The remarkable thing comparing my reviews of Millstone City (by S.P. Bailey, 2012) and City of Brick and Shadow (by Tim Wirkus, 2014) is how differently directed my attention was and yet how many similarities the reviews (and their books) still share.
Let’s start with the obvious. Both novels have “city” in the title. Both novels take place in Brazil’s slums. Both novels feature horrific criminal activity. Both novels incorporate missionaries breaking rules, though managing to keep their deviance remarkably nontransgressive. Both sets of missionaries maintain an interest in fulfilling their call to preach even in the least agreeable of situations. Both adventures begin thanks to a link to the criminal world via a local convert. Both novels address the reality of evil and fail to provide a purely pat ending.
Thematically however, the novels are quite different. Continue reading “Millstone City of Brick and Shadow”
William shares his full blurb for S.P. Bailey’s debut novel Milllstone City and discusses the novel’s dialogue with Mormon faithful realism.
AMVer S.P. Bailey’s Millstone City has already been reviewed here by Th. Jepson. The novel . The Kindle version is only $2.99 (other ebook formats to come) and the trade paperback is $15.95.
I provided a blurb for it. Partly because Shawn and I have been alpha/beta readers of each other’s work for several years now, but mostly because I really like what he did with Millstone City and how it fits into the field of Mormon literature.
Here is my full blurb for the novel:
In Millstone City, the LDS mission novel and the thriller collide to create something new: an intense, gritty story that is nevertheless shot through with resilience, honesty, optimism and, yes, that certain willful naÃ¯vetÃ© that missionaries possess. Call it Mormon neo-noir. Or full-throttle faithful realism. Whatever you dub this hybrid, clearly, S.P. Bailey is well versed in both of the literary streams he’s working with, and I’m very pleased to see him cross them to such good effect.
And here is another thought:
Part of why I think this counts as missionary fiction rather than just being a thriller is that it all starts with a minor infraction of mission rules. In other LDS mission novels, such a minor infraction may be played as comedy, or lead to some tension between characters, or simply try to capture the up-and-downs of a mission. Here it has major repercussions.
In addition, the resources the Elders call upon to help them with their situation — members, relatives of members, the mission president — are true to life. Also true to life is the fact that their efforts aren’t always 100% effective. This is not to say that this wholly a work of realism. But rather that because it draws enough on the tropes and traditions of Mormon faithful realism, it has a bit more heft and dimension to it than I had expected, especially considering that it’s, essentially, a thriller/suspense novel.
Here’s the elevator pitch for Millstone City: “Two Mormon missionaries stumble into the City of God—-will they survive?”
And that’s a pretty good pitch, but it misrepresents the feel of the book. If you’ve seen City of God you know how terrible and sick its violence makes you feel:
The film offers little comfort to viewers uncomfortable with their own complicity in the on-screen violence, or those seeking a ‘ray of hope’ in the narrative. Meirelles introduces alternatives to violence, only to then dismiss or disempower those alternatives. City of God breaks with audience expectations by presenting no viable moral choice. The allegory of the chicken’s dilemma—“if you run away they get you and if you stay they get you too”—illustrates the film’s fatalism, a fatalism that is not only ascribed to Rocket, but impressed upon the viewer throughout the film. [source]
Millstone City is not a fatalistic novel. And so while I’m new to the John Le CarrÃ© game (I just read my first book), I think Bailey’s story of Brazilian gangsters has more in common with Le CarrÃ©’s Cold War spies than City of God or anything else I’ve read or seen recently.
Continue reading “Millstone City by S.P. Bailey”
Exciting times here in Monsters & Mormons headquarters. You can expect, mm, probably one more round of admits after this. We do hope the suspense has been mortifying.
But first, five more tastes of pending excellence:
S.P. Bailey’s The Baby in the Bushes
No supernatural monsters here, so if you can stand a sideways step into a separate genre, then put your gumshoes on and help us solve the mystery of the body in the storage unit. Old Testament law arrives in modern Utah and the consequences are not pretty.
TV McArthur’s The Blues Devil
I don’t think it’s natural for deals with the devil to leave the reader warm and smiling, but somehow TV pulled it off. I can’t explain it. I don’t even want to.
Bridgette Tuckfield’s Experimenting with Life at Extraordinary Depths
As I look back at my notes, I discover that Bridget’s story has “unique and pleasurable elements.” It also has a lot of mud and slime. But it’s unique and pleasurable mud and slime, so no worries. Just stay out of the water.
Brian Gibson’s The Eye Opener
Gibson is clearly wasting his time working in television. I now think about this story every night when we say family prayer. You don’t know how unsettling this is. Yet.
Danny Nelson’s The World
Rarely have I seen stereotypical “Relief Society Ladies” drawn with such love and care and depth and richness that you want to slap anyone who’s ever used that stereotype dismissively. Not to mention perhaps the most original monster I’ve ever read. You can’t predict this story. You can’t you can’t you can’t.
Here is a sweetly cranky seriously-so-reader-response-oriented tallied initial review of the fall 2008 edition of Irreantum, which arrived in the mail two days ago: Continue reading “Irreantum v. 10 no. 2 — a review in tally”
Although Jerry Johnston’s column is provocative, and Dallas’ post (salty language warning) and Shawn’s AMV post in reply are very interesting, I have to admit a bit of weariness over this whole Great Mormon Novel trope. As Shawn points out, the whole idea that Mormons can’t produce great literature goes way back. It’s always a good one to bring up when you want to stir up debate, and it’s particularly delicious in the Mormon context (for let’s be clear — the whole idea that of whether a people can or can not produce literary genius is by no means unique to Mormonism) because you have the excommunication thing to work with.
Here’s why the whole idea is completely misguided: Continue reading “Why we need not worry about the Great Mormon Novel”
Here’s what so cool about this edition of Short Story Friday: we’re linking to a revised version of a story (as he notes below — the first short story) that was first published at Popcorn Popping. And we can do that because we let people provide feedback to what we posted and Shawn decided to use it and revise the story.
Author: S.P. Bailey
Publication Info: revised version of a story posted at Popcorn Popping, April 2006
Submitted by: S.P. Bailey
Why?: Shawn writes: “1. More missionary/post-mission stuff. A great subject in my opinion.
2. This was the first ever story posted on Popcorn Popping. Heady stuff. The linked version is substantially edited–based in part on the critiques received at PP. Link to the original version.
3. I wrote it.”
Submit to Short Story Friday
Possible online sources of stories and link to spreadsheet with current submissions
All Short Story Friday posts so far
Tyler beat me to the punch, but I’d like to note that the Summer 2009 issue of Dialogue features fiction by AMVers S.P. Bailey and Theric Jepson and a review by Tyler Chadwick. This comes on the heels of the Spring 2009 issue, which features a review by P.G. Karamesines, and will be followed by a little something by me in the Fall 2009 issue.
Add in work by Tyler and me in the Fall 2007/Spring 2008 Irreantum and a fantastic essay by Eric Thompson in the Spring 2007 Irreantum, and the past year has been fairly fruitful for AMV’s bloggers. And there may be more that I have forgotten (pipe up in the comments). Oh, yeah, Theric presented at Sunstone — a paper that was jumpstarted by Tyler and Laura’s Reading Until Dawn project.
This is not to mention that three current or former Times & Seasons bloggers are represented in the Summer 2009 issue of Dialogue, plus Dallas Robbins and Juvenile Instructor’s Heidi Harris. I think it’s becoming more and more clear that for many of the new(ish) voices in Mormon Studies blogging is not the end itself, but rather a way to develop ideas, connections and communities. And today’s best Mormon Studies scholars may just need to be fluent in a wide variety of genres/platforms of expressing their thinking.