There has been a flood of books the last two months. The Mormon academic presses (The Maxwell Institute and Greg Kofford Books) have started to publish more literary works, including Ashley Mae Hoiland’s creative non-fiction One Hundred Birds Taught me to Fly, and Scott Hales graphic novel The Garden of Enid: Adventures of a Weird Mormon Girl.
In the national market for adults, there is Stephenie Meyer’s new thriller The Chemist, Andrew Hunt’s 1938 Salt Lake City mystery Desolation Flats, Amy Harmon’s romantic thriller From Sand and Ash, and Dan Wells’ satirical thriller Extreme Makeover.
As always it is the national market young adult and middle grade novels which fill these columns. They include, on the younger side: Steven Bohls’ Jed and the Junkyard War, Shelly Brown’s Ghostsitter, Shannon and Dean Hale’s The Princess in Black Takes a Vacation, Tess Hilmo’s Cinnamon Moon, and Elaine Vickers’s Like Magic. For young adults, there are strong reviews for Dean Hughes’s WWII drama Four-Four-Two, Aprilynne Pike’s dystopian Glitter, and Carol Lynch Williams’ paranormal Messenger. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
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Since I am covering two months, I will split this post into two. This first post will have news, theater, film, reviews of old books, and bestsellers. The second post will have the new books which have been recently published.
We mourn the loss of Brent Yorgason, one of the pioneers of commercial LDS fiction in the 1970s. There are lots of end of the year lists coming out. YA authors Julie Berry and Jeff Zentner are appearing the most, including prestigious lists like the New York Times and Publishers Weekly. YA authors Brodi Ashton, Kasie West, and Kiersten White are also appearing quite frequently. Please send news and corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.
In Memoriam: Brenton Gayle Yorgason (1945-2016)
Brenton Gayle Yorgason, age 71, was surrounded by family as he passed away on the October 28, 2016 from Parkinson’s with Lewy Body Dementia. He was born in Mt. Pleasant, Utah to Gayle and Beatrice Yorgason, and grew up in Nephi and Provo, Utah. He served a mission in Florida and Puerto Rico, and then attended BYU where he met “the love of his life,” Margaret Yates. They had a whirlwind courtship and married in the Manti Temple. Soon after he was activated in the Army and sent to Vietnam. Yorgason learned to write while serving as a unit typist in Vietnam. After duty, he would write a daily letter to his wife back in Utah. “He wrote me every single day that he was gone,” Margaret says. “I think he developed his talent writing love letters to me. I have a scrapbook with all of these precious letters.” Returning home, he completed his Bachelor’s, Masters, and PhD in Family Science with a minor in Marriage and Family Therapy. He spent several years teaching Seminary, and taught in the Family Science department at BYU. In the 1970s and ’80s, he co-wrote several LDS books with older brother Blaine, including The Bishop’s Horse Race (1979) and Chester, I Love You (1983). The popularity of the books launched both Yorgasons as motivational Mormon speakers in the 1980s and ’90s. He wrote and published 105 books, over 40 of which were biographies. He enjoyed writing many books with his brother Blaine. The paintings they did together were used as the cover of many of their books. Continue Reading →
Here’s the beginning of a story. It takes place at Halloween, but think of All Hallows Eve as a prelude to la Nochebuena.
If you chart the course of the planets through the stars there’s a point during the year when they start to move backwards. You can look at the whole history of physics as an attempt to solve this riddle, the retrograde motion of the wanderers. That’s what planet means, wanderer. That was what the branch president told me not long after we met.
But he wasn’t an astronomer. He was a retired English teacher and he had come down to the care center to help the residents write poems, to listen to the way people talked and write their words down as poems. Then he was called as branch president.
Now, if you’re not from Utah you probably think the branch president is the guy who sits in the corner office over at Wells Fargo. I got out one time. Went down to the corner, crossed State St and went a couple of blocks down Main street, past the city park, and Smith Brothers grocery, and then I stopped because it stopped looking familiar. The branch president across the street at Wells Fargo happened to see me, saw me standing there, saw me unable to go forward or back, and brought me back.
But our branch president wasn’t a banker, he was a poet who used to come down and help people write their memories as poems. One woman would listen to people’s sacrament meeting talks and turn them into poems. Sacrament meeting, now there’s another Utah term. It’s our worship service. We have two wings in the building, but just one meeting–in the locked wing–so the wanderers can’t get out. There’s a dining room for each wing, but we have our sacrament meetings in the alzheimers ward so the wanderers won’t wander away.
Hey, what a great title for a book. Now I just have to write the stories to go with it. So, a couple of years ago at the branch leadership Christmas social Continue Reading →
Today’s guest post is by Lehua Parker, the author of the MG/YA Pacific literature magic realism series, The Niuhi Shark Saga. You can read more by Lehua at her blog, Talking Story.
It’s Disney’s Moana. That’s really what it comes down to.
A couple of years ago, when Disney announced that in the tradition of Aladdin, Mulan, Pocahontas, and Frozen, they were bringing to the screen Moana, a Polynesian princess tale, I was excited. When I learned that the story involved the demi-god Maui and ocean voyaging, I thought here was a movie I could take my kids to where we could talk about ancestral knowledge and what it means to be a literal descendant of the historical Maui and his sons.
And then I saw the trailers. Maui didn’t look anything like what I imagined the real Maui looked like—frankly, he didn’t even look human. And he was kind of an egotistical jerk. And a buffoon. And what was up with the nonsensical bits of crap around his neck and the random leaves for a malo? None of the sets and costumes seemed to belong to any particular island culture. I saw elements of Maori, Samoan, Tongan, and Fijian cultures—and precious little that was clearly Hawaiian. It was like someone had taken Pasifika and mashed it into a blender and—
Moana is no more an authentic reflection of Polynesian culture than Mulan reflects China, Aladdin reflects Arabia, Pocahontas reflects Powhatans, or Frozen reflects Scandinavia. All of these stories are set in an alternate world—let’s call it Disneyland—that borrows heavily from real-world cultures to tell very classically western stories in the archetypical hero’s journey or mono-myth form. These stories follow specific patterns that start with a call to adventure, followed by an ordeal, a transformation, and an eventual return. Continue Reading →
Back in April, I posted some thoughts over at A Motley Vision about the appeal of science fiction for (some) Mormons, which in turn prompted some excellent comments by various readers. At the time, I pointed out that the appeal of fantasy for Mormons, while similar, was “a different essay.” And here, at long last, is that essay!
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In my last post I focused on three emblematic moderns: Frost, Pound and Eliot. In a prior post I mentioned that Whitman and Dickinson would not begin to influence poets until a generation further on. I was wrong. Whitman appears to have found an exponent of his long line in a contrary American poet, one who, though born in the east, unlike Amy Lowell and Hilda Doolittle and Sara Teasdale did not stay there, and unlike Frost, Pound and, Eliot, moved from east to west: I refer, of course, to Continue Reading →
I’m not a regular contributor anymore, but I still love the blog and d****t, I paid for the lifetime membership, so here I am, storming back into the lineup to post my annual Thankful for Five.
(Previous years: 2013, 2104, 2015.)
Good stuff has come to my attention this year. Here’s five of said stuff.
Brittany Long Olsen’s Dendo is a thrilling day-by-day recounting of her mission. But thrilling not because of, I don’t know, sustained action sequences and improbable plot twists, but because she has captured the day-to-day drag that makes up the most exciting eighteen (or twenty-four) months in a young Mormon’s life.
And the thrills go on.
I don’t live in Utah so these next couple are largely theoretical, but I love all I hear about Writ & Vision—what goes up in their galleries, the discussions of literature they host, you name it.
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I’ve been making my difficult and sometimes dreary way through Clyde Forsberg’s ninety-eight-dollar tome Divine Rite of Kings (review arriving shortly), wishing I could see the good. His thesis is generally nasty: Mormonism, like its parent organization the Masons, is racist, sexist, empire-building and xenophobic, and no good can come out of Joseph Smith or his minions. He quotes sources without establishing their ethos — so many it makes my head spin, just taunting me to say this is exhaustively-researched and thoroughly cited — but mostly the book tastes bad, an eight-course meal in a foreign country whose ingredients don’t agree with my stomach and whose spices and oils never smelled right from the start. I’m almost done, and I haven’t found a way to recommend any of it.
Details will come later, in the review. Significantly, some other things have been going on this month that deserve attention. The election – yeah, that. (I hereby vow not to write about the nasty there. You’ve already heard too much.) But another thing going on right now is Nanowrimo.
Pretty nice, in fact.
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I Need a Sabbatical!
My friends, I need a sabbatical from this blog column. Thank you for indulging me for fifteen months. Now I have books and poems to read and poems to write while I think through some things. I might summarize here what I have presented so far, but the series itself has been a highly concentrated summary. I hope to return.
My interview for this month kind of fell through, so it’s just me right now.
As I was trying to think about what to write, what I thought would be relevant or helpful, and related to the posts I’ve been doing these last few months, one idea kept coming to mind.
How do we make ourselves and our art accessible?
I feel that one problem with literary writing is forgetting the audience. I suppose writing can just be for itself; the exercise of the art, the self-expression. But to me, writing is both an expression and a connection…. like an arrow with a line shot–you’ve got a target in mind, and that target will pull your writing taut.
For instance, anti-novels, along the line of Samuel Beckett. Has anyone here ever tried to read his triad Molloy, Malone Dies, the Unnamable? I tried. I got about halfway through Malone Dies through sheer determination. And yes, the writing is evocative, and turns my mind around in all kinds of twisty ways, and so obviously Beckett is a consummate writer.
But to what end?
Not to say that art shouldn’t require some effort in its consumption and interpretation. A *lot* of effort, sometimes. That effort, to access a piece of art, can bring so much more depth of understanding of a piece once you’ve arrived at understanding, interpretation. Like a Urim-and-Thummim, almost…. you can look through a piece of art as a window into something wider and deeper. Continue Reading →