It’s taking me a while to get through Monsters & Mormons, not because it’s not super enjoyable (because it is!), but because it’s a pretty long book (which, to me, is no flaw. The upcoming Saints on Stage: An Anthology For Mormon Drama which I edited for Zarahemla Books is a behemoth as well). Also when I finish a short story, I feel a temporary sense of completeness, so the book doesn’t always draw me back like a novel does because I’m not left “hanging” so to speak. So I’ve decided to break up my review of Monsters and Mormons over a few different reviews so I can write while the stories are still somewhat fresh in my mind. It will also allow me to address the short stories more individually instead of as a blurred whole.
First, my overall impression of Monsters & Mormons: it’s a winner. A big winner. As some one who has lived in imaginative waters since he was a child and hasn’t been afraid to invite his religion to play in those waters with him, I totally dig projects like this. Now, I’ve never been much of a horror fan, especially when it leads to copious amounts of blood and gore. I mean, like, yuck. Not my thing. However, I do love ghost stories and supernatural monsters (I keep wanting to read some H.P. Lovecraft), and, if it doesn’t lead to too much gruesomeness, I can definitely enjoy stories like this. This is definitely not something I would suggest to some of my less adventurous or conservative thinking family and friends, but it’s something I would suggest to the imaginative Mormon who doesn’t mind mixing fantasy and religion (and I know a number of non-Mormons who would get a kick out of it!) . So let’s get to the individual stories in the first part of the collection:
Continue reading “Review: With a Title Like _Monsters & Mormons_, How Could You Not Have Fun?, Part One”
Earlier this year, Mahonri Stewart’s play A Roof Overhead received mixed reviews (see here and here) shortly after its April debut at Springville, Utah’s Little Brown Theater. While several people, including me, wrote favorably about the play, others found less to like about it. James Goldberg, for example, sharply criticized the play in a post for Dawning of a Brighter Day, citing its unsympathetic depiction of atheism and the way a certain scene “stretche[d] credulity past the breaking point.” According to James, Mahonri did “a poor job sketching the world” in the play and so “lost his informed audience in the process.”
Shortly after James’ post, Mahonri contacted me about helping him revise the play. After re-reading the script, I sent Mahonri some suggestions, which he reviewed and, in some instances, incorporated into his new draft. In the end, I think Mahonri turned out a better play than the original. The new version was performed by Arizona State University’s Binary Theatre Company in October. After the final performance, Mahonri sent me a link to a YouTube video of the new production. Here are my thoughts on it.
First, I think A Roof Overhead is a solid first attempt at contemporary Mormon drama. Mahonri’s other work is largely based in the nineteenth century or in some sort of mythical alternate reality, so his incursion into the sordid milieu of modernity is new ground for him. Overall, I think the play captures accurately the situation of some Mormons and some atheists. As I have argued since April, A Roof Overhead works best when you think of its characters as representative types rather than flesh-and-blood individuals. What they stand for is what matters. Who they are is what makes the cultural exchanges at the heart of the play work.
Continue reading “My Final Verdict on “A Roof Overhead””
Wm says: Ben Christensen was kind enough to submit this review, which takes a look at another entry in the interesting sub-genre of “Mormon literature that is also gay literature.” And what’s really interesting is that he does so by comparing it to John Bennion’s novel Falling Toward Heaven, which is about sexuality, but that of the hetero- variety.
Ben Christensen used to blog at the Fobcave. Now he lurks on other people’s blogs. And submits the occasional guest post, apparently.
Title: The Abominable Gayman
Author: Johnny Townsend
Reviewed by Ben Christensen
Note: Ben received a free review copy of this book from the author.
“I used to think,” says Elder Anderson, the narrator and protagonist of The Abominable Gayman, “that the goal of perfection meant we all had to become the same, but here in Italy, I’d seen new flowers, tasted different foods, spoken a different language, and I realized that the best, most perfect rose could never inspire the exact same feelings as a perfect hedge of five-pointed star jasmine.” Elder Anderson, you see, is a gay Mormon serving a mission in Rome, and is only starting to consider the possibility that perhaps becoming straight is not a necessary step on his path to perfection. In the process of figuring out where this collection of short stories fits in gay Mormon literature–whether nearer Jonathan Langford’s No Going Back or Tony Kushner’s Angels in America–I realized it doesn’t necessarily fit among other gay Mormon-themed literature. But it is definitely Mormon literature. The most appropriate comparison, I believe, is to John Bennion’s Falling Toward Heaven. Both Falling and Gayman tell the story of a young man who, by normal Mormon standards, is doing everything wrong, yet somehow finds himself stumbling into a better understanding of himself and a closer relationship with God. Continue reading “Ben C. reviews the short story collection The Abominable Gayman”
Title: Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies
Editor: Doris R. Dant
Publisher: BYU Press
Genre: Personal Essays Anthology
Year Published: 2009
Number of Pages: ix; 261
Binding: Trade Paperback
Available from Deseret Book and other sources.
Reviewed by Jonathan Langford.
Note: I received a free review copy of this book from the editor.
A good personal essay is like an evening spent in front of a fireplace with a longtime friend. It’s not about drama and high emotion. Nor is it about polished literary style — though there is a style and a demanding literary craft to writing such essays well. The essence of that craft lies in the achievement of a clear, intimate, authentic voice, as if the author were indeed a close and trusted friend. The satisfaction we as readers take from the experience springs in large measure from that sense of connection.
Continue reading “Review of _Adventures of the Soul: The Best Creative Nonfiction from BYU Studies_”
Note: This is the final part of my review of The Fob Bible, which I began here last week. This part picks up where I left off, which was here:
Within the Mormon context of The Fob Bible, the (pro)creative movement of these “opposite equal” spheres further implies the eternal (pro)creative influence of both male and female Deities over the universe. For if we have a Father in Heaven and if, as Eliza R. Snow reminds us, “truth is reason, [then] truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a Mother there” and that she’s doing more than merely keeping House. Rather, as Nelson’s variation on this theme suggests, she, as represented in the creative power of the moon (which here “lift[s] land” from the earth’s watery void, “set[s] the rain in silver sheets / upon the ocean’s stormy streets,” and places “birds in flight” and fish in the sea) and as the feminine coeval with God the Father, is an active participant in the eternal, reiterative round of creation, a circling “dance” that is more productive of all that is “good,” beautiful, and holy than many of us may care to–or even, at present, can–imagine. Continue reading “Re: The Fob Family Bible, Part II”
January of 2008 found my writing in limbo. I was waiting to hear from an editor about a manuscript. Without my book to focus on my brain didn’t know how to occupy itself anymore. I found myself aimlessly surfing the internet for loooong periods of time. I was cranky and dissatisfied. What was I going to do (you know, besides the piles of laundry and dishes and taking care of my kids)?
Like any good product of the YWs Personal Progress program *wink*, I set a goal. To be specific, I set a goal to read one book a week for the entire year. It seemed like a lot to me at the time. (I got schooled by Th. who has read twice as many and I’ve heard authors/writers like Tristi Pinkston read hundreds of books a year.) I was pretty jazzed about my goal but I quickly realized that my previous reading habits (which included lots of historical nonfiction, regular nonfiction, and “literary” novels) would kill it. Those books are too hard/engrossing for me to read in a single week. I tend to let books tell me how to read them and most of those kinds of books want to be read slowly. Continue reading “My 2008 Literature Wish List”