Couple-Creators: Shannon and Dean Hale

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In commemoration of yesterday’s holiday, I’m finally returning to my Couple-Creators series of interviews, featuring this time Shannon and Dean Hale who recently came out with their second comic book together, Calamity Jack.

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Theric: In the past, in this interview series, both members of the marriage have had clearly defined artistic lives. But I think that few people were aware Dean had a way with words before he was announced as co-author of Rapunzel’s Revenge. So, Shannon, tell us a bit about Dean the writer.

(And then, if alterations are needed, we’d better let Dean make them.) Continue reading “Couple-Creators: Shannon and Dean Hale”

Crossing Lines: A Metareview of The Actor and the Housewife

Warning: Spoilers ahead! Also, a long post.

I’ve been reading Shannon Hale’s YA novels to my daughter, now 13, for four years.  The Books of Bayern are wonderfully emotionally textured, edgy enough to challenge my daughter, and filled with lots of girl power to encourage her to consider her options.  Hale’s attention to language attracts my interest sharply.  I’ve come to trust her writing as a source of fine language and narrative prowess for my daughter’s developing mind.  We snatch up her YA novels whenever they come out.

But I wasn’t interested in Hale’s adult novel, The Actor and the Housewife, until this discussion on AMV.  Complaints that the novel’s readers registered there piqued my curiosity.  Just before William’s not-necessarily-a-review, Kevin Barney put up this post reviewing the church’s article on emotional infidelity that drew a lot of comments.  In January, a BCC-er linked to this article in Slate on opposite sex friendship.  The stars seemed to align.  I decided to drop other projects and pick up The Actor and the Housewife, see what was what.  To make the narrative journey more interesting, I read it aloud to my husband Mark, who during our married life has done such gracious deeds as taking the kids outside so I could talk with male friends or helping me understand the man-side of baffling conversations.  I have included in this essay bits of our discussion of the novel as we read it. Continue reading “Crossing Lines: A Metareview of The Actor and the Housewife”

My 2009 Mormon Literature Wish List

For those of you keeping track: this year I read sixty-eight books (if you don’t include the Calvin and Hobbes and Fox Trot compilations I skim while brushing my teeth and the countless picture books I’ve read my kiddos) and twenty-four of them were Mormon–not quite as many as last year and not enough of them are Mormon classics, but I still stumbled on to some really satisfying reads. Here’s my ranking of the Mormon books I encountered during 2009. (Here’s my 2008 list.) Just in case any of you are still looking for Christmas gifts I’ve conveniently linked the titles to Amazon.com (which means if you buy them after clicking through from AMV some of your money will support the hosting costs for our site! Thanks in advance!!).

Books I wish I owned:

Byuck by our very own Theric, er, I mean, Eric Jepson. This is the best link I could conjure up for this quirky never-published novel about the fight to stay single while attending BYU. So sad it never made it into print. Maybe if we’re all really nice Theric will serialize it on his blog!

No Going Backwards by Jonathon Langdon. Gay Mormon teen. Need more? Then check out the website.

Slumming by Kristen D. Randle (To read my interview with Randle click here.) What I loved about this book was how uncompromisingly Mormon it was and how uncompromisingly national market it was. Okay. It wasn’t exactly Gossip Girl, but the fact that the book works in both worlds made me so happy.

Breaking Rank by Kristen D. Randle. This one had closet Mormons but the teenage protagonist’s decision making process was so true to teenage Mormons. I loved it.

Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems I had no idea how awesome Mormon poetry was until I bought this. It was truly the best forty-six cents I ever spent!

The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper. If you know a Mormon mommy who loves memoirs and haven’t bought this book yet for her, then now is the time. Seriously beautiful book.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. I read this one for an ecobiography writing seminar and I was glad. TTW is a controversial and watershed figure not only in Mormon environmental writing but also in Mormon feminist writing and Mormonism as a culture and not just a religion. This book, part memoir and part ecology lesson, is a great place to start with her.

Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen. This book really pushed my litmus test, making me extremely uncomfortable in the process, but I felt like it was done artfully and purposefully and that made me glad. Read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen for more.

The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Douglas Thayer. This book about a California teen’s summer in the heartland of Mormonism is the novel that will shut the mouth of all the your Mormon fiction naysaying friends. Beautifully written, intensely thoughtful, this is one that demands repeat readings.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. For you readers who love teen fiction (it’s okay to admit it; I do too!) or just enjoy having a thought provoking book to read with your kids, this creative amalgam of Norse mythology and the Cupid/Psyche myth will delight. George is popular for her Dragon Slippers series and if you liked those you will LOVE this one.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I love tween literature that encourages questioning and viewpoint broadening without being all Lord of the Flies or One Fat Summer about it. By creating an old lady of dubious motivations who makes candies that give kids super powers Mull does a great job of entertaining and pushing kids to think about consequences without preaching or settling for easy answers. I’m still waiting for a ten year old to read this book so I can chat with them about it. Really well done.

Books that were worth the inter-library loan:

Benediction: a Book of Stories by Neal Chandler. (Not everyone loves this book. A lot of people find it offensive. But I thought it was such a great parody of some of the wilder small town personalities I grew up with. Read my original post here.)

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle. (Basically a novelization of the old “Cipher in the Snow” story. Interesting!)

Secrets by Blaine M. Yorgason (Quintessential Deseret Book “issue” novel. Tackles an important subject but tends to gloss over the difficulties.)

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens (Probably the most important book for Mormon culture scholars and you should read it. But you might not tackle it more than once.)

A FUTURE FOR TOMORROW – Surviving Anorexia – My Spiritual Journey by Haley Hatch Freeman (Read my original review here. I also believe that this book should not be read without also reading Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine–just to give some context the psychotic break of it all.)

Books that are worth reading if someone hands it to you:

Circle Dance by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

Hold On, the Light Will Come: And Other Lessons My Songs Have Taught Me by Michael McLean

Abinadi by Heather B. Moore (For more of my thoughts on this book read here.)

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern)River Secrets (The Books of Bayern, #3) by Shannon Hale

Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA by Lance Allred (My original review.)

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale

Dragon Flight (Dragon Adventures) by Jessica Day George

All this has got me wondering, what Mormon books did you read this year and what did you think? Any you enjoyed enough to shell out money for? I need recommendations for next year!

Why I haven’t posted about The Actor and the Housewife

I kinda owe Shannon Hale an apology. I read The Actor and the Housewife: A Novel several months ago and then didn’t write a post about it.

That’s actually not why I owe her an apology. I wouldn’t presume to suggest that I should say something about everything even slightly Mormon related that hits the public eye. Rather, it’s that I did post a few comments here and there expressing major discontent with the novel. Those criticism are valid (in brief, they are that she pulls the punches when it comes to the unique Mormon content (I think she could have pushed things about 15-25% more without losing the national audience), she totally martyrs the husband (who is not The Actor, by the way) and doesn’t make him as interesting as he should/could be (and actually shows hints of being), and she totally muddles up the ending. Continue reading “Why I haven’t posted about The Actor and the Housewife”

Looping through the Mormon Arts, from me to me

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Though this post is by it’s very nature heavily self-indulgent, I am going to try to spin it as more altruistic than it is. Continue reading “Looping through the Mormon Arts, from me to me”

The Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Arts

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As Motley Vision‘s newest Official Contributor, I feel an obligation to have my first post explain something of my experience within and attitude towards the Mormon arts.

Several months ago, I plotted out a post called “Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Artist” which I had intended to submit to William. I’m glad I never finished it however as further reflection has suggested to me that I was implying that that my proposed version of the hero’s journey was a necessary part of being a good Mormon artist. As if being an Orson Scott Card or a Dean Hughes is more admirable than being a Heather Moore or an Anita Stansfield (no sexism intended). And so I continued refining the idea and now I feel that it is not Mormon artists who are on a hero’s journey, but the Mormon arts entire. I will not be going into all seventeen stages of the monomyth, but I will deal with the three major groupings and hit on the secondary levels when they seem helpful.

* Continue reading “The Hero’s Journey of the Mormon Arts”

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

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, continuing in this post with the second part of his look at Mormon authors being published in the national market. Also see Part Ia.

Andrew Hall’s Mormon Literature Year in Review — Part 1b: National market books continued

In the wake of Harry Potter, Deseret Book’s Shadow Mountain imprint has made a big push into the national young adult fantasy genre.  They had four authors producing five novels in 2008. The most successful is Brandon Mull, whose Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague was the third in his series. The series reached #3 on the NYT Children’s Chapter Series bestseller list.  Obert Skye released two novels, Leven Thumps and the Wrath of Ezra, the fourth in a series, and Pillage, a stand-alone humorous novel. Shadow Mountain also brought in two authors who have previously published in the Mormon market. James Dashner published a successful fantasy series for the Mormon publisher Cedar Fort. Shadow Mountain contracted with him to write a national middle reader fantasy series, The 13th Reality. It tells the story of a contemporary 13-year-old who is presented with a series of letters and clues drawing him into a adventure. A reviewer at Kirkus wrote, “Though there are chunks of text that are overwritten, the telling is generally laced with a strong sense of humor and a sure hand at plot; the author is plainly in tune with today’s fan base.”  A reviewer at School Library Journal wrote, “This book had great potential. The beginning of the adventure starts with a bang, but by the middle of the story things begin to drag. The immediacy gets lost in the daily struggle to figure out the riddles and the unending descriptions of Tick’s life as he awaits the next one.”  J. Scott Savage has written several mysteries in the Mormon market. Through Shadow Mountain he published the fantasy Water Keep: Farworld. Meridian Magazine reviewer Jeannie Hansen wrote, “There’s enough magic and strange creatures populating the book to please the most avid fantasy reader, but there’s an added dimension of mystery and philosophy that marks this fantasy as a cut above many fantasies currently being marketed to young adults.” Continue reading “Andrew’s Mormon Literature Year in Review: National Market 2008, Part Ib”