New Voices 2016, #5: Quist, Wirkus, Perkins

We continue to present “New Voices”—book reviews from students in Shelah Miner’s Mormon Literature course at BYU-Salt Lake. The next set of books are by Olivia Christensen (Love Letters of the Angels of Death, by Jennifer Quist), Jackson Sheffield (City of Brick and Shadow, by Tim Wirkus), and Benjamin Lambson (Dispirited, by Luisa Perkins). Please be encouraging towards these students, most of whom are new to college-level writing assignments. The included lots of spoiler information in the reviews, I labeled the parts where one might want to skip to the end of the paragraph.

Love Letters of the Angels of Death, by Jennifer Quist. Reviewed by Olivia Coulston.

JQUIST_FULLCOVER_forPrintBLEEDThis story is about living and loving, life and death. It begins with a couple finding the husband’s mother dead in her trailer. They are left to tie up all of the lose ends after her death and come to grasp the fact that they will be close to the death of loved ones throughout their lives. Each chapter or “love letter” is a flashback from their lives together, written about the wife (Carrie) from the husband’s perspective. There are segments from Carrie’s life, such as losing her grandfather as a child, and witnessing a car accident as a teenager. These flashbacks do not have a particular order to them, but it all seems to flow nicely. [Spoiler alert: You might want to skip the rest of the paragraph.] The main theme throughout the book seemed to be the impending death of the writer/husband Brigs, following moments in their lives, including their courtship, marriage, childbirth and childrearing. As a reader you grow to love the relationship that Carrie and Brigs have. It is very unique (and confusing at first) to be reading about Carrie’s life through the lens of Brigs because you see how much he truly and deeply cares for his wife. In the end Brigs does end up dying in a car accident and Carrie is left to be the angel of death that she has throughout her life, and deals with the loss of her one true love. Continue Reading →

Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—10

My Poems, Part 2

   It was 1978, and I was thirty-four years old, when I sat before a typewriter to compose my first poem as an adult, and the product was “A Daughter of Sarah Is My Beloved”:

A daughter of Sarah is my beloved,
A priestess in Abraham’s house.
Her knee is bent to the Lord;
She dwells within the circle of his law.
For virtue she is clean as the rain,
As the streams that descend the high slopes.
Her smile is as sunlight on meadows,
Her speech a sparrow’s flight for gentleness.
Her counsel is heard in the congregation;
To the ears of the wise she speaks wisdom.
She gives bread to those who have not asked;
The afflicted receive comfort at her hand.
Her love she has not withheld from me;
She has given me all delights.
Sons and daughters she has given me;
Our generations will fill the heavens.
Our covenant will stand forever;
Beyond death I shall know her embrace.
Though the earth melt at his coming,
I shall never be parted from her.

At the back of the mind, as I began to write, was the thought that I wanted to work out of my own deepest being (Romanticism just keeps on keepin’ on, doesn’t it?), which had undergone twenty years of shaping by the experiences of being prepared to become and then being a Latter-day Saint, under the covenants and benefiting (I would like to think) from the sanctifying companionship of the Holy Ghost. Continue Reading →

Call for Old AML Reviews

Once upon a time, back in the good old days, there was an AML review archive stretching back at least 20 years, with hundreds of reviews posted by wise and erudite AML members and associates about myriads of books.

And then one day a virus or software update or something came along and devastated the landscape, and the AML review archive was no more. And it was very sad.

Text of the original reviews was rescued, more or less, and now exists in a very messed-up spreadsheet. As time and opportunity allows, AML webmaster (webmistress?) Elizabeth Beeton has been working on abstracting them, one at a time. It takes about a half-hour per review to get them straightened out, which considering how many there are and how relatively low a priority this is (and the untold amounts of money that Elizabeth is NOT being paid to do all of this), means that the pace is understandably slow.

But! If you are an author of one or more old AML reviews, and you still have a copy of them (in electronic form), you can skip all that hassle and send your old reviews to Elizabeth directly, and she will post them in the new archive! Which, I gather, takes much less time than reformatting the text from the old spreadsheet. In this way you help to restore a beloved AML asset, and get your old reviews back in circulation where they will help make you rich and famous! Or something.

To send backup copies of your old reviews, email to ebeeton at kc dot rr dot com.

This Month in Mormon Literature, April 29, 2016

This month, we honor the work of William “Bert” Wilson, a beloved folklorist, who left us too soon. YA novelist Julie Berry’s The Passion of Dolssa is a story of faith and friendship set in medieval Provance. It has received remarkable reviews, including nearly a sweep of starred reviews, from Publishers Weekly, Horn Book, School Library Journal, Booklist, and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. Shawn Vestal, a former Mormon, has produced Daredevils, a literary novel about people leaving Mormonism (both mainstream and polygamous) in the 1970s, set in the polygamous communities of Short Creek, and in Idaho. It has received very strong reviews. The Saturday’s Warrior film is doing fairly well at the box office, and a theatrical version is playing in Orem. Reviewers are preparing for the upcoming Whitney Awards. Brandon Sanderson was nominated for another Hugo. Please send any news or corrections to Mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Passion of DolssaDaredevilsAccidental Goodbye

In Memoriam

WilsonWilliam “Bert” Wilson passed away on April 25. He was 82 years old. Wilson was the AML President in 1988. He won two AML Awards, an Honorary Lifetime Membership in 1988, and the Criticism Award in 1990 for “In Praise of Ourselves: Stories to Tell” (BYU Studies, 30:1). According to his obituary, he taught for many years on the faculty at BYU and Utah State. He was Director of the Folklore program and archives at USU from 1978-1985, and chair of the BYU English Department from 1985-1991. He would then work for many years as the Director of the Redd Center for Western Studies at BYU. Wilson developed a distinguished national and international reputation as a folklorist. He has published dozens of articles and books in the areas of Finnish folklore and Mormon folklore, and he was Editor of the journal Western Folklore. He received the Utah Governor’s Award in the Arts in 1998, the Leonard J. Arrington Award by the Mormon History Association in 2002, and high honors from the Finnish government, the Finnish Literature Society and the Kalevala Society. Continue Reading →

in verse #64 : “April is the cruelest month”

So I started the month with two divergent paths:  I decided to accept the challenge from the Academy of American Poets to write a poem a day, and I decided to run Emily Dickinson to ground, to really understand her, to get her under my skin.  Outside of the fact that I was trying to follow both paths, I learned that to get her under my skin would take a spoon and a needle.[i]  So I decided, about halfway through the month, to focus on the poem a day.  So, with apologies to Dickinson and to you, I will return to her in May.

Today I want to share some of the better results of my experiment.  Here’s a short one:

Voices of the Desert

She kneels on the trail
and bends to sniff a bouquet
grown from a single root.
“It does have a subtle fragrance,”
she says; “sweet, but not overpowering.”
“Like you,” I say — to myself,
hesitant to profane her prayer.

Valerie and I took a trip mid-month, stopping first at Dinosaur National Monument in Vernal and camping at Continue Reading →

New Voices 2016 #4: Goldberg, Peterson, Peck

We continue to present “New Voices”—book reviews from students in Shelah Miner’s Mormon Literature course at BYU-Salt Lake. The next set of books, all on LDS topics, are by Hannah Nelson (The Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg), Connor Henderson (The Backslider, by Levi Peterson), and Nate Sheffield (A Short Stay in Hell, by Steven Peck). Please be encouraging towards these students, most of whom are new to college-level writing assignments.

GoldbergThe Five Books of Jesus, by James Goldberg. Reviewed by Hannah Nelson.

The Five Books of Jesus is a literary novel that takes the New Testament gospels and writes them out in novel format. It covers the major miracles and ministry of Christ. The book is summarized best by a quote found in the book itself, “The thing that amazes them is this: most scholars speak as if the scriptures are a mystery and their teachings hold a key, but Jesus speaks as if the scriptures themselves are only the key to a deeper mystery he holds.”

The Five Books of Jesus is enthralling because of the amount of his talent involved in bringing scripture to life. Goldberg creates a full characterization of many of the people mentioned in the scriptures. The main character, Jesus, is displayed exactly as the scriptures describe him, but there is more. He doesn’t only portray Christ as this perfect all-knowledgeable being, but shows the effects of being part human. For example, his description of Christ after he hadn’t eaten in days because of being swarmed with people who want to hear His word. “His thin, gaunt face with swollen sunken in eyes, but a look of hope that you can’t take your eyes off of.” Goldberg’s characterization of the disciples really gave the novel some charm. Each disciple’s personality was based off of scriptural passages. Simon (Peter) is seen as faithful and as the rock because of the background story about his wife and mother-in-law. Andrew, the fisherman who saw Christ be baptized by John the Baptist, uses his fisherman’s skill of tying knots to help remember the intricate parts of Christ’s teachings. Judas constantly asks Christ to do out of the ordinary things. One of my favorite characterizations is Christ’s mother Mary. Although Mary knows who her son is, she still has the effects of a mother’s loving care. She travels far and wide to find Christ to make sure that he is being properly taken care of. He doesn’t describe her like this to show that she lacked faith, but to show the natural effects of being a loving mother. Through Goldberg’s characterizations he is able to expand on scriptures, imagining what they might truly be like. Continue Reading →

In Tents 64: How Prophets Behave Rhetorically, or Don’t Part IV

Isaiah Visits The Book of Mormon, continued

The purpose of this blog, sooner or later, is to examine the rhetoric of Jesus’s encounters with the Pharisees, so it’s useful to explore rhetoric and how prophets use it. In the last column  I suggested that prophetic rhetoric is always bounded. God’s works are endless, as are God’s words, so no passage or bit of prophetic rhetoric can contain all them, or all their meanings–no passage can ever be the last word, not even,

The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

That’s a ringing declaration, but lest we assume the appendages aren’t worth much and do a doctrinal appendectomy Joseph Smith immediately added a qualifier:

But in connection with these, we believe in the gift of the Holy Ghost, the power of faith, the enjoyment of the spiritual gifts according to the will of God, the restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth. (Elders’ Journal, July 1838, p. 44; reprinted in History of the Church 3:30, and quoted in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith)

The rhetoric of prophecy offers some challenges because in a sense all prophecy is about the past. Continue Reading →

Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—9

My Poems, Part 1

I had planned at this point to post a series of three installments presenting some thoughts of Orson F. Whitney, Merrill Bradshaw, and Clinton F. Larson; but with Dennis Clark’s reviews of my three books—Six Poems by Joseph Smith; First Light, First Water; and Glyphs (all published by Waking Lion Press)—in the recent past, and the release of my third collection of poems, Division by Zero (also by Waking Lion Press) in the near future, I beg to be indulged in posting a series of three installments on my own poems and how I came to write them.

In the summer of 1959, just after my freshman year of high school, I was an avoidant, introverted, intuitive, feeling fifteen-year-old with a rapidly developing thinking function living literally in a shack in the woods outside Anacortes, Washington, with my parents and three younger sisters, in relative penury, with two shirts and two pairs of pants to wear to school in town. Continue Reading →

New Voices 2016 #3: Bronson, Brooks, Farland

We continue to present “New Voices”—book reviews from students in Shelah Miner’s Mormon Literature course at BYU-Salt Lake. The next set of books, all on LDS topics, are by Emilee Montini (J. Scott Bronson, The Agitated Heart), Aubrey Hansen (Joanna Brooks, The Book of Mormon Girl), and Brandon Bayles (David Farland, In the Company of Angels). Please be encouraging towards these students, most of whom are new to college-level writing assignments.

The Agitated Heart, by J. Scott Bronson. Reviewed by Emilee Montini.

28114727When I received the assignment to read a work of literary fiction and write a review, I can honestly say that I was not thrilled. Not to say that literary fiction is not enjoyable or interesting, it’s just not my cup of tea. With this predisposition and a lingering due date in my mind, I cracked open The Agitated Heart by J Scott Bronson and was surprised to find a story that I thoroughly enjoyed, found a profound connection with, and would even recommend. The underlying messages of the book are: faith, family and overcoming trials. Bronson brings the characters to life with “real life” experiences. The book can appeal to a large LDS and even non-LDS audience. Continue Reading →

The Business Side of Writing: Some Myths Debunked

Now, I don’t mean to be a Debbie downer here, but lately I’ve heard and seen a few things that make me realize that many people still cling to fantasies about writing careers. Statements made by aspiring writers lately have made me blink with surprise. It’s helped me understand why the conventional wisdom is still that “it’s hard to make a living as a writer.” It is hard, but it’s achievable, as long as you make sure you’re fighting the right battles.

So, without further ado, a list of myths debunked: Continue Reading →

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