This Week in Mormon Literature, April 1, 2011

Theater continues to be the big story in Mormon literature this week.  There have been a string of plays by Mormon authors which address head on issues of faith, responsibility, and compassion.  Borderlands, a new Eric Samuelsen play, opens in Salt Lake City to rave reviews, while his The Plan continues on stage in Provo. Meanwhile a Berkeley student writes and performs a work about the struggles of gay Mormons, and a former BYU student imagines the impact of Jesus’s presence on a small group of friends. The third in Dan Wells’ horror trilogy is released, and the AML Awards are announced.   Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News

The AML Awards were presented at last week’s annual conference.  Brady Udall’s The Lonely Polygamist won the Novel award, which was no surprise. Marilyn Arnold, Grant Hardy, Jeffrey Parkin, Jared Cardon, George Handley, Patrick Madden, Marilyn Bushman-Carlton, Jack Harrell, Darrin Cozzens, Ally Condie, Eric Jepson, Angela Hallstrom, Ardis Parshall, Darlene Young, and Richard Cracroft were among the other winners. Congratulations to all!

Last year I wrote about authors leaving Valor Publishing.  They have not published a book since Spring 2010. This last month two of the last authors who had identified themselves as having books awaiting publication with the press announced that they were terminating the relationship, apparently because of publication delays.  Until I hear otherwise, I assume Valor Publishing is no longer an active publisher.

Lisa Mangum’s upcoming novel The Forgotten Locket was one of several books featured on the cover of this week’s Publisher’s Weekly.

Columns and Articles

The Search for Mormon Literary Quality: Bound on Earth, Rift, Long After Dark, and The Best of Mormonism 2009. Review essay by Jack Harrell, in BYU Studies, #50:1, 2011.  Introduces some of what he considers the best Mormon literature of the last few years.

New York Times article Trying to Relish the Big Time, Even When It Brings a Cringe Mormons in the audience of The Book of Mormon react, particularly John Dehlin.

Teaching “Dispensation”: What Does Mormon Literature Have to Offer? Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World, on teaching Mormon literature in a college course.

Take a Little Piece of My Heart by Jeffrey S. Savage Savage talks about editors at LDS Publisher.

Mormon Literature’s Once and Future King? Kent Larson, A Motley Vision.  Larson muses about ways Mormon-themed theater could return to a place of importance in Mormon culture.

Glen Nelson at Mormon Artists Group lays down a challenge to Mormon artists to produce art worthy to hung on the walls of the White House, in case a Mormon gets elected president.

Interview with Michael Austin at this blog.  Austin is coeditor with Mark T. Decker of Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page, Stage, and Screen, published in 2010 by Utah State University Press.

Orson Scott Card on poetry.

Mormonism and genre Ted Lee, The Religiously Sanctioned Co-habitation Chronicles. More about Mormonism and creativity.

Theater

Boarderlands, by Eric Samuelsen, produced by the Plan-B Theater Company, plays from March 31 to April 10 at the Rose Wagner Theater in Salt Lake City.  Samuelsen is without a doubt one of the most important figures in Mormon literature.  Since I saw Accommodations at BYU in 1993, I have been amazed at the quality, depth, and shear amount of work he has produced. And I understand from others that he has been a great force for faithful guidance for BYU theater students. Samuelsen has explored a wide range of themes within Mormon society and belief, never allowing his work to take a comfortable or safe route.  The newest play explores four characters who find themselves on the “borders” of belief and devotion.  Below is a bevy of previews and reviews of the play.  The most informative is the KUER Radio West interview with the creative team, including Samuelsen, director Jerry Rapier, and the four actors.  It includes several recorded snippets from the play.  It is a great interview.  It is implied at the end of the interview that Samuelsen is facing potential professional repercussions because of the play, I wish him the best.

Backstage Utah review of Boarderlands. “A piece that is surprisingly funny, incredibly respectful, and spiritual in ways that can be appreciated by nearly any audience. He examines troubles in Mormon culture without crossing into dogma or into criticism. The honesty in the writing is refreshing; there is sympathy in the material that speaks loud and clear. . . The play’s emotional conclusion is as beautiful as it is surprising, a moment between the four characters that is so deeply tender it almost hurts to watch. The play offers the idea that it is hard work to give and accept love, and to make the decision not to accept it, or to admit that it may not exist in the ways we have always expected it to.”

In Utah This Week review. Salt Lake Magazine review. Ogden Standard-Examiner preview. Salt Lake Tribune preview. Eric Samuelsen blogs about writing the play. The script is available in the latest issue of Sunstone Magazine.

Ben Abbott’s one-man play Questions of the Heart: Gay Mormons and the Question of Identity runs on the University of California Berkeley campus from March 31 to April 2. Abbott, a strait, faithful Mormon, based the play on a series of interviews he did with a wide range of gay Mormons. Theric Jepson at A Motley Vision did a series of posts about the play, making everyone wish they were in the Bay Area this weekend. Theric interviews Ben Abbott and discusses the playTheric on how the play’s use of insider Mormon language was not an obstacle for the non-Mormon audience. Theric interviews Ben and Barbara Abbott as part of his “Couples-Creators” series. They talk about meeting, Barbara’s conversion to Mormonism, and their artistic life. Barbara is a theater production designer. For a second positive opinion, here is a review by Kelly Ann at The Exponent.

WWJD, by Anna Lewis, and produced by the New Play Project, is playing at the Provo Theater until April 11.  The show was given a glowing review by the Utah Theater Bloggers Association. “I had some pre-conceived notions about the play … I thought: (1) WWJD was going to be about LDS people, probably a family, (2) It was going to be uber smarmy. I was wrong on both counts . . . Except for these few [technical] issues, the show was flawless. It is a clean, poignant, thought-provoking play. Little kids were in the audience and they didn’t squawk with boredom. The show is appropriate for all audiences and I would encourage families, church youth groups, school groups—anyone—to flock to this show.”

Also a WWJD review by David Tertipes.

A stage adaption of Shannon Hale’s award winning young adult novel Princess Academy was recently performed by the Stages Theater Company, Hopkins, MN. It ran March 4-27.  Adapted by Buffy Sedlachek, songs by Aaron Gabriel. Here is a feature article about the show.

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

New Books

I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells. TOR, speculative/horror. 3rd in the John Cleaver series about a young man who controls and channels his sociopathic tendencies to fight against supernatural evils.  Despite the gruesome nature of the first two books, they were very well received within the Mormon writing and reviewing community.  The first received a Whitney Award for Best Novel by a New Author, and the second is currently nominated for a Whitney in the Speculative Fiction category.

Just Shy of Paradise, by Carole Thayne Warburton. Walnut Springs, romantic adventure. Set in Cache Valley, includes a native American character who is descended from Chief Sagwitch, a survivor of the Bear River Massacre of 1863. Warburton says, “the book explores some Cache Valley history, culture clash, and prejudice.” Third published novel.  Note that this author is different from the Carol Warburton who publishes novels with Covenant. Her first novel was published under the name “Carole Thayne” to avoid confusion with the other Warburton.

The Sweet, Still Waters of Home: Inspiration for Mothers from the 23rd Psalm, by Carol Lynn Pearson. Cedar Fort, poetry.

Reviews

Short reviews by Jennie Hansen, including The Sweet, Still Waters of Home by Carol Lynn Pearson, The Tomb Builder by E. James Harrison, and My Double Life by Janette Rallison.

Borrowed Light, by Carla Kelly. Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine. Favorable.

Finding Mercie, by Blaine Yorgason. Shelah at Shelah Books It, slightly unfavorable. [I have yet to see a favorable review of this book, and yet it was nominated for a Whitney in the General Fiction category, over The Lonely Polygamist. The other four in the category I could see as having merit, but it appears this one was a poor choice by the judges.]

Courting Miss Lancaster, by Sarah M. Eden. Shelah at Shelah Books It. Slightly unfavorable.

The Legend of Shannonderry, by Carol Warburton Mindy at LDSWBR, 4 out of 5 stars.

The Legend of Shannonderry, by Carol Warburton Shelah at Shelah Books It, unfavorable.

The Nineteenth Wife, by David Ebershoff Marilyn Brown, AML. Favorable, Brown is surprised to find this 2008 novel about 19th century polygamy by a non-Mormon is sympathetic and skillfully written.

The Book of Malchus, by Neil Newell and William Hamblin Tim Ballard, AML. Very favorable.

I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells Kirkus Reviews. “Wells’ third Cleaver tale is a study in profiling, and interested readers with strong constitutions will be unable to put it down (or turn off the light). John continues to evolve as a character, and the tantalizing conclusion hints at a new beginning. Frighteningly good.”

I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells Hortorian, very positive.

I Don’t Want to Kill You, by Dan Wells Tor.com, negative. Interesting, the book is published by TOR, the writers at Tor.com must have quite a bit of critical freedom. The reviewer loved the first two books in the series, felt let down by this third volume.

Magazines

Dialogue Vol. 44, Num. 1 – Spring 2011 is out. I do not have a copy, so I am making some guesses based on the table of contents.  It includes “The Dream”, a short story by Levi Peterson, and “Richard Golightly: A Novel” by Ryan Shoemaker, which I am guessing is a novel excerpt.  Randy Astle reviews Michael Austin and Mark T. Decker’s academic volume, Peculiar Portrayals: Mormons on the Page Stage & Screen, a review (or personal essay?) by Kathryn Lynard Soper called “Pirouettes on Strings”, and poetry by Paul Swenson and Timothy Liu.

Short Stories

Ryan Shoemaker, “Beyond the Lights”. Santa Monica Review, Spring 2011. An earlier version of “Beyond the Lights,” titled “Bing,” first appeared in the winter 2010 issue of Irreantum, where it was 1st place in the 2010 Irreantum fiction contest. Recently, he received Second Prize in the 2010 USC Edward W. Moses Graduate Creative Writing Competition. A BYU graduate, he is a Ph.D. candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California.  Shoemaker also has a story in another literary journal, Grist, in Issue #4, 2011 (I do not know the story title).

Film

Trailblazers in LDS Film: Michael Flynn Interview at Meridian Magazine.

Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration, a Church-produced film that has been shown in visitors’ centers since 2005, is now available on-line.

Podcasts

Writing Excuses 5.28: E-publishing Recording of a presentation by Dave Wolverton, Tracy Hickman, Dan Wells, and Howard Taylor at Life, The Universe, and Everything XXIX, on ebooks and e-publishing.

Writing Excuses 5.29: Rewriting Recordings of presentations by Tracy Hickman and Dave Wolverton at Life, The Universe, and Everything XXIX.

Writing Excuses 5.30: Writing Action Hosts Dan Wells and Howard Taylor are joined by Larry Correia and Robison Wells, and with the enthusiastic support of a live audience at LTUE they discuss writing action.

Best Sellers

New York Times Bestseller lists, April 3rd

Hardcover Fiction

#34.  DARK PRINCE, by Christine Feehan (1st week). A rerelease of the first volume of Feehan’s popular paranormal romance Carpathian Dark series, first published in 1999.  It is in a special author’s cut edition with 100 extra pages.

Trade Fiction Paperback

#11. HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (43rd week). ↔  Down one spot on the paperback list.  Up to #25 on the Combined Hardcover and Paperback Fiction list, #30 on the Combined Print & E-book Fiction list.

Children’s Chapter Books

#1.  A WORLD WITHOUT HEROES, by Brandon Mull (1st week). The first in Mull’s Beyonders trilogy debuts at #1, his first time to have a #1 novel.

#10. MATCHED, by Ally Condie (14th week).  ↑ Back on the list after being off for two weeks.

Children’s Series:

#9 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephanie Meyer (189th week). ↔

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 Borrowed Light by Carla Kelly

9 Abish: Mother of Faith by K.C. Grant NEW

10 Millennial Glory, Vol. 10: Adam-Ondi-Ahman by Wendie L. Edwards NEW

11. The Book of Malchus by Neil Newell, William Hamblin

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13 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, April 1, 2011

  1. Saw Jane Austen’s PERSUASION (adapted by Melissa Leilani Larson for the stage) last week at the BYU Pardoe Theater and absolutely loved it. Amazing and touching. As an Austen lover, I was very pleased by all of it. Mel did a wonderful job recreating a complicated story with elegance and economy.

  2. Shelah Miner says:

    If my review of Finding Mercie came off as slightly unfavorable, then I was being too nice. I think it’s a travesty that it ended up as a finalist and Lonely Polygamist wasn’t nominated. Of the categories I’ve read, I found the general category to be the weakest. I’ve finished 4.5 of the 5 general category books and none of them holds a candle to Lonely Polygamist.

  3. Jonathan Langford says:

    A minor technical correction: Finding Mercie is apparently a Whitney Award finalist, not a nominee. As I understand it, any eligible novel can be nominated with 5 recommendations from readers not connected to the publishing of the book. For each category, a panel of judges then reads all the nominees and picks 5 finalists.

  4. Darlene says:

    Andrew, I sure appreciate your work.

  5. Jonathan Langford says:

    What Darlene said. I like especially that in addition to providing links, you also give a “what it means” summary up front. This fills an otherwise completely unfilled niche with regard to letting people know what’s going on in Mormon letters, and I for one am quite grateful, even when I don’t find anything to say in comment.

  6. Shelah says:

    Sorry about that, Jonathan. That’s what I get for trying to grade papers, referee kids, and comment on blogs at the same time. I’m sure LP was nominated, but it bugs that it wasn’t a finalist. :)

    • Jonathan Langford says:

      Actually, my comment was in response to Andrew’s original writeup. Apparently you made your comment before mine, but I made mine before yours went up… Ah, the wonders of online conversation!

  7. Lisa Torcasso Downing says:

    I enjoyed perusing OSC poetry magazine. Wouldn’t have known it existed w/o you, Andrew.

  8. Pingback: “WWJD” Press | New Play Project

  9. Yes, I am a priest but also a writer … and a few other things. No, I am not a member of the LDS community but my grandson is active and committed. I may write about the impact of his religious choices and the real ways it affected his extended family. Some of us have learned a lot about LDS beliefs and church life and some of us refuse to learn anything except to become more sophisticated in bigotry. And that is just a twigger of my story. But as to your organization … It is good to see the rich diversity of subjects, styles and personalities who identify as Mormons and as writers. My advice? Tell the truth when you write. I am not speaking about the difference between fiction and non fiction but rather speaking in reference to authenticity, genre’ and flavor. Interest in Arts and Humanities departments is on the positive upswing all across the country. Be happy about that. Also be encouraged that religion is not just about religion but all of life lived and imagined! Blessings to the creative process and those dare to muse!

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