Michael Andrew Ellis on Douglas H. Thayer

On October 17, 2017, my teacher, my mentor, and my friend, Doug Thayer, passed away. In the area of Mormon literature—literature by, for, and about Mormons—Doug was a big deal. Mormon literary critics call him the “Mormon Hemingway” for his spare style of declarative sentences building the story period by period, as well as his interest in the natural world around him and a Mormon’s place in it. He was a master of the coming-of-age story. One of his main themes was that of innocence being cast out into the world and of necessity facing the realities of everyday existence. Many times, a young man who had grown up in the sheltered life of Utah Valley, and who was thus rather innocent and naive, would be forced to confront the evil, pain, and suffering of the World for the first time, and would have to learn to deal with it with what faith and light he had. If you have ever wondered what Mormon Literature has to offer, then Doug’s work is among the best.

I met Doug for the first time as a creative writing student back in the early 90s at BYU. Taking the creation of fiction seriously, he had settled opinions about what it was supposed to be. At the time, I was enamored of James Joyce’s fiction and his verbal gymnastics, as well as that of the postmodernists, and of one in particular who made an art of obscurity, but Doug would have none of it. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Douglas H. Thayer

We note with great sorrow the passing of author and educator Douglas H. Thayer. Born April 19, 1929 in Salt Lake City, he passed away on Oct. 17, 2017 after a battle with liver cancer. Thayer grew up in Provo, where he spent his boyhood largely running free and hunting, fishing, and hiking in the surrounding Wasatch Mountains. He swam naked in the Provo River and polluted Utah Lake. He later said that swimming in the poisoned lake gave a quick, cheap immunization against every known disease, if you survived.

Thayer dropped out of high school in 1946 to join the U.S. Army, serving in Germany. He came home, attended Brigham Young University for a year, and then returned to Germany for 30 months as a missionary for the Church. While on his mission he was called up to fight in Korea, but was allowed to continue his mission. He later said that while he had no desire to kill or be killed, he felt he missed his war, a great deprivation for a writer who liked Hemingway.

After his mission Thayer returned to BYU, and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English. He applied to law school, but then decided not to attend and started a doctorate in American literature at Stanford. Finding that he had little interest in research, he left the program after finishing a master’s degree. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Elouise M. Bell

We note with great sorrow the passing of Elouise Mildred Bell, one of the greats of Mormon literature, education, and feminism, on September 30, 2017. Elouise was born on September 10, 1935, in Scranton Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Alexander Hurlow and Esther Myra (Beppler) Bell. She received her bachelor’s degree in English and journalism at the University of Arizona in 1957, graduating magna cum laude, and earned her master’s degree at Brigham Young University in 1959. She served an LDS mission in Paris, France in the very early 1960s.

Bell taught in the BYU English Department from 1963 through 1994. She served as composition coordinator and also received the Karl G. Maeser Award for Distinguished Teaching. In 1986, she received BYU’s Alcuin Award for excellence in teaching, and in 1990, she was awarded a General Education Professorship for contributions to the university’s general education curriculum. She eventually became Associate Dean of General and Honors Education. On various sabbaticals, she taught at the University of Arizona, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and Berzenyi College in Hungary. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Jonathan Langford

We are shocked and saddened to hear that our friend Jonathan D. Langford passed away on March 31 at the age of 55, apparently suffering a sudden heart attack. Jonathan has been the coordinator for this blog since 2010, soon after its founding. Jonathan was also an author, editor, and a key leader and participant for many years of the Life, the Universe, and Everything conference, The Leading Edge magazine, and the Association for Mormon Letters. The funeral will be held Saturday, April 8, at the LDS Church at 545 Stageline Rd in Hudson, WI. The viewing will be at 1 pm and the funeral at 2 pm.

Jonathan grew up in western Oregon. His first published work was a poem which appeared in The Children’s Friend when he was 8. He enrolled at Brigham Young University as a 16-year old in 1978, intending to study politics. During the Winter of 1980 he became involved in Quark, a science fiction club at BYU that was less than a year old. From 1981 to 1983 he served a mission in Italy for the LDS Church. “One of the many insights on my mission”, he wrote, “had been the realization that while in Italy, I’d had no problem setting aside my interest in politics—but that everything I saw made me think of art, literature, and culture in general. And so I decided I should follow my love, and go into literature.” Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Rick Walton

dt-common-streams-streamserver-cls-3We 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.

dt-common-streams-streamserver-cls-2Walton 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 Memoriam: Kathryn H. Kidd

10549950_10204992738645156_4095403038316220709_oKathryn Helms Kidd passed away on December 14, 2015. She was 65. Kathy was an accomplished author, writing four novels (including Paradise Vue and Lovelock), one children’s book, and ten non-fiction books, as well as innumerable magazine and web articles. She was the associate editor (or managing editor) of Meridian Magazine until 2008, and wrote articles and moderated discussions for that web publication from at least 2004 to 2013. From 2012 she has written for Nauvoo Times, an Orson Scott Card-related web magazine. Her blog Planet Kathy includes a blog and links to many of her works. Continue Reading →

This Month in Mormon Literature, November 2015

New national novels by Glenn Beck, Larry Correia (starred review), Richard Paul Evans, Andrew Hunt (starred review), and Ann Perry, and new national YA novels by Renee Collins, James Dashner, Becca Fitzpatrick, and Martine Leavitt (starred review). The Utah Book Awards honored 2013 Utah books, including some Mormon-authored works. There are new issues of Dialogue, BYU Studies Quarterly, Mormon Studies Review, and Sunstone. Mitch Davis’ new movie Christmas Eve will open December 3. We were sad to find out the wonderful actress Tayva Patch passed away.

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25621396 Christmas-Eve-Movie-2015

In Memoriam

PatchWe are very sorry to hear that Tayva Patch, who appeared in many theatrical and film productions in Utah, passed away this week. Among her credits were “Meredith” (the FBI agent) in Brigham City and “Lucy Mack Smith” in Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration and Emma Smith: My Story. Here is a review of her performance in a 2014 production of The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Lynne Bronson.

Awards and honors

Utah Book Award finalists. The winners were announced on Oct. 22. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Candadai Seshachari

CandadaiSeshachariPhoto72dpiWe note with sadness the passing of Candadai Seshachari, a popular and respected professor of English at Weber State University, and a friend to Mormon literature, on October 6.

From the Salt Lake Tribune obituary:

Candadai Seshachari, 1928 – 2015

Candadai Seshachari, “Sesh”, 87 years, passed away October 6, 2015. He was born in the holy city of Kanchipuram, India to Govindachari and Rajalakshmi Candadai in 1928.

Sesh came to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship in the 1960’s to earn his Ph.D. at the University of Utah. He married Neila Idgunji Mavinkurve in 1969 and returned to the USA with her and daughters Roopa and Priya to teach English at Weber State College. An admirer of Gandhi, Sesh wrote a book on Gandhi and the American Scene as his Ph.D. dissertation. Continue Reading →

In Memoriam: Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

Author, editor, and educator Lu Ann Brobst Staheli, of Spanish Fork, Utah, passed away on February 9, 2015 after an eight-month battle with cancer. She is survived by her husband Mike Staheli and their five sons. Services will be held Thursday at noon at 820 E. Canyon Rd., Spanish Fork. A viewing will begin at 10 AM.

Continue Reading →

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