This Week in Mormon Literature, June 2, 2012

This fortnight there are several new short stories, a poem by Steven Peck that you should not miss, the England Personal Essay Contest winners, Dialogue’s Best of 2011, and Jennifer A. Nielsen’s much-ballyhooed YA fantasy gets a high profile (although negative) review in the New York Times. Please send any suggestions or announcements to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Magazines, Short Stories, and Poetry

Neither of the LDS nominees, Brad Torgersen and Nancy Fulda, won a Nebula Award. Fulda’s short story “Movement,” however, won an Asimov’s Readers’ Award, which was presented the same weekend.

Fulda had an interesting interview with an evangelical SF author who asked her lots of questions about being a Mormon author. Nancy, in her Facebook post about the interview, said, “I offer an alternative to Howard Tayler’s Meme in a Monoculture theory, albeit in passing, and without actually referencing Howard’s original post.”

Brad Torgersen has a new story, “The Curse of Sally Tincakes,” which was the cover story in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show #28, May 2012. It is about racers and a racing track on the moon. Torgersen also was interviewed a bunch lately.

Steven L. Peck continues his fictional study of early 20th Century poet Gilda Trillim with the poem “My Turn on Earth.” It is an amazing, fun, inspiring piece about the creation and the plan of salvation, mixing the Pearl of Great Price, evolutionary science, and limericks. Well, all kinds of poetic styles. Not to be missed.

The Larry Menlove online story “Touchstone” is listed as one of the Notable (online) Stories of 2001 in the Million Writers Award.

Courtney Miller Santo. “Wind Gap,” Memphis Magazine, June 2012. Grand-prize winner of the 2011 Memphis Magazine Fiction Contest.  She teaches at the University of Memphis Department of English.

James Goldberg’s short story “Rite of Passage,” about Mormon masculinity, is at Everyday Mormon Writers.

Eric James Stone’s humorous horror story “Nine Tenths of the Law,” about zombies and lawyers, is now available in Blood Lite III: Aftertaste, edited by Kevin J. Anderson. Also, Stone’s “A Great Destiny” is available at Everyday Mormon Writer. A fallen king and the prophet who influenced his choices discuss prophesy. The story previously appeared in Daily Science Fiction.

The 2012 England Personal Essay Contest Winners were announced by Sunstone Magazine. It is different from Ireantum’s Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest. The deadline for that 2012 contest is May 31

1st Place: “The Living and the Telling,” by Lisa Torcasso Downing. 2nd Place: “On Understanding,” by Travis Washburn 3rd Place: “Hosannas at Glide Memorial Church,” by Bob Rees

Honorable Mentions: “With Desire Have I Desired to Wrestle this Wrestle,” by Harlow Soderborg Clark, “Lessons in Mormon Modernism, or How I Learned to Love the Provo and Ogden Temples,” by Alan B. Barnett

Dialogue: Journal of Mormon Thought‘s Annual Awards, 2011 were announced by editor Kristine Haglund. The award winning pieces, all of which were published in 2011 issues of Dialogue, are available for a $5.00 package download. The winning pieces include:

For Fiction: David G. Pace, “American Trinity”–Summer.

For Poetry: Anna Taylor Lewis, “Dishes”–Fall, Matt Nagel, “Blessing My Son”–Fall, Paul Swenson, “Marginalia”–Spring.

For Personal Voices: Scott Davis, “The Fabulous Jesus: A Heresy of Reconciliation”–Fall, and for “From the Pulpit”: Paul Reeve “That the Glory of God Might be Manifest”–Spring.

Fiction Award Citation: “David Pace tells the story of one of the Three Nephites, grown weary of his immortality and longing for the close relationship he had with Jesus during Jesus’ life. There are funny moments–two of the Three sipping wine and eating oysters, chuckling about the third who is probably out in the desert eating locusts “on principle”–but at its core is a poignant, tragic, and utterly Mormon Jesus, deeply loved and barely understood by his tired disciples.” “American Trinity” also won the Association for Mormon Letters’ Award for the best short story of 2011.”

Poetry Award Citiation: “There was an embarrassment of riches in the poetry sections this year, and we were unable to choose just one poem. Anna Lewis’ poem about Jesus stopping by to wash the dishes now hangs next to my sink and this stanza, particularly, makes me happy every single day:

“He rolled up his sleeves to the elbow
and did the pots first.
He splashed water everywhere,
I mean everywhere.
It almost makes you think
that the Flood
wasn’t so much a punishment
as a big accident.”

And this!

“And he sang.
He has quite a good singing voice.
It wasn’t quite what I expected.
After watching him
slap a pot a few times to the beat,
I asked if he was a Southern Baptist.

That really killed him.
He has a laugh like Santa Claus.
He didn’t answer, though.”

And Matthew Nagel’s poem about blessing his son recognizes the promised blessings as contingent on his child’s agency, while affirming that their love is not contingent on shared belief:

“I will remember that
I am bound to my neighbors by beautiful covenants
and appointments on the damn Cub Scout calendar
but our bond is blood
and name

and ten million minutes together
chasing you chasing me
just to be with you
I don’t care where
just to be with you
I will follow you if you don’t
follow me”

Sadly, the award for Paul Swenson comes posthumously, as he died earlier this year. Stephen Carter, his nephew (and the editor of Sunstone) wrote a beautiful tribute–go read it. Then read his short, perfect poem, Marginalia (and read it aloud!!):

“Does the margin ail you? Scary edge of things,
where fools barely cling to normal, fail
to hug the middle. Do they bug you—out there
on the ledge beyond the pale? Ugly,

should they all at once fall off—or worse,
coerce you to rehearse a crawl toward the brink
yourself. Anxious, on your shelf of false
security, do you think of all the borders

you have crossed, from found to lost,
from large to small, from boss to marginal,
so you no longer were in charge? As the mangy
herd roared by, you ate their dust. Was it

death-lust spurred you back into the chase
to claim your place in the stampede? Bleed a little,
if you must, but from your vantage in the middle,
observe the riders on the edge who turn the herd.””

News, Blog Posts, and Podcasts

Everyday Mormon Writer is holding a Four Centuries of Mormon Stories Fiction & Art Contest. “This summer, we’re soliciting fiction and artwork depicting Latter-day Saints in the 19th, 20th, 21st, and 22nd centuries. We want works that are easy for our online audience to process. For writing, that means we prefer works under 1,000 words. For art, we want pieces that look good at around 500-600 pixels in either dimension. We’re projecting a contest deadline in early September with finalists running in late September and October.”

Voting has begun for Wilderness Interface Zone’s 2012 Spring Poetry Runoff. Voting is going on until June 5. You can vote here.

At A Motley Vision, Mahonri Stewart positively reviews Eric James Stone’s “That Leviathan, Whom Thou Hast Made” in Monsters and Mormons, but a roaring conversation about dismissive attitudes towards genre fiction and review voice breaks out. William Morris in “Mormon storytelling and enduring to the end” talks about writing about writing about Mormons after the headline moments (conversion, mission, marriage) are over. He also interviews Chris Coy about his music website Kent Larsen investigates “Mormon Literature 175 Years Ago — 1837” and finds there wasn’t much (most may have been too busy dealing with mobs), and provides a Sunday Lit Crit Sermon: Heber J. Grant quoting David Starr Jordan in 1914.

Playwright Eric Samuelson is interviewed by Steven Kapp Perry at The Cricket and Seagull podcast. “Samuelsen talks about his background in the arts and shares some eye-opening ideas about what expressions of the human soul can mean to someone with the gospel in their lives and the willingness to take a second look.”

Chris Bigelow tells about agent reactions to his memoir in Agent Rejection and Starting Over.

Kenny Kemp’s The Wise Man Returns received the Independent Publisher Book Awards: Gold Medal for Religious Fiction.

David Farland’s Nightingale won the International Book Award for Best Young Adult Fiction.

Artist J. Kirk Richards gives “My Thoughts on Spencer W. Kimball’s Gospel Vision of the Arts.”

DanH at Modern Mormon Men introduces “Four Portraits of Polygamy”, discussing the way polygamy is presented in Sister Wives, The Giant Joshua, The Lonely Polygamist, and Big Love.

Dan Wells’ dystopian novel Partials was discussed in a Slate article about three YA novels that have future reproductive rights as themes. Also, here is an interview with Wells about the science in Partials.

Be sure to read the personal essay “Seeing Stars”, by Kathryn Lynard Soper. Times and Seasons. Four parts. It was originally published in Irreantum as an entry for the 2011 Charlotte and Eugene England Personal Essay Contest.

From the Vaults: Nephi Anderson’s “The Straw”. A 1922 short story from The Improvement Era, unearthed by Scott Hales.

“Replacement”, by Clarence Edwin Flynn. A poem from 1943. Keepatitchinin.

New Books

Kathryn Gilmore. Two Days of a Dream. Sanguine Publishing, May. Romantic fantasy. A young woman finds she travels in her dreams to visit a soldier in Iraq. First novel.

Dean Hughes. The Winds and the Waves. Deseret, May. Come to Zion, vol. 1. Historical fiction.  A story of a 19th century poor English tenant farmer and his family converted by Wilford Woodruff. It is woven in with a story of a modern-day descendent of the protagonist, who is inspired by his ancestor’s story. The first of what will probably be a trilogy. The next volume will be set in Nauvoo. This is Hughes’ 99th book, going back to 1979. Here is a video produced by Deseret Book celebrating the 99th book, with Hughes showing his writing office, and some important items he has acquired over the years.

Laurisa White Reyes. The Rock of Invanore. Tanglewood Press, May 21. First in “The Celestine Chronicles.” Middle reader fantasy, coming-of-age quest. First novel. Tanglewood is a small children’s book press in Indiana.

Publishers Weekly review: “White tells readers that her debut novel, first in the Celestine Chronicles series, began as a bedtime story for one of her sons, and its speech rhythms and bite-size chapters certainly hearken to the oral storytelling tradition . . . This is an old-school quest fantasy, but Marcus is a hero who engages challenges in a way that is both human and admirable, and readers will love the bizarre and sometimes deadly creatures that he must overcome.”

Kirkus Reviews: “Another paint-by-numbers quest fantasy that (surprise!) kicks off a series. Neglecting to spare any significant roles for females in her unmanageably large cast, Reyes sends an old wizard’s young apprentice and five other boys on a ritual quest that all 14-year-old boys on the Isle of Imaness must take . . . Even attentive readers will have trouble keeping track of who is where as the characters scramble about amid a blizzard of choppy chapters and shifting points of view. Closing with revelations about hidden siblings and parentage that are not only predictable but telegraphed, this anemic tale is free of both suspense and surprise. An irascible talking wizard’s staff is the only memorable element in this otherwise trite outing.”

Anita Stansfield. The Wishing Garden. Covenant, May 1. Contemporary romance. Stansfield returns to contemporary Mormon romance, after several historical novels. A dejected mother seeks to rebuild her life after an accident kills her husband and daughter. Sheis forced to live with her cruel, bigoted, and dying father. She meets a fine Mormon man with a troubled past.

Melissa DeMoux, Deseret News review: “It highlights Stansfield’s love of exploring her characters’ emotions and underlying motivations. The book is full of deep sentiment, and romantics will be absorbed by the heartache Mary and Whit have each battled. The characters are lovable and interesting, making them easy to follow. While the story does seem a bit slow to develop, the angst and loathing provided by Mary’s father pull readers to her defense, truly drawing them into the book. Once the action picks up, the tale gallops through twists and intriguing turns involving not only romance but assault, gang turf wars and courtroom drama.”

Reviews of older books

John Borrowman. Steamship to Zion (Branden Hunt, Deseret News). “Author Jerry Borrowman expertly weaves historic figures and factual events throughout the novel in a natural way, which adds a very good sense of realism to his characters and the story. The characters are likeable and believable and the readers will find themselves rooting, crying and cheering for them by the end of the book.”

Joanna Brooks. The Book of Mormon Girl (Blair Hodges, AML). A very long, detailed review. “I’m happy to see Brooks in the public sphere discussing her faith, and discussing our faith, and helping various stressed out journalists piece together stories about religion in the face of an increasingly interesting political campaign, or popping in and out of various podcast episodes. When we share our Mormon stories, as with the sharing of most stories, we demand something of each other, question each other, uplift each other, inspire each other, discomfit each other. The best stories tend to lure and invite us, rather than force. Brooks imperfectly but respectably walks this line. In this review I emphasized the need to read works like Brooks’s with sympathetic but discerning eyes. I tried to call attention to a few of the gaps I saw in her narrative, in addition to showing appreciation for some of her social criticism.”

Anna Jones Buttimore. No Escape (Tristi Pinkston, AML). “Buttimore lived in Wales for seventeen years and now lives in England, so her ability to place the reader in the scene is right on. She knows what she’s talking about, from the language to the customs to the landscape, and it makes for a truly unique read . . . Readers who are more accustomed to American books might find the pace a bit different – British books of this nature do use more description and are perhaps slower to get started, but that is a style that is very indicative of the different countries’ cultures and literary expectations. There were a few things that didn’t quite resonate with me. I wanted more from Michael’s point of view as he makes the decision to guard Catrin personally. We see that from her perspective, and I felt a lack in knowing his thoughts and feelings about that choice . . . All in all, I found “No Escape” a captivating read and I recommend it, especially if you would enjoy a book with the rich flavor of another place and a different pace of life.”

Julianne Donaldson. Edenbrooke (Karen Hamilton, AML). “Donaldson has a fine and very rare gift in her storytelling. She has woven a rich tapestry as the background for this book . . . This is a fantastic read . . . While it is a romance, there is absolutely nothing in here that I would not want my daughters to read. This is a G rated romance story — as it says on the cover, “A Proper Romance.” I was thrilled to read and add this book to our family library.”

Sarah M. Eden. Friends and Foes (Gamila’s Reviews). “I really loved this novel. I adored the witty and funny dialogue between the characters . . . I thought Eden did really well with showing how the characters came to like one another despite the fact they started their relationship out bickering with one another . . . I would totally recommend this book to those that like a good regency or historical romance.”

Michelle Paige Holmes. My Lucky Stars (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Tara is a great character who goes from extremely unlikable to a truly sympathetic character, working hard to change her life. Ben does some changing too, but he doesn’t play as prominent a role as Tara in the book so we don’t see his problems or his changes taking place as up close as we do hers. Holmes shows more of her religious convictions in this book than we’ve seen in her previous books, and though Tara does some soul searching concerning spiritual concepts, these scenes are handled well and don’t become preachy. My Lucky Stars is a romance novel and the development of the love story follows the expected formula, but the twists and turns, the bumps and misunderstandings, are fun to follow. Romance and general fiction fans will find this book a satisfying read.”

Melanie Jacobson. Twitterpated (Bookworm Nation). “I thought it was a fun lighthearted read; it was a nice break from all the Regencies I’ve been reading lately . . . I also thought the end all wrapped up a little quickly and considering the book takes place over a three-ish week period, I thought it was all a little too fast. Overall, I really enjoyed it, it’s a nice break.”

Gregg Luke. Bloodborne (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) C-. “In general, I like medical-type thrillers and one set in Utah—which seems (though maybe just to outsiders) to be the most placid place on Earth—sounded especially intriguing to me. Unfortunately, Bloodborne just … isn’t. The story could have been very compelling, but it gets bogged down by cliché characters, contrived situations, plot holes the size of Alaska, and a whole lot of telling vs. showing. If I hadn’t been reading it for the Whitney Awards, I would have put Bloodborne down without reading past the first chapter. Sad, but true.”

Jennifer A. Nielsen. The False Prince. (Adam Gopnik, New York Times Book Review). “Fantasy fiction for younger readers these days bends either toward the whimsical and inventive or the dark and fatalistic . . . “The False Prince” . . . is entirely an instance of the Spooky. A grim story that takes an occasional, though only very occasional, mordant turn, it tells how four orphaned boys are captured and kept hostage in the austere medieval kingdom . . . The central drama lies in the contest of wills between Sage, the most defiant of the orphans, and the cruel but (we are led to believe) essentially virtuous Conner, who may be brutal but is trying to keep the kingdom from civil war, fomented by Lord Santhias Veldergreth. (And if you do not suss out at the first mention that Veldergreth is a bad ’un, you have not read spooky pseudo-medieval fantasies.) . . . Written in the short, succinct paragraphs and cliffhanger chapter endings recommended by professional children’s book writers, “The False Prince” has a surprisingly vague sense of place and particulars. “Conner’s office was lined with shelves full of books and the occasional bust or trinket. Near the back of the room, he had a massive desk that faced the door, and two comfortable chairs faced the desk. It made me wonder if he had a business through which he earned his own money.” And an extremely cool plot twist near the climax is related in a similarly pedestrian manner: key, missing information suddenly offered in third-person, “here’s what you didn’t know” narration, while the fantasy world throughout seems to lie flat on a map with Scrabble names, rather than being realized in full. The book’s virtues are that it has a story, and a hero with a persuasively surly and defiant character, and a realistic vein of violence. There’s more cruelty than one used to expect in this kind of tale, lending the story credibility. Sage is flogged in a dungeon till he bleeds, and several uneasy sections describe the dressing of his wounds. Meanwhile, an early loser in the “who-wants-to-be-prince” contest is brutally murdered by the organizers. A post-“Hunger Games” inflation of effects has set in; it was once enough to have the villain beat a child to make him a villain; now we need blood, wounds and a mounting body count. “The False Prince” is a page turner, certainly, but not what we might call a page ­earner — a book that makes the effort of reading worth the getting to the end. The absence of a fully furnished world keeps this particular page turner from lingering very long after the book is closed . . . If “The False Prince” with its short paragraphs and clear climaxes works as it is read, it also makes one realize that good fantasies, like good novels, obtain their longevity through what lies beyond the story. (Recall how lurid and coarse Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” films felt with Tolkien’s sense of lore and history replaced by ghastly orc makeup and C.G.I. wolves.) It’s not simply that a book with jokes should have spooks as well, nor that the spooks and jokes should necessarily be mixed together. It’s more that the reader shouldn’t be sure, upon entering the precincts of fantasyland, where the stress will fall — and whether the next page will bring laughter or fear.”

Emily Pearson’s Dancing with Crazy and Joanna Brooks’ Confessions of a Mormon Girl. Two memoirs reviewed by Chris Bigelow.

Luisa Perkins. Dispirited (Scott Parkin, AML). A detailed review, Scott talks about the books as general market thriller, as Mormon story, and as LDS publishing state of the art. “As a general market thriller this book does a creditable job . . . This is a fun, well-told, nicely-paced story that succeeds on its own terms. I recommend it as a solid supernatural thriller that builds good tension with a minimum of gore, while presenting some story elements of particular interest to Mormon audiences . . . For my dime this novel is a prime example of one way to successfully introduce specifically Mormon ideas in a natural, skillful way that fully qualifies it as a member of the broad Mo-Lit canon while also appealing to general audiences . . . I found “Dispirited” to be a solid novel that competes favorably with any supernatural thriller on my bookshelf. While there are always matters of taste or individual preference, this book is a solid offering that deserves wide readership. The story succeeds on its own terms while delivering special gems for Mormon readers. A quality offering that I heartily recommend to anyone.”

Anne Perry. Acceptable Loss (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books) B. “The subject of this novel is repugnant. So much so that, at times, it made me feel physically ill, even though Perry steers away from describing all the lurid details of the so-called “pleasure” boats. Still, she gives enough of it and implies enough of it for readers to get the whole, sickening picture . . . In spite of its distressing topic, it’s an enthralling read . . . Perry creates deep, interesting characters; vivid, carefully-drawn settings; and a plot twists that are unexpected, but masterfully executed (the Epilogue of this book is an especially brilliant example). So, while Acceptable Loss is disturbing in the extreme, it’s also a rich, compelling story that satisfies almost as much as it unsettles. I’m not going to say I loved it, but it definitely pulled me in and kept me turning pages because I had to know how it ended. And, let me say, it ended well, my friends. Very, very well.”

Clair Poulson, Switchback (Mike Whitmer, Deseret News). “Poulson has crafted a new, interesting young character in Rocky Revada. At age 32, he’s a young man who is single and morally upright, but often hampered by personal self-doubts, despite his outward swagger. His insecurities seem to get in the way of pursuing any type of relationship, but the chemistry between Rocky and Shanice is delicately played and allowed to progress in a way that the love story is not overly sweet or dramatic.”

Paul Rimmasch, The Lost Stones. A feature article at the Standard-Examiner.

Douglas Thayer. Wasatch: Mormon Stories and a Novella (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World). “Thayerian heroes [are often] boys who learn all too quickly that the seemingly ordered and secure world around them can also be hostile and unforgiving—even with a loving God in heaven . . . The collection explores the fragile psyche of Mormon men—arguably Thayer’s uber-theme—through the author’s trademark concise, understated sentences. Absent, however, are the heedless, domineering patriarchs, those stereotypical brutes—think Robert Hodgsen Van Wagoner’s “Father” in Dancing Naked—so prevalent in fiction about Mormons. Thayer’s men feel largely inadequate, wearing their prescribed gender role like an ill-fitting shirt. Or, they feel out of place and time, as if the most important part of their life has somehow slipped away from them, passed unnoticed, leaving them disoriented and nostalgic for the person they once had been . . . Like any greatest hits album, Wasatch is neither Thayer’s best work nor his most innovative. It is, however, predictably good because Thayer’s work has consistently been that way . . . He is twentieth-century Mormonism’s greatest literary chronicler, and the Mormon people–particularly the men he so earnestly and honestly portrays–are better because of him.”

Brady Udall. The Lonely Polygamist (Christina, The Blue Bookcase) “I really disliked the first half of this book; I had to make myself listen to it. I found all the characters interesting and unusual, but also pathetic and tiresome. The story, such as it was, didn’t seem to have much continuity or forward momentum, and I had trouble relating the characters’ different points of view to one another. And I just don’t share the author’s sense of humor. There are LOTS of bodily functions in this book: people having to pee, sneezing, passing gas, hiding erections, etc. But then, out of nowhere, comes this masterful section about the testing of an atomic bomb called, in the book, “Roy.” The personification of the bomb itself, the weaving together of witness/victim stories (including some of the main characters in The Lonely Polygamist), the amazing deftness of the descriptions and the storytelling… I don’t often feel awe when I’m reading, but I did here. This chapter blew me away. It would make a beautiful story in itself, and it changed my attitude about the rest of the book. I can’t say I loved the second half of the book. Udall never let up with the bodily functions, and Golden in particular failed to move me at all. But as actual tragedies enter the story, the Richards family becomes a cohesive unit, fueled by shared motivations and a common past. I found myself thinking about the nature of family, and the way trauma can pull people together in subtle (and not so subtle) ways. So, overall, I can’t help but feel that the quality of The Lonely Polygamist is uneven, and while Brady Udall is unarguably an excellent writer with a smart, snappy style, he doesn’t quite live up to his potential with this particular book.”

Holly J. Wood. Inavaluable (Mindy, LDSWBR). 4 stars. “I enjoyed the characters and thought the author did a great job of incorporating the Young Woman values into a book . . . I would recommend this book to anyone with a daughter in YW’s or is interested in learning more about those amazing values. My 13 year old daughter couldn’t wait until I was done so she could read it. I love books that I can pass onto my girls, and this one is at the top of the list. As a mom, it is also a great reminder for me to get my daughter excited about personal progress. This book will do just that.”


Arabian Nights, BYU Pardoe Theater, through June 9. The production contains selections from Tony Award winning playwright and director Mary Zimmerman’s Arabian Nights. Zimmerman agreed to allow BYU to adapt her play to be more family-friendly, and the director, Megan Sanborn Jones, asked playwright Melissa Leilani Larson, to adapt one of the stories, “The Tale of Pearl-Harvest”.  Two of the other segments were adapted by students. The production is part of a year-long theme on campus of Islamic and Arabic culture. The play’s website includes a story contest.

UTBA review. “Appropriately for a show designed for young audiences, there were many funny parts to the play. Some of the funniest obviously coming from elements of improvisation that occurred during the formation of the piece. In the story “The Wonderful Bag,” a bag is found on the street. Two men are trying to convince another that the bag is theirs by telling what is inside. Such things as a fluffy cloud, a long hair from his big toe, and a rodent who runs a leisure park and wears red shorts and white gloves are said to be inside . . . I enjoyed the use of dance, music, and lighting to help enhance the storytelling. The dancing at the wedding was a whirling delight as the lights played off of the beautiful costumes (designed by Mary Farahnakian). The use of music, especially percussion instruments, was brilliant. Music was used as scenes transitioned and as accompaniment. Finger cymbals indicated a story was about to begin. The lighting (designed by Erin Bjorn) set different areas of focus by transitioning the lights from one acting area to another. All “scene changes” were merely lighting changes, movements of props, and costume changes. I especially appreciated that the musical instruments were authentic to the Middle East. Moreover, the Sufi ritual of whirling, an Arabic dance, was learned from award-winning choreographer Banafsheh Sayyad when she visited campus earlier this year. The play is part of a theme on campus this year, as BYU Theatre continues its participation in the national conversation about Islamic and Arabic culture. There have been guest artists and lectures this year to explore the heritage of the Middle East. What a wonderful culmination of the dialogue this production is. And what a great message,” Telling a good story can save your life!”

Deseret News review. “It’s a sumptuous-looking show, and the play is an excellent choice to allow performers to stretch their acting abilities as they take on nearly 1,001 onstage characters . . . The ensemble works well together, but only brief segments of the stories truly transport theatergoers on a magic-carpet-ride adventure.”

James Goldberg’s The Valiant Chattee-Maker, a new work, will have a reading on Wednesday, June 6, 7:00 PM, at the Orem Public Library. The blurb reads, “Everybody hates the rain. The people hate it, the donkeys hate it, even the tigers hate the rain. But in this mad-cap, Marx-brothers-influenced retelling of an old Indian folktale, the rain sets off a chain of events that take one humble pot-maker from danger to danger and adventure to adventure in a comedy the whole family can enjoy.”

Matthew Greene’s Adam and Steve and the Empty Sea has been included in Plan-B Theater’s (SLC) upcoming season. It will be produced January 31-February 10, 2013. “Two childhood friends grapple with religion, sexuality and adulthood.” Greene talks about the genesis of the play here. The play had a Plan-B table read in July 2011.

Another play by Greene, #MormonInChief, will be performed at the New York International Fringe Festival, August 10 through 26. “Conner becomes the center of a national media frenzy when he tweets the inflammatory remarks of a Mormon presidential candidate during a Mormon church meeting. When Lydia, an ambitious reporter, comes to his house to get the scoop, both learn what faith really means to them. Part religion, part politics, all red tape, #MormonInChief exposes the only thing left that the “me generation” can believe.”


Virginia, directed by Dustin Lance Black, and starring Jennifer Connelly, Ed Harris, and Emma Roberts, was given a (very) limited release on May 19. Virginia is a schizophrenic womea who has an affair with a local Mormon politician. It is semiautobiographical, as Black grew up in a Mormon family with a history of schizophrenia. Black recut it after it received a terrible reception at a 2010 Toronto International Film Festival screening. Rated R. The reedited version has also received poor reviews. It currently has a 5% “fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Only 1 reviewer out of 21 was positive about the film. NY Times: “Schizophrenia may be an appropriate subject for a melodrama. But it is calamitous in “Virginia,” which keeps you off balance as its tone zigzags among farce, pathos and satire. Scenes that are meant to be funny are laugh-free. The spoofing of Southern gun-waving and Mormon piety is too broad to register. Long before the end of the film’s 111-minute running time, I was exhausted by a story that seemed to be chasing itself in circles in a futile attempt to decide what it is and what it wants to say.”   

Movieline: 5/10. “[The Mormon sheriff] Tipton is a hypocrite who does some awful things as the film goes on (“This life is a grain of sand in time and it’s the next life that counts — then we’ll all be together,” he says to Virginia when he ends things with her, a line lifted from Black’s own childhood and a truly [terrible], sanctimonious thing to say to someone you’re abandoning). The film’s other glances toward Mormonism, including a visit from two young missionaries, are more kitschy, seemingly there more to make it clear that Tipton’s not representative of the entire religion than for any particular purpose. Faith becomes another of the film’s unemulsified ingredients . . . With its imagery of amusement park rides and idle seasonal jobs, Atlantic City weddings and thwarted small-town robberies, Virginia is like a box full of someone’s long ago summer vacation keepsakes: pretty, but representative of memories and meaning no one else will be able to grasp.”


New York Times Bestseller Lists, June 3rd and June 10th.  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

#12, #15 THE ROAD TO GRACE, by Richard Paul Evans (3rd week). Down from #4. On the Combined Fiction (hardcover + paperback) list it was #27, then fell off. Dropped off the Ebook list and the Combined Print and Ebook list. Off the USA Today list after two weeks.

Mass Market Paperbacks

#23, #14 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card. Sixth week on the main (#20 and higher) list. Up from #29. #142 on the USA Today list. I have seen it said that this is the best-selling science fiction novel of all time, beating out Dune. This does not, of course, include fantasy novels, of which there are several other better-selling books.

Children’s Paperback

#6, #7 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (36th week).

Children’s Series

#8, #9 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (24th week).

Deseret Book bestsellers

  1. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
  2. Come to Zion, Vol. 1: The Winds and the Waves by Dean Hughes NEW
  3. The Wishing Garden by Anita Stansfield NEW
  4. Switchback by Clair M. Poulson NEW
  5. The Newport Ladies Book Club: Daisy by Josi S. Kilpack NEW
  6. Letters in the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears
  7. Passage on the Titanic by Anita Stansfield
  8. Murder by the Way by Betsy Brannon Green
  9. Banana Split by Josi S. Kilpack
  10. Caller ID by Rachelle Christensen
  11. The Heirs of Southbridge by Jennie Hansen
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4 Responses to This Week in Mormon Literature, June 2, 2012

  1. Patricia K says:

    Thanks for including a link to WIZ’s Spring Poetry Runoff vote, Andrew.

  2. Andrew Hall says:

    I added information about the June 6 reading in Orem of James Goldberg’s play “The Valiant Chattee-Maker”, James’ new short story, and the best seller stats.

  3. Andrew Hall says:

    And a podcast interview of Eric Samuelsen by Steven Kapp Perry.

  4. If you haven’t gone over to vote in wilderness interface zone, now’s a good time to make a difference… about five poems within a few votes of each other clustered at the top.

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