writing about (their faith, their family, etc). But this love does not cause them to fall into blind raptures. No, love rather allows them to see more clearly all their beloved’s features, whether cracked or smooth. This is perhaps clearest and most moving in “And the People Deceived Me (The Prophet’s Lament).” Brigham Young’s lament follows a series of poems that reenacted grotesque actions taken by Mormon settlers against their Native neighbors. The prophet is horrified by the evil his people have done and wishes to have his mantle removed—but simultaneously he is grateful to have sipped God’s bitter cup and to have had his heart broken open in similitude thereof.
Letters to a Young Mormon by Adam S. Miller (2013)
Sometimes the way we teach the gospel does not in fact suggest that the Lord’s yoke is easy nor that his burden is light. I remember plenty of self-recrimination in my younger years as I examined my many failures as a Latter-day Saint. In this slim volume that takes the form of letters to his daughter, Miller addresses basic-if-fraught concepts like sin and love, and spins them out in new ways that feel true and generous. His means of taking these bits of gospel and connecting them one to another into a sensible whole can seem simple at times, but simultaneously reveal the complexity of a religion that transforms lives. As someone who views life as narrative, I was particularly struck by Miller’s descriptions of people creating their own story instead of trusting the story God has planned for them. This is thinking rich for further exploration.
Pilot by pd mallamo (2017)
I read Mallamo’s new novella as a proof provided by the author, but the nature of the work is such that some aspects—such as its paucity of terminal punctuation—may be errors about to be removed or may be a deliberate artistic choice and, really, how could one tell? The story is of a Moldovan girl deceived into a life of prostitution in more Western lands, making it as far as L.A. as she is bought and sold. The story itself is something of a phantasmagoria of hope and despair and bemusement filtered through a series of benefactors and pimps and, perhaps, God. Although the novella, I would argue, is nearly areligious in its attitude, it is rife with religious thoughts and feelings and even one of the better written scenes of revelation I’ve read. This story intends to upset the possibility of answers even before asking any questions. In the end, even happy endings are unlikely to satisfy in this world. But if we must live a fallen life, at least we can experience pleasure and pain along the way.
This story is for the fans of modern, gritty literary fiction. If you aren’t one, then skip it because next week we’ll start a run of stories by people connected to AMV. Submissions continue to come in — we’re up to 25 total — but if you have something good, please don’t hesitate to toss it in to the spreadsheet. The form is below.
But I do it a disservice by using terms like gritty and literary. It’s a good story. The Mormon-ness is used well and used thoroughly. If you like Cormac McCarthy or Flannery O’Connor (or extrapolate from those two names to get to your favorite authors if possible), then you should give it a try.
Title: Sign of the Gun
Author: P.D. Mallamo
Publication Info: Granta Online, April 28, 2008
Submitted by: Theric Jepson
Why?: “This was the first story published as part of GRANTA’s New Voices series. Mallamo who is a Mormon* from Arizona and attended BYU which, he says, ‘In cultural terms…was a lot like going to school overseas and having to learn a new language, and as such was one of the great experiences of my life’—–
This story is heavy on the Mormonism and an email to myself reminding me to read it has been staring at me since mid-April 2008. I may never actually read it if you don’t pick it, William, and I really want to.”
Content Warning: Some violence and drug references. Oddly enough, there’s no profanity.
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Possible online sources of stories and link to spreadsheet with current submissions
All Short Story Friday posts so far
* Corrected 5/15: Th has found a source that suggest that Mallamo is Mormon.
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”