Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—18

Consider D&C 65

**Following is D&C 65 reformatted, with revised punctuation. Thoughts? I have (am still forming) some, but I would like to let the work speak for itself first.

1*Hearken, and lo, a voice as of one sent down from on high,
***who is mighty and powerful,
****whose going forth is unto the ends of the earth,
*****yea, whose voice is unto men:

**“Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
****make his paths straight.
2*The keys of the kingdom of God are committed unto man on the earth,
****and from thence shall the gospel roll forth unto the ends of the earth,
**as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth,
****until it has filled the whole earth.”

3*Yea, a voice crying:

**“Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
****prepare ye the supper of the Lamb;
*****make ready for the Bridegroom.
4*Pray unto the Lord;
***call upon his holy name;
****make known his wonderful works among the people.
5*Call upon the Lord, that his kingdom may go forth upon the earth,
****that the inhabitants thereof may receive it
**and be prepared for the days to come,
****in the which the Son of Man shall come down in heaven,
*****clothed in the brightness of his glory,
******to meet the kingdom of God which is set up on the earth.”

6*Wherefore, may the kingdom of God go forth,
***that the kingdom of heaven may come,
****that thou, O God, mayest be glorified in heaven, so on earth,
*****that thine enemies may be subdued;
**for thine is the honor, power, and glory,
***forever and ever.

**Amen.

“Then why read novels?”

In a recent review of a newly-published novel, I concluded that its “polemic” emphasis made me like it less than I might have otherwise.  Every plot point seemed to be put there in service of an argument against something, a heavy-handed set of choices I began to find distasteful not far into the book.

So an astute friend asked me pointedly, “Then why read novels?” After all, my friend said, you have to concede that the author has a point and wants to voice it. Well, sure. An author has every right to do that.  But my friend meant, I think, to make me look hard at my own choices. If, she was saying, you don’t like a novel to make use of polemic discourse (as Jane Smiley defines it in Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel), what do you like — or want — or need — when you choose to read a novel?

An excellent question, which I’d like to tease out a little here at the beginning of a new year, since “novel” means “new” and so far, 2017 is a pretty novel year, and now’s as good a time as any to think about why we should or could want to read novels. (Which I think we should. And short stories too — though I’ll save a discussion of those for another post or two.) For what purposes do we Mormon writers and readers employ novels that might be the same or different from anyone else’s purposes? Do we employ novels in a peculiarly Mormon way that differs from how novels have ever been employed? At first knee-jerk, I don’t think so. But let’s look.

Continue Reading →

Who Are You Calling Anti-Mormon?

“I once received a list of LDS books that a man was selling from his personal library. Among some 300 titles from his personal library. Among some 300 titles were two of my own books . . . listed under FUNDAMENTALIST AND ANTI-MORMON MATERIALS. . . . I was in pretty good company. Under this heading were Joseph Smith’s 1832-34 Diary, Joseph Smith’s History by his Mother, and The Seer by Orson Pratt. Now there’s anti-Mormon and fundamentalist stuff for you.”
—Samuel W. Taylor, “Aunty -Mormon I Ain’t, Nor Ante-Mormon Either”

 

heavenSamuel W. Taylor was one of the bright lights of Mormon literature during the 20th century. His comic novel Heaven Knows Why—perhaps the funniest Mormon novel in the history of ever—was first serialized in Collier’s, a literary magazine with subscriptions of over 5 million copies. And, as a Hollywood screenwriter, he wrote the story that became The Absent Minded Professor. That’s right,  a Mormon invented Flubber.

But Taylor was also the grandson of a Prophet and the son of an apostle who was excommunicated for practicing polygamy after the Manifesto. And he spent much of his story trying to set the record straight about polygamy in books like Family Kingdom (1951), Nightfall at Nauvoo (1971), and The Kingdom or Nothing (1976). He frequently talked about historical facts that made the Saints of his day uncomfortable. And for this, he often found himself grouped in the category “anti-Mormon.” Continue Reading →

In Tents #73, How Infancy Narratives Behave Rhetorically, part 2

Happy New Year, everyone.

To start the new year out on a cheery note about new beginnings, consider the following scenario. A king finds out there are other pretenders to the throne. To clear the title and quit their claims he has them killed.

An occurrence not unknown in the ancient world (or the modern). The example that comes to mind first for me is Abimelech killing his three-score and ten brothers in Judges 9:1-5  (mirrored by Jehu killing the 70 sons of Ahab in II Kings 10),  but you may think of the central section of Ether with its “apostasies and inner revolutions and counter-revolutions.”

Now change the scenario a little. The king learns about his rival through a prophecy, and orders the rival killed, but the rival survives. Clearly we’re in mythic territory now, Oedipus, MacBeth, Snow White, Harry Potter. And yet, one of Abimelech’s brothers did indeed survive, and the author of Judges surely hadn’t read The Trojan Women or Oedipus Rex, or even The Aeneid.

george_washington_greenough_statue_300So here’s the question. Does an archetypal element in a historic account render the account archetypal rather than historical? Consider that painting of George Warshington in a toga that the Duckduck can’t find for me, but brings back instead a bunch of busts and Horatio Greenough’s statue of Washington as Cincinnatus

Now, some future critic who objects that Greenough’s statue can’t possibly date from 1840 because that was long before the age of toga parties would be missing the point. Greenough wasn’t claiming that Washington actually wore a toga (or even visited Cincinnati). Continue Reading →

Time, the Mormon Consciousness, and SF&F

Among the aspects of existence that sf&f plays with is our experience and perception of time. Most obviously, this is the case with time travel, a trope that belongs more or less exclusively to science fiction and that can be used in such a variety of interesting ways that it is always a disappointment when it becomes nothing more than an authorial restart button.

But there are many other takes on time as well. Consider, for example, the trope of progress, which science fiction both celebrates and critiques. Similarly fundamental to much of modern fantasy is presentation of the past as key to the present and future, so that the hero’s quest becomes in part a kind of detective story for finding out the secrets of the past, whether the history of the One Ring or the story of the Deathly Hallows or Severus Snape’s personal history with Lily Evans. (So enmeshed are Harry and the others in dealing with the shadow of the past that effective action in the present often seems to escape them.)

For that matter, the heroic quest itself is a way of organizing time, both with respect to the protagonist’s own story and on a meta-level: there is something fundamentally homogeneous and stable, or at least recurring, in a universe where archetypal patterns manifest. The same is arguably true of historical cycles, which might be considered as the equivalent of archetypcal patterns for civilizations. Thus, Isaac Asimov’s evocation of the history of Roman empire (as explicated by Gibbon) as a template for his Foundation series suggests something universal in the evolution of societies.

Continue Reading →

in verse #72 : Christmas poems

None of the modernist poets I am discussing at present produced what might be called traditional Christmas poems.  My attention is drawn to them by the advent of Christmas on this, the longest night of the year.[i]  So once again I interrupt myself in the stately progress of this blog to be diverted by gems glittering in the garden.  But, as I said, these select modernists did not produce traditional Christmas poems.[ii]

Robert Frost came closest, in writing a poem a year to send out for Christmas.  But even that idea was imposed on him Continue Reading →

People Will Always Want More Books: Konstanz Silverbow, independent fantasy author, on positivity and persistence.

onlybarelydead

Konstanz’s newest release, Only Barely dead, available here for purchase.

Konstanz, How long have you been an indie author?

I’ve been writing since I was 13 (wow! Ten years!) but I self-published my first book –Only Half Alive – in 2013. So three years.

 

What do you write?

YA Fantasy and Paranormal, all with a dash of romance.

 

What has been your most successful project?

This is a hard question to answer. When you says ‘Success’ are we talking sales? Reviews? All of the above? If we go by sales, Missing Royal, by far! If we’re going by reviews, Only Half Alive for sure. But if we’re talking about how successful it is as a well-written novel that I can say I am most proud of, that would be Magic Me This.

 

What do you think made it a success?

My fan base is certainly growing with every book I publish. So I think overall it’s about writing a good book. In their own sense, each book has been a success!

 

How does faith figure into your writing?

I’ve never directly added religion into my books. It’s one of those elements that can be tricky to navigate and can alienate readers. But I do keep all of my books clean. And there is always a moral to the story. Something that can be learned from it. For example, in Missing Royal, Shanice must learn that it’s ok to ask for help, and that she isn’t alone. In Only Half Alive, Christina is shown that light can always be found, no matter how dark life seems to be. Continue Reading →

Association for Mormon Letters 2017 Conference Call for Papers

Writing the Past:

Intersections of Literature and History in Mormon Letters

Utah Valley University

April 22, 2017

Mormons have long made recording and preserving their history a priority. On the day Joseph Smith organized the Church of Christ in 1830, he revealed that “there shall be a record kept” in the new church. Almost a year later, John Whitmer became the first person tasked with “writ[ing] and keep[ing] a regular history” of the Mormon people. Since then, Mormons have sought to preserve not only their institutional history, but their cultural and personal histories as well.

Mormon creative writers have likewise sought to engage the Mormon past. Among the earliest works of Mormon fiction, poetry, and drama were texts that retold and memorialized the epic story of the Mormon pioneers and their efforts to establish a foothold in the Intermountain West. In subsequent years, Mormon writers have continued to show interest in their history, producing texts that explore the history of the Latter-day Saint experience across the globe.

These works, while grounded in the events of the past, often offer insight into the present as well, creating multi-layered texts that give insight not only into Mormon understandings of history and memory, but also into the historical moment of the text itself.

For the 2017 Association for Mormon Letters Conference, we invite proposals for papers, panels, and readings that explore the intersections of literature and history in Mormon letters. We will also consider proposals on other subjects that fall within the boundaries of Mormon Letters.

Send proposals to scotthales80@gmail.com by 1 February 2017. Proposals should be no more than 300 words and include the title of the presentation as well as audio-visual needs.

Being a Restorationist Writer, and the Quest for the Infinite—17

Let’s Do Some Practical Criticism

**I have received some encouragement for continuing my contributions, such as they are, to “the conversation,” maybe by pulling out for further discussion small “nuggets” from what I have submitted before, to bide time while I prepare to say something intelligent about the French poets who created part of the remote C19 and early C20 context of Joseph Smith’s work. So, how about this. I imagine a few of my readers—or my readers, who are few—to be sitting with me at a circular table in a quiet corner of a small café on the Left Bank of the Provo River, a café that serves only Word of Wisdom – approved beverages, sipping our Sutter Home Fré wine (I hope that’s approved; I drink quite a lot of it—antioxidants, you know; also O’Doul’s, which my adult children, who drink Diet Coke and Mountain Dew, call “Bishop’s Beer”) and shooting the breeze about poetry and MoLit. I put before you for comparison and contrast the following two passages from two different authors. What do we see here? I invite observations and thoughts. Continue Reading →

The Mother’s Heart

I live in a Motherless house.
I lie awake and listen always for the word that never comes, but might.
I bury my face
In something soft as a breast.
I am a child
Crying for my mother in the night.
—Carol Lynn Pearson, “Motherless House” (1980)

tefitiOur family saw Moana a few weeks ago and loved it. I can’t call it a historically or culturally correct portrayal of the sea-going peoples of the Pacific. I have read compelling arguments that it is not, and I have no reason to disagree. Disney pretty much never gets those things right. But it is mythically correct, and in ways that deserve attention.

And the myth runs deep in this one. For one thing, the narrative uses a female hero as the basis for a pitch-perfect Campbellian hero journey. This alone is a major step in making the supposedly universal monomyth actually universal. It is also fairly competent entry into the Fisher King category of myths in which a land becomes sterile because a king is wounded, and the knight must restore the land by healing the king. (Both Oedipus and King Arthur come from this mythic grouping). By making both the knight and the king female, Moana strikes a blow for equality. Continue Reading →

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