I’m finally finishing the monthly review, following an earlier post that was just about books. This post is about news and awards, short stories, theater, and film.
News and awards
Children’s book author Rick Walton passed away on October 7, from brain cancer. He was 59. His career was discussed in this memorial article.
Jolly Fish Press, an independent publisher based in Provo, UT, has announced that it will be going out of business on Oct. 31, due to financial difficulties. The business was created by publisher Christopher Loke in 2011. It has published over ten books a year in recent years. The announcement on its website read in part, “But even with a collection of note-worthy and great books in our catalog and future lineup, we have not generated sufficient revenues to make the business viable. After a long process of seeking investors who believe in our company and what we aim to achieve, we have, unfortunately, failed to secure the funds necessary to grow and move the company forward.” A Bustle.com article on the closing included many quotes from authors, including some who felt that the company owed them more advance notice before the announcement was made. Continue Reading →
The Spirit and the Baroque Sensibility: Clinton F. Larson, Part 2
**One of the most powerful instruments, in Clinton F. Larson’s view, for exploring various points of view was style. I have already noted his interest in style in connection with his observations that “a range of contrasting styles…can be used for expression of Mormon ideas,” that the clearness of the poetry that he himself wrote varied with the persona, the whole viewpoint, from he was trying to operate as a poet, and that to teach the gospel to people “we have an obligation to deal with various styles and ethnic groups in their own terms.”
**I continue to resist the notion that the artist’s primary task as artist is to “express” anything, including “Mormon ideas,” but Brother Larson recognized (and I recognize) the possibility that the Restorationist artist will be called upon, in fulfillment of his covenant of consecration, to do exactly that, and I read Brother Larson’s observations in this regard as good counsel about how to do that with integrity and effect, and possibly to transcend the merely propagandistic. Continue Reading →
Your book, Agent in Old Lace, is being re-released this month. I gather it was one of your earlier works, and that you’ve put effort and care into revising and revamping. This story must be near and dear to your heart. Tell me about it?
This story was originally published back in 2009, and was my fourth book ever. I changed its focus from the LDS market to national while still retaining LDS values, and I added something like five thousand words to the length. I think it turned out pretty well. Continue Reading →
We note with great sadness the passing away of children’s book author Rick Walton, on October 7, from brain cancer. He was 59. His funeral will be held Saturday October 15, 11am at the Edgemont South Stake Center, at 350 E 2950 N, Provo, UT. There will be a viewing for those coming into town for the funeral from 10-10:45 am. The main viewing will be Friday October 14 at 5-8pm at the same location. Walton had suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for several years, and was diagnosed with brain cancer early in 2015.
Walton was the author of nearly 100 children’s books, most of them picture books. He also wrote riddle books, poetry, activity books, and mini mysteries. He was widely seen as a leader in the remarkably large and vibrant Utah children’s literature community. Continue Reading →
In their 1979 book, The Mormon Experience, Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton identify Vardis Fisher as “perhaps the most important writer of Mormon background” in the history of American letters. “The next generation,” they suggest, “will be in a better position to evaluate him.”[i] Continue Reading →
The Title caught my eye, “Poetic Diction and Parallel Word Pairs in The Book of Mormon.” Not unusual, my eye was scanning the table of contents to catch something of interest, and I’m open to any poetic diction that would make my poetry less paltry. (Praise be to the Orem library for stocking its sales shelves with interesting titles like Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 4:2 (1995)) I read enough of the article to get the general concept and learn that word pairs are a common feature in Hebrew poetry. A few weeks later we were visiting my wife’s sister in northern Idaho and I noticed a framed psalm on the wall in her son’s furniture store. There’s a word pair, there’s one, there’s one.
I’d seen and heard word pairs before, particularly in the Psalms and Isaiah, but didn’t have a name for them, as I did for situations where the first and fourth lines rhyme and so do the second and third. It’s so common that we’ve schematized it as ABBA. Once I had a schema for parallel word pairs I could see how common they are and notice how they often appear in sets of two or three.
Consider the beginning of Psalm 106 Continue Reading →
Over the past few years new stories have appeared about something called trigger warnings and microaggressions. College students, they report, were increasingly demanding that material they deemed offensive or “triggering” be removed from classrooms.
In September 2015 The Atlantic published a cover story entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind” by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt that detailed instances of these controversies. Harvard law professors, for example, were apparently being asked to not teach rape law or even use the world “violate” because of the emotional reaction it could trigger in students. Some campus guidelines banned phrases such as “America is the land of opportunity” as a microaggression and require alternative assignments for literature containing racial violence or sexual abuse.
The Atlantic article not only describes the problem but attempts a kind of psychological diagnosis. Coddling and pandering to students’ inability to handle challenging material is not just bad for the future of academic discourse; it is bad for the students’ mental health. And of particular concern is the way in which many institutions rush to support what Jonathan Haight argues is a pathological exaggeration of perceived offenses.
I read the article with interest, but thought this was more of an issue facing elite liberal universities than my little school in Idaho. But then I thought again. I have found myself in the hot seat for material I have required in my class. I have faced the problem of self-censoring, and I had been witness to materials being removed or sanitized in the name of minimizing offense. Continue Reading →
I ended my last post with this sentence: “I will next take up the question of how three Western writers — Pound, Eliot and Frost — brought in a new poetry for the new century.” I’m not quite ready to do that. Those who have read this blog patiently, hoping for new insights every time, may be disappointed — or may be elated. You may view this post, not as a recapitulation, but as a capitulation to the necessity of cleaning up a house where contractors have been reconstructing our kitchen whilst we traipsed out-of-reach through British Columbia (because our phones don’t work in Canada), and lolled in a small cabin on Gabriola Island in the Salish Sea, me reading Leonard Arrington and the writing of Mormon History[i], followed by Malcolm Lowry’s last novel, October ferry to Gabriola[ii], which I had brought along knowing we would be staying on Gabriola, and which provides a remarkable portrait of his home in Dollarton, north of Vancouver, in chapter 11, “Eridanus” — and Valerie desperate for new reading matter because none of my books interested her, until she started reading Leonard Arrington, etc.
But I wanted to note something some of you may have not noted: Continue Reading →
Karen, your novel Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Wives is a set of short stories following a collection of families and their experiences. You focus on the experiences of the women in the family, and a strong theme of faith comes out: belief in the afterlife, how belief/faith influences choices, and how this trickles down through posterity.
First, this is a short story collection, not a novel. The stories explore the concerns of fictional women in four different families, families unrelated to each other. I wrote the stories over the course of several decades. Sometimes I would return to a character at a different point in her life; sometimes I would focus on a different character in the family story. I have become very attached to the women in these families. Some are roughly modeled after women in my own family history. I am keenly aware of the influences on me of my mother and my grandmothers and wanted to write about family connections.
Thank you for that correction. As a novelist, I can get a little “novel-centric.” The stories flowed so well together, it read, for me, like a novel and not a collection of short fiction. And I think this speaks a great deal to your writing ability. Continue Reading →