Book Reviews on the Internet: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Recently, a discussion cropped up in the comments section on a book review posted on another blog. The commenter noted that both the person reviewing the book, along with the other commenters, were generally heaping praise on the book while doing little to review its faults. This commenter disagreed with the reviewer’s take on the book, but felt pressure to not say anything because the tenor of the discussion had been mostly positive. This commenter also noted feeling like there was pressure within the Mormon literature community for authors to be soft on each other and to avoid giving fully critical reviews. Although this question of the validity and purpose of critique within the relatively small and somewhat insular world of Mormon letters is as a good one, the discussion cycled back to the question of book reviews: why do we write them and who do we write them for? Continue Reading →

Wanted: One Internet-free Dark Night of the Soul

At a Sunstone Symposium a few years ago, I was talking with a person who ran a popular podcast. She mentioned that one of her hopes was that the podcast would help people to feel not so alone when they went through faith crises.

Hearing this made me think back on a “dark night of the soul” I went through—a time when I most definitely felt alone. Would it have been a more bearable and more constructive experience had I not felt so isolated, I wondered? Or had that aloneness been an essential part of the experience? Continue Reading →

The Why and the How of Book Reviews

For this month’s post, I invited Tristi Pinkston, AML’s new book reviewer, to share her talents with us. Tristi has a great eye for books, and her opinions are a great guide to go by when selecting books to add to my to-read pile.

The Why and the How of Book Reviews

by Tristi Pinkston

I’ve always loved writing book reviews.  I started posting them on my blog way, way back when my blog was still brand new, and then I was lucky enough to get a job as a blogger for Families.com.  One of my roles there was to review media, and yes, I did take my job very seriously.  Books and movies are two of my favorite things—right after raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens—and I was in my element. Now, several years later, I’m excited to be reviewing books for the AML.  Reviews on this site are always anticipated (and feared) by authors, and greatly respected.  I’m honored to be on this team.

Continue Reading →

Searching for Good (Oh!); or At Least Good Enough

I love to discover new authors, filmmakers, genres, artists, facts, and viewpoints. I love to explore the world, its experiences, and its search for meaning through a wide variety of eyes and ears, filters and assumptions, joys and hardships.

With the advent of the Internet, digital media, and extraordinary personal technology I now have more access to more titles across more categories and genres and viewpoints than ever before. More people can produce, and more people can consume without the prohibitive barriers to entry that kept small and independent voices from entering the market.

It should be nirvana for someone like me, but that’s not quite how it’s worked out. It turns out there are too many titles, too many authors, and too many voices to get a real handle on the vast diversity available. It’s hard to find a particular thing. Continue Reading →

Speaking Out vs. Being Heard

With the advent of the Internet and its applications (blogs, tweets, Facebook) more people have more ability to speak out than ever before, resulting in the greatest diversity of expression in history. But I’m still not convinced that we’re being heard any more efficiently despite having that louder, more expansive voice.

The two most obvious examples are religion and politics (itself a sort of burned over district of religion), where the use of mass communication is to deliver a message, not to receive (or revise) one. The ability to testify (and be seen doing so) of one’s own standing relative to an essentially fixed (orthodox) position is designed to reinforce that core message as it is.

In other words, the conclusion has already been reached, and the goal is to express that conclusion as clearly and forcefully as possible. The fundamental intent is to implant that conclusion in the mind of the recipient and replace whatever is there now through a combination of repetition (political talking points) and expressive power (rhetoric). Continue Reading →

Mormons, Masks, and Mommy Blogs

By now, you’ve probably seen Emily Matchar’s article “Why I can’t stop reading Mormon housewife blogs.” (Her tagline: “I’m a young feminist atheist who can’t bake a cupcake. Why am I addicted to the shiny, happy lives of these women?”)

If you missed it, Matchar’s point is this: In a post-feminist world, where domesticity is often ignored or treated with derision, it’s sometimes nice to fantasize about domestic bliss. And a lot of women are doing just that by reading Mormon mommy blogs. Mormon women, it seems, offer up in their blogs “picture-perfect catalog lives” that seem “adorable and old-fashioned and comforting,” Reading them lets contemporary women participate in a sort of escapist domestic fantasy.

Since its publication in January, I’ve read and heard dozens of reactions to Matchar’s article—from the pleased (“Hey, people are noticing how great we are!) to the annoyed (“Hey, stop gawking at us like were cute, furry pandas!).

Continue Reading →

Announcement: AML Blog Facelift

AML blog will be getting a new look and feel, thanks to efforts by Jacob Proffitt and Johnna Cornett — including a switch to WordPress as our new platform. It’s our hope that this will make the blog function more smoothly than it has in the past.

The changeover will take place Thursday evening, Dec. 30. Aside from the blog being down for a few hours, you shouldn’t notice any ongoing problems. The URL address for the blog will remain the same.

Thanks in advance for your patience as we work out the (inevitable) bugs. And thanks to Jacob and Johnna for researching and implementing the changeover!

Electronic Age: The interwhatsis, and the future of literature

Let’s face it: the internet has us all freaked out.  It’s 1439 all over again–maybe more like 1450–and this Gutenberg dude has just revolutionized the way information is disseminated and all we know for sure is that those monks who make a living doing awesome illustrated manuscripts are probably all going to be out of jobs. Continue Reading →