The Aborted Legacy of Mormon Art, or Why there will be no Mormon Shakespeare

The following is a guest post by Mette Ivie Harrison. Mette is a former BYU “Benson Scholar” and high school seminary Scripture Chase champion. She now writes Mormon mysteries about Bishop’s Wife Linda Wallheim starting with The Bishop’s Wife. She is an All American triathlete and holds a Ph.D. from Princeton University. She is the ward historian and nursery teacher, has five children and lives in Layton, Utah. Her most recent published novel, The Book of Laman, was published in July by the By Common Consent Press.

In 1888, Orson F. Whitney, gave a speech entitled “Home Literature” in which he claimed “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” At the time, Mormons were struggling with the US government on many levels, including polygamy. Church leaders were imprisoned for the practice, the holy temples were being threatened with desecration or even destruction. Mormons had already faced a long history of persecution, being chased out of Kirtland, Ohio and then Nauvoo, Illinois, the prophet Joseph Smith being martyred in 1844 in Carthage Jail. The Mormon pioneers fled to the Salt Lake Valley in part because it was not part of the United States at the time. Mormons intended to create their own government of Deseret and their own identity, but it was difficult to get the legitimacy they craved for their own faith community. Put into this context, Whitney’s speech makes the goal of a Mormon Shakespeare or Milton that much more poignant and urgent.

In the years since Whitney’s speech, a lot has changed about Mormonism and its place within the culture of the United States. The church has done a lot of public relations to be seen as more than “that weird polygamous church,” and has made significant inroads. In the 1970s, there were the Mormon ads on television. Now there’s the “I’m a Mormon” campaign on social media. The church successfully rebranded the Word of Wisdom as simple healthy living, eschewing alcohol, tobacco, and coffee. And Mormons became known for their focus on “Families are Forever,” temples being places not of secrecy but of sealing ordinances.

Mitt Romney’s bid for the Presidency in 2012 made Mormonism a hot topic nationally once again. Negative views of Mormonism came out of the woodwork. People started asking about Mormon underwear, Mormon views on gender and the ERA, the black priesthood ban that ended in 1978, and the relationship between the LDS church and the offshoots of Mormonism still practicing polygamy ala Warren Jeffs. Mormons wanted to be seen as “normal” and “Christian,” though there was still plenty of pushback on both. Questions about Mormon beliefs in becoming gods rose again, as well as the Mormon view of the godhead and the relationship between Jesus Christ.

If Mormons today, in 2017, were to have a Shakespeare or a Milton, I wonder what would such a writer look like? For the sake of this essay, I’m going to argue that Shakespeare was a popular writer who continues to be read, interpreted, retold, and staged five hundred years after his death. I’m going to set aside questions about his contributions to the English language, on the grounds that his position historically during a massive language shift is part of the reason for this, as well as his proximity to the printing press. Shakespeare was a popular writer who also gained critical acclaim, a writer who wrote to many classes, who was able to transcend the ages, but who also included both eloquent and coarse language, who wrote about politics and history, but included some elements of the fantastic, who borrowed liberally and created male and female characters who still feel real today.

A Mormon Milton is, in my opinion, much easier to find. Milton, not read nearly as much today as Shakespeare is, was a religious poet. He recreated some of the legends of the Christian canon in his works and influenced the interpretation and continuation of some parts of that canon, perhaps most importantly his view of Lucifer.

I might argue to begin with that Eliza R. Snow is already one of our Mormon Miltons. From the beginning, she had a part in the history of Mormonism. She is certainly a devout poet who writes of doctrinal issues in a near-prophetic way. In her wake, we have also had other potential Mormon Miltons, including Carol Lynn Pearson, known for plays, poems, and novels, and Rachel Hunt Steenblik, who wrote about Heavenly Mother in recently published a collection of poems about the female Goddess of Mormonism called Mother’s Milk.

A Mormon Shakespeare is magnitudes more difficult to get agreement on. As a popular writer who has been able to talk about Mormon themes I might offer the following as possibilities:

Orson Scott Card (author of Ender’s Game)

Brandon Sanderson (NYT bestselling epic fantasy writer)

Glen A. Larson (creator of Battlestar Galactica)

Stephenie Meyer (author of Twilight)

James Dashner (The Maze Runner)

Shannon Hale (YA author of The Goose Girl, among many others)

Each of these Mormon authors have received both popular and some critical acclaim. They are openly and proudly Mormon. Of course, we can’t know if any of them will have the lasting power of Shakespeare. Card and Larson are older and perhaps have stood more of the test of time. The New York Publishing world has been surprised to find so many Mormons who have been so successful, and there have been essays already written about why it might be that Mormons in general have more success writing speculative fiction than realistic, contemporary. Let me put that aside for just a moment. The massive success of these authors means something. It might only mean that Mormons have only just become mainstream enough that they can garner a national audience of readers. Or it might mean that Mormonism has finally settled into an identity enough that it can be written about.

I already know the complaints I will get from readers about these authors. They’re too plot-based. They’re not literary enough. Their characters will never be as universal as Shakespeare’s. And maybe just a general raspberry from those among Mormonism who have zero interest in the fantastic (though they don’t seem to have a problem with Shakespeare fantastic, as long as it’s fantastic-light). And then there are the questions about if these creators are “Mormon enough.” This is a tiresome game in which people are asked to show temple recommends and underwear lines to prove themselves. Let’s try not to stoop to this level, shall we?

One other argument about the Mormon Shakespeare might be literary descendants. I am Shakespeare skeptical in the sense that I believe Shakespeare continues to be “relevant” today in part because so many other authors from his own time to the present have quoted him and written in a kind of literary conversation with him, so that it’s impossible to understand any other great writer without understanding Shakespeare. If this is the measure of a Mormon Shakespeare, Card has the most literary grandchildren. Brandon Sanderson, Stephenie Meyer, Dave Wolverton/David Farland, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, and dozens of others have been influenced by Card, including me.

When I was a young teen, dreaming of being a “real writer,” I studied Card and wondered if I could be like him, if I could be both Mormon and a writer. In my first nationally published novel, a contemporary realistic YA (The Monster In Me), there is only a tip of the hat to my fantastic literary ancestors and I was scrupulous never to mention Mormonism though the book is set in Heber, Utah. I was fearful of “outing” myself as a Mormon and I didn’t know how to talk about Mormonism in a way that wasn’t insular. So I avoided it and started writing fantasy, which is perhaps the only way to talk about the spiritual and the divine without making it about specific sects. But I reached a point in 2012 when I wanted to be more authentic in my writing, more direct about my experience and my literary ancestors. I wrote The Bishop’s Wife, a book that is directly about my Mormonism, but was never allowed into local Mormon owned bookstores by Deseret Book or Seagull.

This essay is not about my book or my experience, but it was instructive to me nonetheless to see that a book that was not available in church-owned bookstores (as my previous YA fantasies had been) marked me as “out” rather than “in.” Despite the fact that critics were surprised at how kind my book was, that it was in no sense an expose, but faithful and often loving towards my culture and heritage, the most devout Mormons will not read it. It’s not simply that they read and dislike it. They often have never heard of it unless they are already on the fringes of Mormonism.

Modern Mormons often stay away from any reading that challenges their worldview. More than that, there is a segment of these Mormons who will not read any word that has a “language” in it, and doubly reject “content.” Shakespeare himself can sometimes fall afoul of this. I’ve been part of several Mormon book clubs where I was asked to suggest books on the same level as Shakespeare, but when I did so, was reprimanded for choosing books that have language or situations similar to those in Shakespeare plays. Yet when I pointed this out, the response was often that I was misunderstanding Shakespeare, though the reality was in fact the reverse. Shakespeare’s just-antiquated enough English means that many who praise him do not understand the bawdiest of jokes or simply take them out of stagings because they are “inappropriate” for the audience.

This kind of stripping of Shakespeare to make him palatable to Mormon standards feels ridiculous to me, but it is also very telling. The publishing companies owned by and run by the church, Deseret Book and Covenant Communications, are often so busy getting committee approval for any books published that they strip away the meat of these stories. They are so busy making sure that Mormons act in properly Mormon ways that they miss the more human side of the story. If characters are never faced with truly difficult decisions, how heroic can they truly be? If there is always a “correct” answer to a question, then what depths for the imagination to fill? If there are always clear heroes and villains, what kind of Shakespeare would this kind of Mormonism create—or hold up as its favorite? I would argue that a Mormon Shakespeare who is only ever read by, understood by, and praised by other Mormons is not a Mormon Shakespeare at all.

I also wonder if Mormon writers and intellectuals (like Brian Evenson, Richard Dutcher, Neil LaBute, William Shunn, Martha Beck, among others) continue to be disciplined and excommunicated by church leaders who are suspicious of those who “color outside the lines” by questioning dogma and the church culture itself, will we ever have a Mormon Shakespeare? How many great writers have we already lost to Mormonism because they have been rejected by the church and will never have any literary grandchildren who are also Mormons?

Finally, this leads me to the conclusion that perhaps the only Mormon Shakespeares we will ever have are those who write speculative fiction, not because that is the only way to get non-Mormons to read Mormon fiction, but because it’s the only way for Mormons to cloak their questions about religion and faith in terms that can be misread by devout Mormons and Mormon leaders. When I was writing fantasy, I felt extremely uncomfortable with my books being lauded as “clean reads” by certain segments of Mormonism/Evangelicalism. On the one hand, it’s great to get more publicity for your books. On the other hand, seeing my books as having no “content” was misreading them. I wrote about transgender characters in a fantasy world with cloaked language (The Rose Throne) and about environmentalism through animal magic (The Princess and the Hound). But fantasy means that there are many interpretations, which means that many readers will miss the point entirely because they are busy thinking that talking to animals means literally talking to animals.

In the end, I’m afraid that I have to go back to the truth that Mormons do not have a Shakespeare. We may never have a Shakespeare, not because we don’t have talented enough writers among us, but because there is something within Mormonism that does not allow a Shakespeare. Our insularity, our judgmentalism, and our boundary maintenance mean that we cannot even value the real Shakespeare, let alone our own. And I, as a writer and a reader, think this is sad.

17 Thoughts on “The Aborted Legacy of Mormon Art, or Why there will be no Mormon Shakespeare

  1. Eric Samuelsen on August 18, 2017 at 7:05 pm said:

    Very well reasoned. I would add, though, that Shakespeare’s plays reveal a man intensely fascinated by politics, who nonetheless thrived despite a level of political censorship we can barely comprehend. There’s a way to overcome the obstacles you identify.

  2. J Quist on August 18, 2017 at 11:06 pm said:

    Maybe I never understood the Whitney quotation. Whenever I heard it, I assumed it referred to 1) literary recognition in the world at large, à la Shakespeare, regardless of shelf-space in churchy bookstores (I don’t get any of that space either, which, I agree, is small-minded and sucky) and 2) our worldview being communicated through literature in a way that feels familiar and true to all kinds people despite superficial differences between a Mormon way of life and mainstream ways of life (though I would also argue that in an increasingly international church, the US Mormon heartland with its dibs on Mormon “culture” is getting less and less representative of it and needs to come to terms with that). Maybe an Anglophone, American Mormon writer will never be Whitney’s Shakespeare or Milton but the world, even the world of the Church, is bigger than Anglophone America and shouldn’t be lamented too early or written off too easily.

  3. Michael Austin on August 18, 2017 at 11:31 pm said:

    Mette, thanks for this great article. I just have one question/comment about the statement that “the only way for Mormons to cloak their questions about religion and faith in terms that can be misread by devout Mormons and Mormon leaders.” I do think that the conventions of speculative fiction provide one way to cloak such questions and provide multiple layers of interpretation. But aren’t there are others?

    Shakespeare himself often cloaked his more controversial political arguments by placing them in historical settings (and also in speculative settings, as in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”). But something like Julius Caesar, which depicts the assassination of a king, is set in the Roman world, because it is the actual historical setting, but also because it would have been too dangerous to set it in a more contemporary world. Those who looked carefully could see the Tudors and the Stuarts in this historical settings of the tragedies–Medieval Denmark, for example, or Celtic Britain–and in the Greek and Roman settings of many of the comedies. In this sense, it was the historical distance, rather than specific genre conventions, that provided the safe distance he needed to critique his contemporaries.

    In early periods of Mormon literature, we see similar things with Mormon writers who were at the margins of Mormon/non-Mormon culture. Vardis Fisher, for example, worked out a lot of his arguments with Mormonism in several of his historical _Testament of Man_ novels, including one set in during the Maccabean rebellion and another set in the early Christian period. Virginia Sorensen dealt with her inside-outside relationship to Mormonism squarely in a novel about a Yaqui Indian returning to his Mexican village (_The Proper Gods_). None of these were speculative, but they used distances in time and geography to create the same effect that we see in some of today’s more speculative fiction.

    Anyway, this is a pretty minor quibble–just something to think about in the context of a very compelling argument. Thank you for making it.

  4. I wonder why we in the Mormon community cannot support a publication like the Jewish Review of Books which caters to the Jewish community. We used to have the publication of Irreantum, but, that has now gone, and now we are supposed to read the Ensign, which, I have been told is the “be all and end all” of anything written about our Mormon community

  5. James Goldberg on August 19, 2017 at 12:41 pm said:

    Colonized peoples are invariably made to feel that their culture is too backward to produce great art. I suspect some of our persistent handwringing is evidence of a colonized mindset.

    Card has been influential and will likely continue to be. Look forward to seeing how the others fare.

    Shakespeare was not immediately influential outside England. His global prominence today owes at least as much to the subsequent global power of English speakers as to his literary skill.

    • “Colonized peoples are invariably made to feel that their culture is too backward to produce great art. I suspect some of our persistent handwringing is evidence of a colonized mindset.”

      Yep. Plus art tends to be evaluated and assigned value in relation to how much it is in line with the tastes of the ruling class. I continue to believe that we shouldn’t worry about the whole notion of great Mormon literature: http://www.motleyvision.org/2009/no-worries-great-mormon-novel/

      Also: I suspect that Card’s children will be more influential than he is. I find more value in him as proving that something could be done rather than how it is to be done.

  6. Andrew Hall on August 19, 2017 at 4:21 pm said:

    Fascinating stuff.
    On authors being kicked out or leaving the Church because of material someone did not consider proper, we had a very interesting discussion a couple of years ago, which also began with a comment from Mette, around the time The Bishop’s Wife came out.
    http://www.motleyvision.org/2015/mormon-fiction-writers-spectre-excommunication/

    The author’s concerns about possible repercussions for their writing, from the Church or from family, can be a powerful dynamic. Several authors talk about their experiences in the comments. Jennifer Quist said, “The spectre of excommunication (well beyond the disapproval of loved ones) adds drama to the slow, arduous, sometimes impossible process of actually writing a book. Drama and fantasy as welcome–heck, they’re necessary–in a pursuit like creative writing where we depends on them to produce our product (in fiction or non-fiction). Sometimes I wonder if this “conundrum” for writers might be more self-serving than self-preserving.”

    Mette mentions writers “like Brian Evenson, Richard Dutcher, Neil LaBute, William Shunn, Martha Beck . . . who continue to be disciplined and excommunicated by church leaders who are suspicious of those who “color outside the lines” by questioning dogma and the church culture itself.”
    I wrote about several of these cases in the comments of the Motley Vision post. The number of authors who really faced discipline for their writing is pretty small, although I don’t doubt there could be at least social pressure. Dutcher, Shunn, and Beck simply left the Church, I don’t see any indication that they were ever under any threat of discipline. Evenson, after a year of being employed at BYU, was approached by his Dean and Chair about the extreme violent and bleak nature of his stories. There was discussion about how the propriety of publishing such work while employed by BYU. The chair, C. Jay Fox, claims that Evenson’s position was not “in immediate jeopardy”. But Evenson felt like he was put under undue pressure, and resigned from the university. So, he was under some pressure, but saying he was forced out of BYU would overstating it. After that, there is no indication that there was any ecclesiastical action against him. In 2002 he resigned his membership from the Church, he was not excommunicated.

    The case of Neil LaBute is the one case where I think it is fair to say that the art the author produced led to Church discipline. His 1999 trio of playlets, “bash” (later a 2001 Showtime production), depicted Mormon characters cruelly assaulting and murdering babies and homosexuals. Soon after that, LaBute was summoned before a Church tribunal and was ultimately disfellowshipped. LaBute decided to withdraw his church membership around 2005, when he was informed that his excommunication was imminent. “It was like quitting before you get fired,” he says.

    The LaBute case is strange, and we only have his side of the story. I find it hard to imagine that any Priesthood leaders would disfellowship or excommunicate someone because of the misanthropic nature of their work. Like Wm Morris said in the post, if the fiction is part of a larger effort the author is doing to form or participate in an organized effort to push a social agenda against the Church, the fiction can be seen as one data point, part of a larger effort. But LaBute was not actually calling for more violence or misanthropy, he was writing to critique violence. It is very odd that he would be disfellowshipped for that. Others have written similar works, and have not had any trouble with Church authorities.

  7. Scott Abbott on August 20, 2017 at 1:19 am said:

    Mette, this is a subject I have often thought about, and the claims by various authorities that a Mormon Shakespeare would appear give it special weight. But speculation of the kind that I have engaged again and that you are engaging in here may be extraneous to what will happen. Someone who is a Mormon will perhaps someday write extraordinary literature, or not. That will happen or will not happen. It has not happened yet and it is an interesting question as to why it has not happened yet. But answering that question in one way or another will not make it happen. Shakespeare did not write because someone had prophesied that a great writer like Shakespeare would write from a given culture. He wrote what he did because he was a genius. If a Mormon writer were to appear who was a genius, it wouldn’t matter if she had been excommunicated or if she were a faithful member of the church or if a Deseret Books sold copies. Her writing would simply be the work of genius by someone who was or had been a Mormon. I think what I am trying to say is that you and I and others who have asked this question are asking it backwards. It supposes that asking the question might change the culture that may be keeping writers from being Shakespeares. Wishful thinking, I think. There are plenty of good writers, Mormon writers. None of them approaches the genius of Goethe or Kafka or Flaubert or Tolstoy or Cervantes. That will be a fact until …

    • Michael Auastin on August 20, 2017 at 5:40 pm said:

      I totally agree that Shakespeare was an absolute genius who brought that genius to his writing. And Goethe, Kafka, Flaubert, Tolstoy, and Cervantes too. But they had to have certain kinds of things in their culture in order for their genius to work. For Shakespeare (for example) there had to be a theatre tradition that he had access to, and audiences who knew the basic sort of thing that he was doing, and actors who knew how to memorize lines and deliver them, and critics a century later like Samuel Johnson who knew how to take his work and turn “Willy the play guy” into “Shakespeare” as we know him today. And, a Virginia Woolf demonstrates so well in “A Room of One’s Own,” he had to be a he. If Shakespeare had been everything that he was and a woman, she would not have been able to access the things that turned Shakespeare into Shakespeare.

      This is just a way of saying that I think that Mette has some ground to stand on when she says that “we may never have a Shakespeare, not because we don’t have talented enough writers among us, but because there is something within Mormonism that does not allow a Shakespeare.” Now, we have to raise lot’s of cautions here. Mormons all also live within larger cultures that have the elements necessary for there to be great writers. And I can think of one very compelling example–the Egyptian playwright Tawfiq al-Hakim–who created an amazing, near-Shakespeare-like body of dramatic literature even thought their was virtually no stage tradition in his culture.

      So it is certainly possible for somebody who happens to be Mormon to become a world-historical, game-changing writer like Shakespeare, Proust, Mann, or Joyce. Such writers only come along once every few hundred years in any culture, and they rarely come from the places you would expect them to come from. As you say, they are transcendent geniuses who take all of the material available to them from all of the cultures that they intersect with and turn it into great literature. No reason a Mormon couldn’t do that. And no reason to expect it any time soon.

      But for something like “Great Mormon Literature” emerge, or even “Pretty Good Mormon Literature” (I’m talking Saul Bellows and Graham Greens of Our Own), in which people write as Mormons and incorporate Mormon traditions, beliefs, myths, and culture into a powerful body of work, there has to be some kind of literary tradition that they can spring from and become part of. Certain things have to be in a culture for the culture to produce a literary tradition.

      Just as an aside, one writer that I have watched for a long time struggling with these issues has been Salman Rushdie, an Indian-Muslim writer who has ransacked almost every literary tradition that his culture has to find a tradition to map himself onto. He has incorporated major works from the Muslim tradition like the 1001 Nights (Midnight’s Children, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights) and the Q’ran (The Satanic Verses), he has worked the great epic of India, the Ramayana, into a novel (Shalimar the Clown), and he has used Greek myth as the core of a major work (The Ground Beneath Her Feet, a retelling of the Orpheus and Euridice myth). Here is an extremely talented writer who has spent years trying to find a tradition to connect to and has had to tap into several very old traditions with few modern progeny–and the results (IMO) have been spectacular.

      • “there is something within Mormonism that does not allow a Shakespeare”

        Should one really expect that out of Mormonism itself? What provincial, low-resource community has produced a Shakespeare?

        Shakespeare arose at the center of power of one of the leading nations of the world.

        What has LA or NYC done to allow a Mormon Shakespeare? What type of Mormon artist does it allow?

      • Michael Austin on August 20, 2017 at 7:59 pm said:

        “What provincial, low-resource community has produced a Shakespeare?”

        How about a German-speaking Jewish insurance agent living in Prague?

      • Scott Abbott on August 25, 2017 at 11:24 pm said:

        well, yes, there was Franz Kafka. Prague was teeming with talent (Rilke, for instance) and with an appetite for real literature. So was, now that I think of it, the Weimar Republic during which Kafka did his best work.

        And there may be an interesting parallel here. After the Nazis took over, the great literature in German was written by exiles (Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Brecht, and so on). Ideologies and closed systems and groups claiming they will be vindicated when they produce the great writers and artists a supposed utopian group should foster don’t do so, perhaps because they are looking for art that will vindicate them, not for art that will question and challenge and change — in other words, exactly what good art does. Salman Rushdie was threatened by Islamic leaders, although he is exactly the extraordinary writer a rich culture ought to produce. Brian Evenson, to give an example of my current favorite (ex)Mormon writer, left a religion that tried to restrict what he wrote. Ironically, the fact that his work continually returns to Mormonism, if negatively in most cases, may be an indication of a religious culture that is developing enough history to accommodate good writing.
        The idea that a culture must support art financially (as did the Renaissance) seems to me a peripheral argument. Publishers in the US are anxious to publish good books, as, to return to the Evenson example, the wide range of presses ready to publish Brian’s books, bear witness.

  8. Emily Debenham on August 20, 2017 at 11:03 am said:

    I swear, the older I get the more I hate this quote. It seems like it’s more often used to insult groups of people than not. In addition, it’s the discussion version of the song that never ends. It never goes past here.

    In addition, we’re so dang preoccupied with finding the next Shakespeare we’re missing out on the Jane Austen’s, Madeleine l’engles, Judy Blumes, Maurice Sendaks along the way. There is more out there than Shakespeare.

    Lastly, it never asks deeper questions where Mormon lit is at today. No doubt, the Mormon publishers cater to a certain type of taste. The funny thing is that squeaky clean romance is currently on-trend. Publishers and agents are looking for it. Another funny thing is the western romance is finally on trend too. Covenant, Deseret Book, and Cedar Fort have been publishing westerns and clean romances, for years. Also, Mormons have always loved regencies and they died in the 90’s then came back again. We’re finally cool. The longer I watch the market the funnier it gets.

    So, honestly, what interesting things do Mormons do with the Western? What interesting things do we do with the Regency? What interesting things do we do with the historical? What interesting things do we do with the mystery novel?

    I really loved G.G. Vandagriff’s genealogical mystery novels. I think there are so many fun fictional places we could take this theme. I miss the contemporary Mormon-themed women’s fiction trend. I think we had writers doing really interesting stuff in that genre but sales must have killed it. I loved Annette Lyon’s historicals about temple construction. There was a period that time-travel novels were really hot. Then they went out of style. I haven’t seen one for a couple years now. Small town comedies were really hot then those went out. I haven’t seen a Mormon comedy for a really long time. Right now regencies are the dominating trend. Some editor likes colonial India, though, cause a number of those have come out in the last year or two. I’m kind of sad we’re seeing less overtly Mormon stories and more general historical romance. Also, I miss Gale Sears. She was doing stuff with historicals that nobody else was doing and each attempt kept getting better than the last.

  9. We’ve run out of threading so:

    ““What provincial, low-resource community has produced a Shakespeare?”

    How about a German-speaking Jewish insurance agent living in Prague?”

    Would the same machinery that made Kafka a worldwide author also do the same for a Mormon author? For example, a Steve Peck?

    • Scott Abbott on August 25, 2017 at 11:27 pm said:

      I love Steve’s work, and in fact am quoted on the back of The Scholar of Moab. That novel is the best work of Mormon satire ever written. But he’s no Kafka.

  10. Meanwhile, there are precious few places for me in Mormondom. On the other hand, I’m not writing to Mormondom. I’m writing to the rest of the world, to put our language, culture, and traditions out there, warts and all. Publisher’s Weekly seemed to like one of ’em.

    Then I got lost in the noise of the self-publishing explosion, and that’s no one’s fault but mine.

  11. Scott writes: “Publishers in the US are anxious to publish good books, as, to return to the Evenson example, the wide range of presses ready to publish Brian’s books, bear witness.”

    I don’t see that as a real test, though. Of course, publishers in the US are eager to publish books by an ex-Mormon who is a martyr for his art in relation to his faith community. The broader culture loves estranged from Mormonism narratives (all the way back to the lost generation novelists). Such narratives are perfect because the artist now shares the broader cultures values but also brings with them the frisson of having been part of those intriguing (but not intriguing enough to portray in depth) Mormons.

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