This Week in Mormon Literature, March 25, 2011

The big news this week is the opening of The Book of Mormon on Broadway.  Reviews started coming out today, and they have been very strong. The Association for Mormon Letters conference is going on this weekend, which will include the 2010 AML awards. Brandon Mull’s new Beyonders series hits #1 on the New York Times Children’s bestseller list. Three plays written or adapted by Mormon authors will be playing on Provo stages this weekend. And Publishers Weekly released sales numbers for 2010 bestsellers, with several books by Mormon authors in the mix.

Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Columns and Articles

Literary works that look beyond stereotypes of the Latter Day Saints (Boston Globe).  Pretty amazing that there is a major newspaper story about literary works about Mormonism. It name checks a few fine books, like The Backslider, Bound on Earth, and The Lonely Polygamist.  Too bad the article is pretty shallow, and it strangely wraps up by talking about Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven , which is not a literary work, and is not really about Latter Day Saints.

Correlation, Top Tens and Ally Condie’s Matched (Wm Morris at A Motley Vision). A lit-crit discussion and praise for Matched.

Angel Chaparro on his dissertation on Phyllis Barber (Wm Morris interview at A Motley Vision). Ángel Chaparro Sainz talks about his recent University of the Basque Country dissertation on Phyllis Barber and Mormon literature.

A discussion of epublishing at Six Writers and a Frog: Outliers and Anecdotes: Why epublishing articles drive me crazy, by Robinson Wells, and Replying to Outliers, by Sariah S. Wilson.

Jeff Savage on book signings (LDS Publisher).

More from Annette Lyon on parental ratings for books.

Theater: Provo

Eric Samuelsen’s The Plan is playing at the Covey Center in Provo until April 2.

Jane Austen’s Persuasion, adapted for the stage by Melissa Leilani Larson, is playing at the BYU Pardoe Theater until April 1.   Review of Persuasion at Utah Theater Bloggers Association.   Review of Persuasion by the Deseret News

WWJD, by Anna Lewis, is playing at the Provo Theater until April 11.  It is produced by the New Play Project, and directed by Tony Gunn.  The New Play Project is featuring a series of articles by Lewis called, “Writing About Jesus” on their web page.

Theric review of the script of Eric Samuelsen’s Borderlands, from the recent Sunstone Magazine.

Theater: Broadway

After a month of previews, The Book of Mormon, the musical created by South Park creators Matt Parker and Trey Stone, together with Avenue Q creator Robert Lopez, opens on March 24th at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre on Broadway on February 24.  Reviews have started coming out the last couple of days.  And except for one negative review from the Wall Street Journal, they are uniformly stellar.

New York Times review by Ben Brantley. Brantley is a tough critic.  And before you assume that he would love a mixture of obscenity and Mormons, know that he almost unfailingly pans the work of Neil LaBute, whom he appears to loathe.  Here, he goes nuts.   “I am here to report that a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical has arrived at the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the kind our grandparents told us left them walking on air if not on water. So hie thee hence, nonbelievers (and believers too), to “The Book of Mormon,” and feast upon its sweetness. Now you should probably know that this collaboration between the creators of television’s “South Park” and the composer of “Avenue Q” is also blasphemous, scurrilous and more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak. But trust me when I tell you that its heart is as pure as that of a Rodgers and Hammerstein show. That’s right, the same Rodgers and Hammerstein who wrote the beloved “Sound of Music” and “King and I,” two works specifically (and deliciously) referenced here. Like those wholesome, tuneful shows, “The Book of Mormon” is about naïve but plucky educators set down in an unfamiliar world, who find their feet, affirm their values and learn as much as they teach. . . . But a major point of “The Book of Mormon” is that when looked at from a certain angle, all the forms of mythology and ritual that allow us to walk through the shadows of daily life and death are, on some level, absurd; that’s what makes them so valiant and glorious. And by the way, that includes the religion of the musical, which lends ecstatic shape and symmetry to a world that often feels overwhelmingly formless.

Mormon editor and author Jana Riess reviews the play at Beliefnet.  Very positive.

Jana Riess interview with co-Creator Bobby Lopez on Why He’s Fascinated by Mormons, at Belienet. Lopez talks about the three creators visiting Salt Lake City as part of their research, watching God’s Army, and receiving notes on the script from author Elna Baker.

Radio West radio program about the musical.  Doug Fabrizio interviews NPR correspondent Robert Smith, Grace Ann Bennett, a Mormon from Chicago (also quoted in the Tribune story), and David Fletcher, a Mormon musician from New York City and part of the Mormon Artists Group, and David Koepsell, a philosopher and professor in the Netherlands, who wrote an academic article called “They Satirized My Prophet . . . Those Bastards!  South Park and Blasphemy.”

On Broadway, a ‘Mormon’ Swipe at . . . Everything. Robert Smith story at NPR All Things Considered.  Includes some quotes from Elna Baker.

Salt Lake Tribune story by Peggy Fletcher Stack.  This quote was interesting: “Bennett (a Mormon who saw the play) especially liked the fact that the characters were ‘real Mormons,’ not fringe groups such as polygamists. There was not a single mention of plural marriage, ‘Big Love,’ Mitt Romney or Proposition 8. And, though there is a glimpse of ’Mormon underwear,’ there are no jokes about it.”

Blair Hodges replies to Baker’s quote in the NPR story in his post at Faith-Promoting Rumor: Earth to Elna Baker: God doesn’t live on Kolob

Washington Post review. “one of the most joyously acidic bundles Broadway has unwrapped in years.”  Philadelphia Inquirer (positive), Chicago Tribune (positive), Hollywood Reporter (positive), Associated Press (positive, ran in the Deseret News), USA Today (3.5 stars out of 4), Los Angeles Times (positive), New York Post (positive).

Wall Street Journal review.  The one negative review out there so far.  “Don’t let anybody try to tell you that “The Book of Mormon” is suitable for anyone other than 12-year-old boys who have yet to graduate from fart jokes to “Glee.” A couple of reasonably effective production numbers notwithstanding, it’s flabby, amateurish and very, very safe.”

Salt Lake City Weekly review.  “What’s surprising about The Book of Mormon isn’t that parts of the musical push Broadway to new levels of obscenity, blasphemy and outrageousness. With those responsible for South Park and Avenue Q combining to write this musical, that type of humor was to be expected. What’s truly astonishing is that the other half of this musical is so cute, it could have been written by Mormons, for Mormons. Several songs would fit in perfectly with popular Mormon musicals from the 1970s like Saturday’s Warrior and My Turn on Earth. The mocking humor of the Mormon cultural stereotypes isn’t much different from what can be found in the post-Singles Ward comedies of Mormon filmmakers. Even the historical dioramas wouldn’t initially look out of place at an LDS Church heritage site—well, at least until the characters start talking.”

Salt Lake City Weekly feature story. The author interviewed a wide range of people, including one of the creators, actors, Mormon academics, and audience members coming out of the show.

Mormon blogger Mel at Doves and Serpents writes a positive review.

Book Reviews

“Exposed and Dangerous Regions”: A Review of Jack Harrell’s “A Sense of Order and Other Stories” (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World). Another fine piece of literary criticism from Hales.

Swell Suffering, by Veda Hale. A biography of Maurine Whipple, the author of one of the great novels of Mormon literature, The Giant Joshua.  (Marilyn Brown, AML-list).  Very positive.

The Book of Malchus, by Neil K. Newell and William J. Hamblin (Beth W. Roach, AML-list). Positive.

No Going Back, by Jonathan Langford (Two reviews, by Alison Can Read, and Its All Bout Books). Positive.

City of Angels, by Sheralyn Pratt (Mindy, LDSWBR). 4 out of 5 stars.

Mr. Monster, by Dan Wells (Bloggin’ ‘bout books) B-. “It’s a fascinating concept, the exploration of which makes for some consistently compelling reads. Still, John’s constant thoughts of death, combined with some pretty graphic, violent scenes in the book’s finale, make Mr. Monster so dark and disturbing, I could barely stomach it. It made me think; it also made me want to vomit.”

Honeymoon Heist by Anna Jones Buttimore (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). Positive.

Saints, by Orson Scott Card (Framed and Booked) Mixed review, 3.5 out of 5.

Back When You Were Easier to Love, by Emily Wing Smith (Fire and Ice).  Positive review for this nationally published YA novel, set for release in late April.  It looks like it has Mormon characters, like Smith’s highly praised first novel, The Way He Lived.

Short Stories

Eric James Stone, “Girl Who Asks Too Much”. Daily Science Fiction. Flash short story, for subscribers.  Friday.

“That Undiscovered Country” by Nancy Fulda won the grand prize and “Gemini XVII” by Brad R. Torgersen won second place in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest, sponsored by Baen Books and the National Space Society.

Theric review of “The Prophet Claude” by Jack Harrell, in Sunstone, March 2011.

Film

LDS Film: The Need For a New Distribution Model (Kevin B, LDS Cinema Online)

Christian Vuissa’s film Joseph Smith and the Golden Plates is having two screenings in Switzerland this week.

Unicorn City, written by brothers Adrian and Brian Lefler, directed by Brian, produced by Adrian Lefler, and executive produced by Tom Lefler (BYU faculty member) and Ken Bretschneider, screened on Friday, March 18, at the Scera to a full house. When asked about how the film concept was created Adrian Lefler said, “The genesis of Unicorn City was the classic story of Don Quixote, which deals with the theme of imagination versus reality. We thought: who would Don Quixote be if he were alive today? And the light went on … he’d be a gamer! The theme is still very alive, You are what you pretend to be.” Adrian and Bryan Lefler began researching D&D (Dungeons & Dragons), online gaming and LARPing (live action role playing) four years prior to production. They joined a local D&D guild, several forums, bought and played WoW (World of Warcraft, until it was banned from their homes by their significant others), and met with LARPers to capture the uniqueness of the characters they were writing about. Unicorn City is set in the gamer environment but it’s not just about gamers. Unicorn City is a tale of love, action, mystery, and orcs; everything a camping trip needs!  Jon Gries, who was Uncle Rico on Napoleon Dynamite and Ben’s dad on Lost, plays the antagonist.

Jeff Parkin will receive an award from the Association for Mormon Letters for producing The Book of Jer3miah. The award will be presented at the association’s annual meeting in conjunction with the business meeting and the Presidential address this coming weekend at UVU.

Best Sellers

The New York Times list is released on Sunday of each week.  But apparently publishers and authors are told ahead of time, because they often say on Thursday or so that they have found out where there books are going to be the next week.  Yesterday Brandon Mull announced that his novel A World Without Heroes, the first in his Beyonders trilogy, will debut at #1 on the April 3rd Children’s Chapter Book list.  It is the first time he has had a #1 NYT book.

New York Times Bestseller lists, March 27th

Hardcover Fiction

TOWERS OF MIDNIGHT, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson fell off the list after 18 weeks.

Trade Fiction Paperback

#10. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (42nd week). ↔  Again remained unchanged on the main paperback list.  #30 on the Combined Hardcover and Paperback Fiction list, #34 on the Combined Print & E-book Fiction list, down from #31.

Children’s Paperback:

HUSH, HUSH, by Becca Fitzpatrick fell off the list after 23 weeks.  (23rd week).

Children’s Series:

#8 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephanie Meyer ( 188th week). ↔

Publisher’s Weekly Sales Figures for 2010

Hardcover Fiction

27. Towers of Midnight: Book 13 of the Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Tor (406,346)

43. Promise Me. Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (between 210,000 and 217,000)

115. The Walk. Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (113,000)

118. Dark Peril. Christine Feehan. Berkley (110,000)

Mass Market Paperback Fiction

39. The Christmas Sweater. Glenn Beck. Pocket (561,000)

Trade Paperback Fiction

13. The Host. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Back Bay (492,615)

Ebooks (lists both fiction and non-fiction)

48. Ender’s Game. Orson Scott Card. Tor (46,003)

53. The Overton Window. Glenn Beck. Threshold Editions (43,000)

115. Way of Kings. Brandon Sanderson. Tor (22,195)

175. The Walk. Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (16,250)

176. Dark Descent. Christine Feehan. Avon (16,243)

206. Promise Me. Richard Paul Evans. Simon & Schuster (13,600)

214. Dark Dream. Christine Feehan. Avon (13,231)

Children’s Books

Hardcover Frontlist
2. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (2,284,066).
51. Crescendo. Becca Fitzpatrick. Simon & Schuster. (between 175,000 and 194,000).

79. Matched. Ally Condie. Dutton (126,803).

90. The Scorch Trials (The Maze Runner #2).  James Dashner. Delacorte (102,574).

Hardcover Backlist

8. Breaking Dawn (The Twilight Saga #4). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2008 (720,032).

54. Eclipse (The Twilight Saga #3). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2007 (155,451).

69. Twilight (The Twilight Saga #1). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown /Tingley, 2006 (139,926).

79. New Moon (The Twilight Saga #2). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2006 (128,586).

Paperback Frontlist
1. Eclipse (mass market media tie-in edition). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (1,906,658).
2. Breaking Dawn. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (1,061,395).

6. The Twilight Saga: Eclipse: The Official Illustrated Movie Companion. Little, Brown (424,606).

66. Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary (Fablehaven #4). Brandon Mull. S&S/Aladdin. (between 134,000 and 139,000)

68. Hush, Hush. Becca Fitzpatrick. Simon & Schuster. (between 130,000 and 134,000)

101. The Maze Runner. James Dashner. Delacorte (101,405).

Paperback Backlist

5. Twilight (Twilight Saga #1). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2006 (969,551).
6. Eclipse (Twilight Saga #3). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2009 (671,688).

9. New Moon (Twilight Saga #2). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley, 2008 (519,094).

129. Fablehaven. Brandon Mull. Aladdin, 2007. (between 137,000 and 140,000)

E-Books

1. Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga #4). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (145,568).
3. Eclipse (Twilight Saga #3). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (126,324).
5. Twilight (Twilight Saga #1). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (106,853).   8. The Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (94,095).
9. New Moon (Twilight Saga #2). Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (86,775). 23. The Twilight Saga Collection. Stephenie Meyer. Little, Brown/Tingley (27,044). 41. Hush, Hush. Becca Fitzpatrick. Simon & Schuster. (16,000)                                  62. The Maze Runner. James Dashner. Delacorte. (12,600)

76. The Scorch Trials. James Dashner. Delacorte. (10,500)

83. Crescendo. Becca Fitzpatrick. Simon & Schuster. (10,000)

I did an estimate of what I thought the best selling Mormon-authored books in 2010 back in January.  How did I do?

1.      Meyer, Stephanie. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner

(Amazon #18 bestselling novel of the year, USA Today #11 bestselling book of the year.)

2.      Sanderson, Brandon and Robert Jordan, Towers of Midnight.

(New York Times Hardcover Fiction #1 for one week. Amazon #47 bestselling novel of the year.)

3.       Beck, Glenn. The Overton Window.

(New York Times Hardcover Fiction #1 for one week. Amazon #71 bestselling novel of the year, USA Today #76 bestselling book of the year.)

4.     Feehan, Christine. Dark Peril.

5.      Feehan, Christine. Wild Fire and Water Bound (paperbacks).

6.      Fitzpatrick, Becca. Crescendo.

7.      Evans, Richard Paul. Promise Me.

8.      Evans, Richard Paul.  The Walk.

9.       Condie, Allyson.  Matched.

10.  Sanderson, Brandon. The Way of the Kings.

11.  Mull, Brandon. Fablehaven: Keys to the Demon Prison.

12.  Dashner, James.  The Scorch Trials.

13.  Pike, Aprilynne. Spells.

14.   Ashley, Amanda. Everlasting Kiss and Everlasting Desire (paperbacks).

15.  Udall, Brady. The Lonely Polygamist.

16.  Thayne, RaeAnne. A Cold Creek Secret. (paperback)

17.   Card, Orson Scott. Pathfinder.

18.  Kurland, Lynn. One Enchanted Evening

19.  White, Kiersten. Paranormalcy

I was right on the first and second places.  I am very confused that Beck’s The Overton Window did not appear on the PW list (except in the ebook list). Other data said it should have.  Perhaps it got left off of the list on accident.  I had Feehan’s Dark Peril a bit too high. Although her paperbacks did not appear on the PW lists, they still might have been high on the Mormon list, as the PW mass market paperback list did not list anything with lower than 500,000 sales.  I should have had Evans’ Promise Me, Fitzpatrick’s Crescendo, Condie’s Matched, and Dashner’s The Scorch Trials higher than I placed them.  There is no PW data for the novels below my #12.

Deseret Book LDS Fiction Bestsellers this week

1 Blackberry Crumbleby Josi S. Kilpack

2 Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 1: The Wanderer by Anita Stansfield

3 Vengeance by Clair M. Poulson

4 The Great and Terrible Six-Volume Set by Chris Stewart

5 The Silence of God by Gale Sears

6 The Kingdom and the Crown 3-Volume Set by Gerald N. Lund

7 Mark of Royalty by Stephonie K. Williams, Jennifer K. Clark

8 The Book of Malchus by Neil Newell, William Hamblin

9 Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly NEW

10 Midway to Heaven by Dean Hughes

11. Smokescreen by Traci Hunter Abramson

Other news and events

Friday, Mar 25English Reading Series
12 PM, 1080 HBLL Professor and novelist John Bennion

Stephen Clark is a quarter finalist in the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Young Adult Fiction

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2 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, March 25, 2011

  1. Marny says:

    Also making the cut for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel are Joseph Vasicek and a friend of his from BYU (don’t know if he is LDS, but I suspect so), Benjamin Hardin.

  2. Th. says:

    .

    I’ve read part of Stephen Carter’s book and it’s stellar.

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