I’m not going to gripe about the 2009 Whitney, AML awards

Now that the 2009 Whitney Awards have been awarded, I was all set to do a detailed post-mortem on them and the 2009 AML Awards. A little compare and contrast. Some armchair psycho-social analyzing. A strong dose or two of obvious oversights. etc. etc. But as that analysis swirled in my head Saturday evening, I realized that I had no desire to do it. Not because I’m going soft (although that’s always a possibility), but for this one reason:

The AML gave the best novel award to Rift by Todd Robert Petersen. (Amazon)

The Whitney voters gave the best novel award to In the Company of Angels by David Farland. (Amazon)

That’s a pretty good year, and if those awards inspired just 10 people each to pick up one of those novels and read them, I’d be quite pleased. They are both thorougly Mormon; they are both thoroughly LDS; they are both challenging and affirming; they are both very well written; they are both by writers who deserve to be remembered decades from now (and awards like this always help with that kind of cultural memory). Well done, brothers and sisters. The bottom line is ya’ll came through in the categories that (in my opinion) matter the most. I’m not going to gripe or quibble about the rest. There’s always next year for that.

Angela Hallstrom and the Art of Short-Story Arrangement


This is the third and final entry in this series. The first part of our interview was about Ms Hallstom’s novel-in-stories Bound on Earth. The second was about her editorship of the literary journal Irreantum. This third portion is about the short-story collection, Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction, that she edited for Zarahemla Books (review).

Dispensation:Latter-day Fiction

Let’s start with what criteria a story had to meet to even be considered for inclusion. What were the ground rules going in to this anthology? Continue reading “Angela Hallstrom and the Art of Short-Story Arrangement”

Weekend (Re)Visitor: “Family History”

With this post Weekend (Re)Visitor joins  Short Story Friday and as one of AMV’s Friday features. It involves one of the co-bloggers revisiting a work of Mormon narrative art that he or she has consumed, reviewed or commented upon in the past and saying something about that experience. Or it involves one of us picking up a work that’s new to us, but which we have read/heard about and developed certain attitudes about. Because of the nature of this feature, it will usually contain spoilers. Read on at your own risk.

I’ve been thinking about Todd Robert Petersen’s novella “Family History” (from his short story collecton Long After Dark) for the past couple of weeks. Part of the reason is that his novel Rift was recently published, but it’s also because I wanted to kick of Weekend (Re)Visitor with something that I could read in a day, but wasn’t a short story.  There’s also that I didn’t write much about it when I reviewed the collection back in 2007.

Here’s my one sentence assessment after the re-read: it’s more audacious, worse speculative fiction, and both more complicated and close to home literature than I had remembered. It also remains, as far as I know, the first and most direct Mormon fiction response to the events of Sept. 11. And I like it very much for all of those qualities while at the same time I’m not sure how well I could defend it strictly on the grounds of modern American literary criticism. It is a wonderful Mormon hybrid that would be much less of interest to non-Mormon readers than the stories in the collection (all of which would not seem out of place in a literary journal — and indeed some of them were printed in literary journals, although mainly in Mormon ones). Continue reading “Weekend (Re)Visitor: “Family History””

Stucki’s Hands and the Masculine Identity: a review of Todd Robert Petersen’s Rift


For Peter Peterson and Marlow Imlay,
two of the last great American barbers

The dedication in Todd Robert Petersen’s Rift is not merely incidental. The barbershop is a significant symbol in the book. Ah, barbershops. Okay. Before we move on, you’ll have to allow for a personal digression:

I’ve only been to a true, honest-to-goodness barbershop once. It’s just down the street from my house and it’s far more expensive than the cheap back-alley haircuts I usually get and it is a purely man’s world–a foreign country I call Mansmansylvania–littered with copies of National Geographic and racing and fishing mags and Playboys and it also has Phil who gave me the best damn haircut of my life (to use the manly vernacular). Continue reading “Stucki’s Hands and the Masculine Identity: a review of Todd Robert Petersen’s Rift”

Short Story Friday: Now and at the Hour of Our Death by Todd Robert Petersen

We’re starting back up with feature Fridays at AMV. Starting late, but starting nonetheless, and we’re kicking off with the return of Short Story Friday. Today (actually tonight), it’s a story by Todd Robert Petersen. Why? Because his Marilyn Brown Unpublished Novel Award-winning Rift* has just been published by Zarahemla Books. For more on Rift, see Laura’s recent interview with Todd. For a taste of his work, click on the link below.

Title: Now and at the Hour of Our Death

Author: Todd Robert Petersen

Publication Info: Dialogue, Summer 2003

Submitted by: Theric Jepson

Why?: Theric writes: “.

I think Petersen is the best short story writer we have at the moment. This particular story is often mentioned to me by others as being their favorite.”


Submit to Short Story Friday

Possible online sources of stories and link to spreadsheet with current submissions

All Short Story Friday posts so far

*Full disclosure: this is going to sound like bragging, but I do think it’s best to disclose any conflicts of interest. So here it is: I read a draft of Rift and commented on it. I have not read the final version of the novel. Also: I very much enjoyed the version I read even though I was initially put off by the idea that Todd was writing a rural Utah novel when I specifically applauded him for the international flavor of his short stories in Long After Dark.

The Rift in Mormon Literature: an interview with Todd Robert Petersen

Some writers might be born great and others achieve greatness, but Todd Robert Petersen had greatness thrust upon him when, in 1998, he won first, second, and third place in the Sunstone fiction contest. The book that came out of those wins, Long After Dark, is Mormon Literature straddling an ontological rift–the rift between simple faith and reality, the rift between easy options and hard choices, the rift between plain ol’ writing and art. If you haven’t read it yet then go ILL or buy it right now–you might be offended or uncomfortable at times but you certainly won’t be sorry you picked it up. If you’re jonesing for a hit of intense, welll-crafted writing to round out the end of your summer reading this is the book for you.

While you’re waiting for your copy to arrive you can read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen. It’ll ease the ache. I promise. You might not agree with everything Petersen says, but you’ll be glad you took the time to think about it.

Oh, and he has a new book coming out! Continue reading “The Rift in Mormon Literature: an interview with Todd Robert Petersen”

The essential Mormon short story collections

Laura’s excellent post on Benediction got me thinking about Mormon-themed short story collections. Specifically, the relative paucity thereof, but also the fact that even with the few that have been published there are several that I consider the essential starting points (rather than novels) for anyone seeking to understand (or produce work in) the field of Mormon literature.

By essential I don’t mean the most literary or the most Mormon or the most well-known or even the most influential. Rather I mean that if they were to disappear, they would leave the most gaping holes in the field.

Here, then, are my nominations for the essential Mormon-themed short story collections*. Continue reading “The essential Mormon short story collections”