This Week in Mormon Literature, Dec. 17 2011

This week we have discussions of some of the greatest Mormon short stories, a new small publisher, a sweet memoir of a non-Mormon in Cedar City, This Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night, and Farley Family Xmas. Time to go to the Ward activity, Merry Christmas! Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and Articles

At A Motley Vision Theric Jepson is leading a discussion about the short stories in the 1992 anthology Bright Angels and Familiars. The anthology was an attempt to collect representatives of the best Mormon short fiction up to that time, it should be essential reading for all literature-heads. All of the stories are available to be read on-line, so all can easily participate in the discussion. The stories are placed in chronological order, so the discussion starts with mid-20th century “Lost Generation” stories “Where Nothing is Long Ago” by Virginia Sorensen, and “They Did Go Forth” by Maureen Whipple.   

“B. H. Roberts on ‘Legitimate Fiction’ and Social Reform” (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World). Excerpts and a discussion of an 1889 essay by B. H. Roberts, from The Contributor.  The essay was a passionate plea for the legitimacy of fiction in the Latter-day Saint life. “The dry facts of a theory respecting social reform must be made to live in persons and work out the results desired,” he argued, and fiction, more so than “a lengthy homily from the church on the subject,” was the way to make them live!

Several interesting posts here at Dawning of a Brighter Day, including Therese Doucet’s introduction of her new publishing venture in Publisher’s Corner: Strange Violin Editions. If there were a Jeff Needle Award for Service to Mormon literature by a Non-member, Therese would be in the running.

A new issue of Provo Orem Word, December 2011. It includes a republication of Douglas Thayer’s classic story “The Red-Tailed Hawk,” and Eric Samuelsen reviews of the Covey Center production of Medea and the movie Moneyball.


[I missed this in the original post] This Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long, produced by The Sting and Honey Company, plays at The Leona Wagner Black Box at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center, in Salt Lake City, December 16th and 17th. It is the nativity story, told through music, mask, movement, and poetry, created by The Sting and Honey Company Artistic Director Javen Tanner. Tanner, who is also one of the artistic directors at the NYC Handcart Ensemble, has been teaching at The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah, and has been putting Christmastime performances of This Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long there since 2008. In 2010 he co-created The Sting and Honey Company.  Utah Theater Bloggers review: “The Sting and Honey Company is creating for themselves a reputation for producing high-quality work that pushes the bounds of modern theater in Utah, and this show continues to strengthen that reputation . . . [It] is a retelling of the Nativity story through a combination of music, mask, movement, and poetry. I say “created” rather than “written” because all of the text in the play comes from an assortment of poems by authors like Li-Young Lee, T.S. Eliot, Yeats, and Shakespeare mixed in with passages from the Gospel of Luke. Tanner has done a masterful job in blending some of the finest poetry in the English language with eloquent visual symbolism and captivating movement . . . One of my favorite scenes was “Mary Kept All These Things” and depicted the range of emotions Mary must have felt after learning of her divine calling. Two actresses were used for this expression: one represented Mary’s outward actions and appearance, the other her inner feelings—sometimes light and joyful, other times longingly reaching. Another beautiful scene was “The Birth” where Mary was surrounded by long, flowing swaths of fabric that were used in a variety of ways to tell the story and create some visually stunning tableaus in the process. Without a doubt, the most beautiful scene of the play is “The Christ”, where we finally see the culmination of all that made the Nativity story so important in the grand scheme of things: scenes from the life of Christ. I was deeply touched by this compelling portrait of Christ as a healer, teacher, sufferer, and King. This among other things is what sets this show apart from so many of the other shows this season. This show is all about Jesus Christ–the celebration of whose birth the Christmas season is allegedly about.  Again, Javen Tanner has done a masterful job in staging this show. I often felt like the compositions created were those of a master painter and that I was watching a living painting–which may have some truth to it. If it isn’t clear already, you should know that I really enjoyed this show, and wholeheartedly recommend that you go see it. At the same time, it isn’t for everyone. It’s a highly stylized, thought-provoking, and definitely requires you to use your brain in order to make the connections with the symbols and to follow the somewhat abstracted narrative. If you don’t like modern dance or modern art, then this modern play probably won’t be your cup of tea. But if you’re up for something different than seeing Tiny Tim hoisted on to Scrooge’s shoulders for the thousandth time, and looking to reconnect with the original story of Christmas in a new way, you should absolutely go to this show.”

James Arrington. Farley Family Xmas. UVU Ragan Theatre, Orem. Dec. 15, 16, 17 & 19. 7:30pm.  Salt Lake Tribune: “For some, the true dramatic event of the holiday is “The Farley Family Xmas,” James Arrington’s 1997 stage drama, played by anywhere from one to four actors portraying some 20 different characters. There’s nothing quite like it for laughs per line, and certainly nothing like seeing a playwright perform his own work, as Arrington will do for three night at Utah Valley University’s Ragan Theater. Arrington, a specialist of one-person shows and chair of UVU’s department for theatrical arts for stage and screen, is also the author of “Here’s Brother Brigham.””

Due to popular demand, The Covey Center in Provo added a December 17th matinee performance of Joyful Noise. Also, listen to the December 9th edition of Radio West, where the playwright Tim Slover talks about the life of Handel and the original production of the oratorio.

New Books

Bice, Prudence. The Kissing Tree. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, Dec. 8. Western historical romance.

Mindy, LDSWBR. 5 out of 5 stars. “I enjoyed this book immensely.  It was so well written.  I really enjoyed the point of view changes.  I liked seeing the way different characters saw the same situation.  The author did a great job of using flashbacks to tell the story too.  Each character has a history that is vital to the plot, and I never felt the flashbacks took me away from the story.”

Camp, Shannen Crane. The Break-up Artist. Cedar Fort, Dec. 8. YA/chic-lit. A girl specializes in helping couples break up, but then she falls in love.  First novel.

Cannon, Ann. Charlotte’s Rose. University of Utah Press, Oct. 1. Young adult historical fiction. The University of Utah Press has republished the 2002 AML Young Adult Novel award winning novel, which was originally published by Random House. Tells the story of a young Welsh girl, Charlotte Edwards, who, soon after her mother dies, sails with her father from England to the United States to become part of a company of Mormon handcart pioneers. While on the Mormon Trail, Charlotte befriends a young mother who later dies in childbirth. Though only 12 years old, Charlotte assumes responsibility for the infant and carries her to Utah. Over the course of their journey together, Charlotte becomes deeply attached to the baby she calls Rose, which makes Charlotte’s choice at the novel’s end particularly poignant.  Edwards gives Charlotte a wonderfully wry voice.

Gough, James. Cloak. WiDo Publishing, Nov. 15.  Middle Grade fantasy.  13-year old boy gets the ability to see the half-human, half-animal “enchants” (shape shifters) who have lived among us for centuries.  “Think Men in Black meets Fablehaven.”

Gowen, Karen. House of Diamonds. WiDo Publishing, Nov. 22.  General. Sequel to Uncut Diamonds (2009). The story of two women, one facing opportunity the other tragedy.

Stansfield, Anita. Shadows of Brierley, Vol. 3: In The Valley of the Mountains. Covenant, Nov. 4. Historical romance. Concludes the series.

Tayler, Randy. Mugging Leprechauns is Totally Legal. Self-published, Dec. 12. Blurb: “A compilation of hilarious, tweet-size thoughts that is perfect for a laugh during your spare moments. These brief quotes by writer and comedian Randy Tayler are reminiscent of Saturday Night Live’s “Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey”, and Randy’s single-panel cartoons, sprinkled throughout, have been compared to Gary Larson’s “The Far Side”. Not by anybody you know, but still, the comparison happened, and was most favorable.”

Tippits, E. M. Someone Else’s Fairytale. Self-published, December. Women’s fiction/romance. Tippits also publishes science fiction under the name Emily Mah.

Torero, Tamra. Molly Mormon. Cedar Fort, Dec. 8. 16-year old Mormon girl. Republication of a 2002 book, published under the name Tamra Norton.

Woods, Rebecca. Hannah of Silver Falls. Cedar Fort/Sweetwater, Dec. 8. Historical fiction/ YA romance.  Reprint of an older book.

Work, James C. Don’t Shoot the Gentile. University of Oklahoma Press, October 2011. Memoir/humor, set in Cedar City, where the non-Mormon Work taught at the College of Southern Utah in the 1960s. Work is author and editor of more than a dozen books, including the anthology Prose and Poetry of the American West and a collection of memoir essays, Windmills, the River and Dust: One Man’s West.

Kirkus Reviews: “A gently humorous take on the classic “stranger in a strange land” narrative as he details his transition from an upstart English major in the 1960s to the lone non-Mormon professor at the College of Southern Utah . . . Work came to respect his colleagues’ devotion to their faith as well as their industriousness and willingness to welcome an outsider. Musing on the prominence of deserts in religious mythology, he also explores the mystique of the Utah landscape and its powerful hold on the imagination, as well as the hidebound language that traditionally divides women’s accomplishments from men’s. Throughout this slim memoir, Work displays a genuine affection for his colleagues and neighbors that simultaneously allows him to spoof their eccentricities. Distinctly regional in tone yet universal in scope, the book offers a cozy homage to a more innocent time and place.”

Review by Lisa Torcasso Downing, AML. “In “Don’t Shoot the Gentile,” we find a charming and drop-dead funny memoir that treats small town, nuanced living with respect, candor, and delight. There is none of the political or social judgmentalism we often find lofting from the minds of contemporary humorists. Instead, we read about how a naïve young man was embraced by, and then embraced in return, the folksy intellectuals who tried their darnedest to navigate between their versions of rural and modernizing America. It’s a story of comfort and conflict, of differences that bond as tightly as similarities, of proof that honoring the “other” brings honor to the self. More importantly, it’s just plain fun. “Don’t Shoot the Gentile” is, when all is said and done, a delightful, insightful, witty and refreshing memoir that both Gentiles and Mormons alike will love.”

Reviews of Other Books

Jennie Hansen (Meridian Magazine) reviewed several Christmas books. They include Miracle of the Christmas Star by Susan Dean Elzey (“This story is beautifully written and conveys so well the feelings and despair of those seeking help, yet clinging to hope as they struggle with the realities of their less than perfect lives.”), Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett (“He does a masterful job of conveying Dickens’s style and language as he blends this new story with the original.”), A Christmas to Remember, a collection of true Christmas stories by assorted Covenant authors, and Angels Bending Near the Earth by Kerry Blair (“A favorite of mine that appeared in a collection of stories a few years ago but now is a separate skinny little booklet . . . the story of her own experience as a harried program director for the ward Christmas program who told a little girl she was an angel and the child assumed she’d been chosen to be an angel in the program.”)

Cold River, by Liz Adair (Mindy, at LDSWBR). 3 out of 5 stars. “I enjoyed what a great character Mandy was.  She is a great example of a smart lady trying to make things better for others.  At times, though, I was confused as to what type of book this was.  There wasn’t enough mystery for me. The author did do a great job of telling Mandy’s story, but there wasn’t enough action.  A friend later told me this was a romance, but the “romance’ didn’t come until there was about 50 pages left.  I did enjoy the characters, though.”

Geek Girl, by Cindy C. Bennett (Rowena, The Book Scoop). Grade: A. “This book was a lot better than I was expecting it to be. I mean, I went into this book thinking that I would get something cute and fluffy but what I got was a story about a girl who needed someone to be there for her. She needed some guidance and a family and whether she knew it or not, she was dying for a family of her own and a place to call home. In this book, we get all of that and more. Jen was one of those kids that you can’t help but adore. She was rough around the edges at the beginning but over the course of the book, you see her come out of her shell and find out who she really is and what she’s capable of . . . Her problems, her background and her past, they all felt so real. My favorite part of this book was of course, Trevor. Trevor was the kind of guy that anyone would want to be better for. He was kind and he was sweet and just nerdy enough to freaking love. He was the best part of this book for me. Another thing that I loved about this book was how well written it was. It’s not always perfect and sunshiny, when the crap hits the fan, it really hits the fan. When Trevor turns into a bonehead, he really turns into a bonehead and don’t even get me started on how dumb Jen was throughout a whole lot of this book but what I liked is that despite all of that, Cindy C. Bennett kept writing a story that I wanted to continue reading. She kept writing about characters that I wanted to know more.”

Rearview Mirror, by Stephanie Black (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Rearview Mirror is so full of psychological and emotional problems it may leave the reader wondering if any of the characters, the author, or the reader are completely sane . . . The suspense escalates slowly in Rearview Mirror with careful plotting and seemingly unimportant events until suddenly in the last third of the book the suspense is so riveting that even if the reader has guessed the identity of the murderer there are doubts and nearly every character in the book has wisps of suspicion like trailing clouds around him or her. Black makes full use of weather, light, sound, and all the elements that surround everyday life to create mood and an ambience of suspense.”

Huber Hill and the Dead Man’s Treasure, by B. K. Bostick (Deseret News). “Bostick certainly knows how to write action. However, the story gets off to a slow start as the reader is taken through several chapters of Huber’s school and home life. Perhaps it was an attempt at character depth, but Huber’s personal and family issues didn’t tie into the main plot enough to warrant so much focus. An intriguing prologue is the only thing that keeps the reader going for the first 50 pages. Thereafter, the pace picks up as the treasure hunt begins and the villain takes a more central role in the story. The villain, Juan Hernan Salazar, is the most exciting character of the novel. He is deeply drawn, and since the reader knows where he is coming from, it makes him feel all the more threatening, because we know not only what he’s capable of but why. He’s a frighteningly believable villain . . . The second half of the book is very thrilling with adventures and threats falling on top of each other, Indiana Jones style. Perhaps overcompensating for a slow beginning, Bostick tipped the scales in the other direction with almost too much action, as well as some pretty unfeasible plot elements. Huber Hill is the start of an adventurous series that both boys and girls will enjoy, but with a slow-moving first half, stilted dialogue and awkward writing throughout, it might be difficult for readers to immerse themselves enough to even get to the excitement.”

Miracle of the Christmas Star, by Susan Dean Elzey (Mindy at LDSWBR). 4 out of 5 stars. “This is a beautiful story of ever-lasting love, patience, and love. There were a couple times where I had tears in my eyes. I love a sweet story that tears at your heart strings. The ending was wonderful and worth the wait.”

Heart of a Hero, by Marie Higgins (Deseret News). “Isn’t a standard flowery romance. While maintaining a quick pace of adventure, this book charms the reader with humor and refreshing banter.”

Slayers, by C. J. Hill (Aimee, The Literate Mother). “This was an exciting, fun read from beginning to end.  My daughter actually got to this book before me.  She handed it back to me the next day and said, “this was a really good book, mom.  We should buy this book.  When is the next one coming out?”  I completely agree.”

Tiger’s Voyage, by Colleen Houck (Deseret News). “”Voyage” is full of details and descriptions that make the story vivid and easy to imagine. Possibly an indicator to her previous profession as a sign language interpreter, Houck crafts each scenario with words that show and tell. Houck’s attention to detail truly transports the reader into the sights, smells and sounds of each moment. Even though this story is about a romance, readers will find that “Voyage” offers much more than a love story. Houck uses Indian mythology, legend and culture to add depth and variety to her story. The Tiger’s series is a teen appropriate action-packed romance novel.”

Lit Fuse, by Mike McPheters (Deseret News). “A gut-wrenching novel that illustrates the battles against terrorism the United States fights on a continual basis.”  Also the feature story Mike McPheters is a FBI agent turned novelist.

Texting Through Time, by Christy Monson (Deseret News). “”Texting Through Time” is skillfully written by first-time author Christy Monson. Details are thoroughly researched, but Monson never forgets to keep the young reader in mind. The characters and dialog feel realistic and will make it easy for kids to relate to the story. There are spiritual lessons to be learned as well, and Monson keeps these moments age-appropriate and never preachy.”

Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo, by Obert Skye (Cindy, The Literate Mother). “This story uses quite a bit of imagination and would appeal to children in grades 5 through 8 in particular.  I did appreciate the absence of inappropriate language and sexual content, although the description of the negative people in the story seemed to associate them with being fat, lazy and unattractive, while thin people were kind and beautiful . . . It was good to read about individuals who came to know of their worth and potential and were willing to make the necessary sacrifices for the benefit of others.”

The Place of Knowing by Emma Lou Warner Thayne (Shelah Books It). 1996 “spiritual autobiography”. “I came to admire Thayne for her inclusiveness and her ability to see the spiritual in aspects of her life that many of us, plodding from meeting to meeting, checking scripture study and family prayer off our lists, do not make room in our schedules and our hearts for. I had to resist the urge to skip through the poetry– when I’m reading a story, I want to get on with the story, not stop to read a poem, but I found that when I did take the time to read the poems, I could usually see why Thayne felt that that particular poem said what she wanted to say better than prose would. The book jacket says that the book is for those “who desire a better understanding of his or her divine self” and through reading about Thayne’s experiences, I felt that I might be more open to including a greater variety of spiritual experiences in my own life.”

Paint Me True, by E. M. Tippits (Gamila’s Review). “So a couple years ago I read a new release by E.M Tippetts. Loved the cover, loved the story, loved the writing. Then I discovered that she had a falling out with her publisher over some contract details and I was sad because it didn’t look like I was going to read any books by her for a long time. So, I was thrilled when E.M. Tippetts contacted me to let me know that she had a new book out, Paint Me True. This time she had decided to indie-publish . . . The breakup scene was hilarious and I empathized more with Len than I did with Eliza, who really was a rather shallow thirty one-year-old. It was pretty obvious that she looked down on Len for some of his nerdy and sloppy habits. Still, despite the fact that it seemed like this guy hadn’t bought himself any new clothes since his mission his genuinely caring personality comes out. Therein lies the genius of this romance novel. Even when Eliza is in Britain dating a hot new doctor, the reader’s heart is commiserating with the lonely soft-hearted computer/gamer geek back in the states  . . . In this touching novel characters are painted with true and realistic personalities that make them memorable, lovable, and endearing.  I laughed out loud, felt the deep loneliness of the single life, and was strengthened by Eliza’s patient faith in the face incredible trial . . . I loved this book and I am thrilled that I get to read another LDS Fiction work by E.M. Tippetts again.”

Varient, by Robison Wells (Shelah Books It). Enjoyment level: 7/10. “While the story really picks up at the end, the middle third is slow– we see a lot of paintball, and not much else. I also think that the budding love stories should be built up more to justify Benson’s reactions to them. I’ll say this for Variant– it didn’t feel like a trilogy, or even like a “stand alone book with series potential” even after I finished it. I was a little bit confused by the ending, and by the potential love triangle it opened up, but it never felt like it was working its way toward more books. So I’m intrigued that Wells (like his brother Dan, whose first Monster book didn’t feel like part of a trilogy) has two more books in the works.”

The Last Archangel, by Michael Young (Deseret News). “An imaginative, engaging, well-written end-of-time novel. Xandir, an archangel exiled to Earth as a destroying angel, is trying to redeem himself for his past fence-sitting misbehavior . . . Someone who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints may read more into the story than others might, but the author said he did not write the book specifically for a Mormon audience.”


Release information for two films.

Unitards was picked up for distribution by Deseret Book-owned Excel Entertainment, and will be released in Intermountain West theaters on January 27, 2012.  Comedy, three odd-ball seniors are charged with the unenviable task of instilling school spirit back into their high school. They devise a plan to create an all-men’s dance team comprised of misfits and losers and call themselves UNITARDS. The film was directed, written, and produced by Scott Featherstone, an advertising director, who previously has made Same River Twice in 1996 and Return to the Secret Garden in 2000, as well as documentaries and the LDS Church films Love Thy Neighbor. It appears to be a family project, with Paul Featherstone producing, and staring Sam Featherstone (who is currently serving a mission) and several other Featherstones as high school kids. LDS film veteran Michael Buster appears as the principal.

Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed. A trailer has recently appeared, which claims a Summer 2012 release date. Directed by Ryan Little, and produced by Adam Able, who were the creators of the first Saints and Soldiers movie in 2004. Staring Corbin Allred (who starred in the first film as well, but plays a different character here), David Nibley (Best Two Years), Jason Wade (17 Miracles), and Lincoln Hoppe (The Singles Ward).  Screenplay by Lincoln Hoppe and Lamont Gray.  About a group of airborne troops who are dropped behind enemny lines in Europe in World War II. A sequel, I guess, but it is not clear if there are any connections in the film with the first movie.

A Christmas Wish, premired on The Hallmark Channel in Novemeber, and was released on DVD on December 6th. It is written and directed by Craig Clyde, and produced by Bryce Filmore and Halstorm president Dave Hunter. It stars Kristy Swanson, Edward Herrmann, and KC Clyde. Filmed in Mapleton. About a mother who has been abandoned by her husband, and finds work at a sleepy rural diner, where good things start to happen. At one point in its production it was called Root Beer Christmas.  It played at the LDS Film Festival in January 2011.  Chris Hicks (Deseret News) wroteClyde has written a sweet script with some clever dialogue and his direction has elicited performances that are much better than is typical of TV movies . . . He’s also made good use of outdoor locations (and real snow!) to evoke a sense of community in a small-town environment. And one more thing that makes “A Christmas Wish” stand out from the crowd is that it’s not afraid to invoke the birth of Jesus or the power of prayer, which far too many holiday films shy away from these days.

LDS Film Festival: The 2012 LDS Film Festival will take place from January 25-28, 2012 at the SCERA Center in Orem.


New York Times Bestseller lists, December 18th and December 25th  (I also note where the books are on the USA Today bestseller list, which lumps all books, hardcover, paperback, fiction, non-fiction, into one 150 book list.)

Hardcover Fiction

#15, #17 THE SNOW ANGEL, by Glenn Beck (7th week). Down from #11.  Fell off the Combined Print & E-book list.  #62 at USA Today.  Beck also has Being George Washington at #4 on the Non-fiction list.

#20, #27 LOST DECEMBER, by Richard Paul Evans (6th week). Down from #16. #80 at USA Today, about the same as last week.

THE ALLOY OF LAW, by Brandon Sanderson. Fell off the list after three weeks.

Trade Fiction Paperback

#16, #13 HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET, by Jamie Ford (71st week). Up from #26, we may never see it leave.

Children’s Chapter Books

#10, x CROSSED, by Ally Condie (5th week). Down from #5, and then fell off. Fell off the USA Today list after 5 weeks.

Children’s Paperback

#5, #5 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (12th week). Down from #1.

Children’s Series

#4, #7 THE TWILIGHT SAGA, by Stephenie Meyer (198th week).

Hardcover Graphic books

#2 TWILIGHT: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, VOL. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young C. Kim (8th week). Down from #1.


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6 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, Dec. 17 2011

  1. Wm Morris says:

    It’s Randy — not Howard. Howard authors the daily webcomic Schlock Mercenary.

  2. Andrew Hall says:

    Right, fixed it.

  3. Andrew Hall says:

    I failed to mention a theatrical event that has now come and gone. This Bird of Dawning Singeth All Night Long, produced by Javen Tanner and his The Sting and Honey Company, in Salt Lake City. It sounds like it was an amazing production. I added the details and a Utah Theater Bloggers review to the post.

    • Katya says:

      It does sound like an amazing production. Happily, it also sounds like it’s become an annual event, so those in the area may be able to catch it next year.

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