This Week in Mormon Literature, July 7, 2012

Several interesting new books this bi-week, including Dan Wells again mixing mental illness with fantasy/horror. Tracy Hickman produced two new books, one about Batman’s origins, and another about a dragon’s personal storyteller. A new author, D. J. Butler, is having pulpy fun with fantasy adventure tales, including a steampunk alternative history of the Utah War. Please send any news or updates to mormonlit@gmail.com.

News and Blog Posts

Veda Tebbs Hale’s Swell Suffering: A Biography of Maurine Whipple (Greg Kofford Books, 2011) won the Mormon History Association’s Ella Larsen Turner-Ella Ruth Turner Bergera Award for Best Biography.

Lisa Torcasso Downing. Wanted: A New and Improved Feminism. Lisa talks about being weary of Mormon feminist stories. “Mormon feminism in literature bores the Hades out of me. It feels so stuck in the 1970′s . . . The truth is, all humans struggle. And all that struggle is worthy of literary examination. Basically, I object to defining myself as a champion of my gender, perhaps partly because of the societal implication that, if I champion my own gender, I “must” do it at the expense of the other gender. Not interested in that.” Lisa uses stories by herself and Helen Walker Jones to illustrate her points.

Denis Agle on a recent writing retreat, where several artists met to work on polishing a screenplay version of Mahonri Stewart’s play Swallow the Sun.

Tyler Chadwick, Poetry of the Void: Melissa Dalton-Bradford’s “House for Rent”.

Heather Moore, “Several LDS authors pen Regency romance novels.” (Deseret News). Heather looks at the trend of Regency novels, and talks to several authors about why the books are popular among LDS. “Regencies emphasize themes such as love and values and family — not stressing over things we can’t control — which translates to money and titles and property in the Regency world. I marveled as the heroines battled against the “proper society views” and being criticized when they stood up for what was good and moral. It reminded me of life today in which I sometimes assume too quickly and judge too harshly. I thought of how I should become more compassionate and less concerned about “church images” and should strive to focus more on what really needs to be done in life. Perhaps some of this is why Regencies have struck a chord with LDS authors and now LDS readers.”

Dteeps tries to define MoLit at “On Mormon Literature”.

The Science of Allomancy in (Brandon Sanderson’s) Mistborn” at Tor.com.

Cathedral of Peace”, by Dorothy Clapp Robinson.  A serialized story from the Relief Society Magazine, 1939-40, being republished by Ardis E. Parshall at Keppatichinin. A ranching couple experiences marital difficulties.

The winners of the 2011 Utah Original Writing Competition read from their winning entries on June 27 at an event held at the Chase Home Museum of Utah Folk Arts in Liberty Park.  Winners included Lance E. Larsen for Poetry and Larkin G. Weyand for his collection of short stories

At A Motley Vision, Kent Larsen’s Sunday Lit Crit Sermons include Hugh B. Brown on seeing literature as case studies that we can apply to our own lives, and an 1832 editorial from the Evening and Morning Star on writing letters. Theric discusses contemporary Mormon reactions to the 1941 publication of The Giant Joshua. And Kent tries to create a flow chart of choices for Mormon summer reads.

Magazines and Short Stories

Eric James Stone, “Dark Roads for the Eternal Ruler”. June 29th short story at Daily Science Fiction

Sunstone Issue 167, June 2012, is now available. It includes the short story “L’hakshot”, by PD Mallamo, poetry by Mark Penny, Sarah Dunster, James Goldberg, Harlow Clark, and Bradley McLlwain, essays Reverencing Creation, by Steven L. Peckand Remember the Revolution: A Mormon Manifesto, by James Goldberg, and In Memoriam: Paul Swenson, by Stephen Carter.

New Books and their reviews

D. J. (Dave) Butler. Liahona: City of the Saints. Self ebook, June 25. Steampunk alternative history adventure.  First of four part “City of the Saints” series. Blurb: “Intelligence agents converge on the Kingdom of Deseret in the Rocky Mountains. Sam Clemens, leading the U.S. Army’s expedition aboard his amphibious steam-truck the Jim Smiley, has a mission: to ensure that the Kingdom, with its air-ships and rumored phlogiston guns, brain children of the Madman Orson Pratt, enters on the side of the United States and peace.” Nathan Shumate, who has a story in Monsters and Mormons, did the cover art.

D. J. Butler. Hellhound On My Trail.  Rock Band Fights Evil. Self ebook, Dec. 30, 2011. Fantasy adventure, novella length. First of the five-volumne Rock Band Fights Evil.   Followed by Snake Handlin’ Man, and the others.   The fifth volume, This World is Not My Home, was released June 13.

Michael Collings review of Hellhound On My Trail (Rock Band Fights Evil, I). ““One damned thing after another!” . . .  It is a story that never gives anyone a rest, neither its characters nor its readers—it’s just one thing after another. It is literally (using the word literally for a change) about damned things: the hellhound, of course, the Baal Zavuv, and its minions, the fly-like Zvuvim . . . Even the one ‘purely’ human character is damned—doubly damned, as it were. He bears such guilt over the gang-slaying of his younger brother that he is damned to seeing his brother’s ghost everywhere … except when he is drunk; he seeks death, knowing that he is already condemned to hell . . . There is more to Hellhound on My Trail, however, than just multiple plays on damnation; and that is what makes it such a delightful(?) and energizing read. There are plenty of traditional religious figures in the tale—Raphael, for example, has a relatively well-developed cameo—but the deeper one gets into the world of Hellhound, the less recognizable those figures become as Butler weaves his own narrative spells, transforming, creating, and re-creating creatures, legends, history, in a sense the cosmos itself at will. That he does this so adroitly is not surprising. My first experience with Butler’s prose was with his non-fiction study of temple imagery in the Book of Mormon, Plain and Precious Things. His ability to translate fairly prosaic passages into discussions of imagery and symbolism capable of opening new vistas of understanding impressed me greatly as I read it; not everyone can make a scholarly treatise on a religious topic read almost as fluidly as a novel. So when I approached his fiction, I expected nothing less than a well-written, well-told story . . . Hellhound on My Trail sets out to speak to a specific audience, one as interested in the special effects as in the subtle nuances of style, one looking beyond the present battle to the next, one eager for the revelation that will make sense of everything…and at the same time upset every assumption readers have made.”

Dan Wilis, Elitist Book Reviews review of Hellhound On My Trail. “Do you know why I liked this small story so much? I liked this story because 1) for the most part it doesn’t feel self-published, and 2) it doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a pulp fiction romp. In fact, HELLHOUND relishes the chance to take nothing seriously. As a reader, this is one of the best ways to experience a real sense of escapism. This first novella is ridiculously fast paced. Butler hops from one action sequence to the next effortlessly and breathlessly. We are introduced to the other members of the band that Mike Archulta temps with, and then BAM! Monsters, angels, Heaven and Hell. Really, there is a huge amount of potential here. The tone is carried almost effortlessly, and it is immediately apparent that Butler is writing this with absolute glee . . . It isn’t perfect. There is a definite style that Butler is going for here, and by the end of the story small pieces of it had worn thin for me. Essentially it amounts to Butler trying to convey a very comic book feel without the use of illustrations. The descriptions of sounds, in my opinion, is a bit over-done . . . The best part is that HELLHOUND is insanely cheap. It’s a buck on Amazon. That’s a steal by any definition. Just over 100 pages of pulpy fun for only $1. Seriously, go buy it. Now. Then buy the rest.”

Christine Feehan. Samurai Game. Jove, July 3. Paranormal military fantasy. Ghostwalker series #10.

Tracy Hickman. Wayne of Gotham. It Books, June 26. Fantasy (hardcover). Bruce Wayne tries to solve the mystery of his parents’ murder.

Kirkus Reviews: “Hickman turns his attention to the weird world of Batman in this noir-tinged thriller. To assemble his plot, the author has gone back to Batman’s well-known origin, doing his fair share of retconning along the way . . . The conspiracy bits of the book struggle a bit with explication, but Hickman does a nice job of measuring the bleakness of the late-’50s set story with a blend of action, technology and the high-pitched madness that Batman inspires. Neither as grim as its cinematic counterpart nor as byzantine as the current comics, but casual readers and fanboys alike may be caught off guard by this divergent adventure.”

Booklist: “Much closer to the Burton/Nolan Batman films and the Frank Miller graphic novels than to the campy 1960s TV and comicbook incarnations of the character. An imaginative look at the human side of an iconic superhero.”

Andrew Adams (2 stars): “Hickman seems determined to write a Batman story that relies very little on Batman stories, avoiding most of the regular characters, paying only brief homage to others, and in the meantime focusing a great deal on completely new ones with no history outside this novel. A risky move, this stands to earn him praise from those who find the new territory refreshing and interesting but criticism from fans who pick up a Batman book with certain expectations . . . Batman himself is somewhat unrecognizable. No one likes a bully, least of all one who bullies an old man — especially when that old man is Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler and confidant. Hickman channels some of the darkest iterations of Batman, including one who apparently has no problem killing . . . In the end, this novel doesn’t satisfy as much as other Batman novels, comics and films and is too distracted by a newly crafted history, slightly cheesy 1950s dialogue and somewhat repetitive exposition.”

Tracy & Laura Hickman. Eventide, Tales of the Dragon’s Bard. Shadow Mountain, June 5. Fantasy. A traveling bard is taking captive by a dragon, and is forced to go out and collect stories to bring back to the dragon.  Most of the book is his stories about the people/creatures from the village of Eventide. Tracy is a veteran novelist, Laura has co-authored a few previous books with Tracy. This book was first made available in 2011 to paying subscribers through the authors’ website. Then Shadow Mountain picked it up, and is selling a slightly different version as a hardback. More books in the series will follow.

Ryan Morgenegg, Deseret News. “The tone of the book is somewhat playful, which was surprising in a good way. Simply put, the book is a fun read. It’s humorous, imaginative and filled with adventure. It is as a collection of stories that intertwine to build a cohesive plot that culminates in a solid ending. Is “Eventide” a page-turning masterpiece like “Dragonlance”? No. Will the book entertain Hickman fans looking for a fun-filled fantasy adventure book of stories? Yes.

Lindsey Leavitt. A Farewell to Charms. Hyperion Book, June 26. Young Adult. Third in the A Princess for Hire series. The substitute princess discovers her agency’s dark past, and enjoys a romance.

Kelly Nelson. The Keeper’s Calling. Walnut Springs, February. YA speculative romance/time travel.  The Keeper’s Saga, v. 1. 2011 teenager goes back to 1863, falls for Utah Territory girl. First novel.

Sheila, LDSWBR. 4 stars. “Here are the main things I really liked about the story: Kelly does an incredible job of writing the POV of a 17 year old male. Very interesting story behind the time travel device and what it means to be a “keeper”. The story keeps moving throughout without a lot of lagging moments; in other words, it was hard to put down. Though the main characters are teenagers, adults will be pulled into the story because of the depth of the plot.”

Jolene B. Perry. Left to Love. Next Door Publishing, June 7. Contemporary romance. Sequel to The Next Door Boys (Cedar Fort). Leigh struggles with her new marriage, her faith, her desire to adopt the little boy who calls her mom, and her cancer.

Cobbie E. Sokol. Caribbean Crossroads. Self, June 8. Romance. A woman sings on a cruise boat, finds love.

Sheila, LDSWBR 4 stars. “A fun summer read.”.  

Dan Wells. The Hollow City. Tor, July 3. Thriller.  Blurb: “Michael Shipman is paranoid schizophrenic; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex fantasies of persecution and horror. That’s bad enough. But what can he do if some of the monsters he sees turn out to be real?”

Publishers Weekly: “Wells has created an intense, uncanny protagonist who’s trapped in an eerie world where denying the insane and otherworldly truth means death.”

Bryce Moore, Elitist Book Reviews. “A delicious blend of paranoia, mystery, and action. This is like a book version of A Beautiful Mind, minus all the mathematics and relationship issues . . . For most of the book, I was left wondering who was real and who was imaginary. Wells did a fantastic job keeping the mystery up . . . I’m happy to report that Wells kept it up all the way to the finish line. The ending was satisfying and–more importantly–managed to make sense of the chaos in earlier parts of the novel. I also wanted to applaud Wells for handling schizophrenia as something more serious than a joke. He’s clearly done a lot of research for this novel, and he took great pains to make sure that Michael was presented as realistically as possible.”

Emily W. Jensen, Deseret News. “Thrillingly executed, “The Hollow City” delves deep into the realms of paranoid schizophrenia. Wells deftly weaves a complex story with intriguing characters scattered throughout — characters for the reader, right alongside Shipman, to riddle out whether things are real or hallucinatory. The ending, while satisfying, seemed a bit rushed. And yet, as proven in his “John Cleaver” series, Wells is able to use a dark and twisting tale to explore the intricacies of the human brain and to emphasize the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. Please be warned, there are graphic descriptions of murder victims as well as some scattered profanity. Plus the entire plot revolves around paranoid schizophrenia, hallucinations and delusions — aptly summarized as adult content.”

Reviews of older books

S. P. Bailey. Millstone City (Julie J. Nichols, AML). “Bailey’s noir missionary thriller, part Raymond Chandler, part Walter Kirn, part Jose Saramago, is just plain fun. Oh, and fast. And EVERYBODY SHOULD READ IT for a quick, fun, satisfyingly exciting read. Sometimes, the highest compliment a reviewer can pay a book is simply to say, “This one…is a blast!” Raymond Chandler: terse, understated language. Clipped sentences. Hard-hitting action. Gritty plot line, seamy characters, nobody spared, no punches pulled. Walter Kirn: social commentary, wide-open, witty awareness of the disoriented effect which the intersection of a lost society with a self-assured religious group can have on both (see Kirn’s “Mission to America”). Jose Saramago? Well, Portuguese, for one thing. Millstone City takes place in Brazil. Bailey does us the favor of writing the dialogue as if everyone were speaking English. Only a few sentences are in Portuguese, untranslated. The effect is just right: we know the American missionary protagonist is thinking and feeling and responding exactly as an American missionary would, his impressions in his native idiom but his speech in a foreign language that’s now nevertheless second nature to him . . . You won’t want to skip pages; you won’t want to put it down for a while and come back later after a good action show on TV. You’ll like the characters very much, you’ll admire the excellently-achieved atmosphere, you’ll gasp at the breadth of the Brazilian underworld Bailey brings to the light (this is a pun, but you have to read the book to see why). Order this book right now. I can’t wait for the next one.”

By Common Consent put the first chapter of Millstone City up, and got lots of comments. Ardis E. Parshall was inspired to buy and read the book, and reported, “I liked the elders. I *knew* the elders. Their characters are real. I was a little wary from Chapter 1 that this was another one of those pieces of Mormon fiction where an author thinks the best way to make his characters “real” is to make them edgy (in this case, disobedient missionaries). But there’s a sympathetic, interesting reason, it turns out, for Elder Carson to have been breaking the rules this way . . . While there wasn’t a lot of Mormon-specific vocabulary, what was there was deftly handled. A non-Mormon wouldn’t be puzzled over those terms, because necessary meanings were subtly provided without drawing attention to themselves. This is something that has not been well handled in some Mormon fiction, and I was pleased to see that somebody has figured out how to do it right. A number of the characters besides Elder Carson and his companion are Mormons, or investigators. They *behave* like Mormons. This book is a thriller, not a slice of Mormon life, meaning that the main characters don’t spend a lot of time preaching to the reader — they just act like Mormons . . . You won’t mistake it for War and Peace. If you don’t like the thriller genre, you won’t like this. I don’t read many thrillers, but I do like them very, very occasionally. This one followed all the rules of a thriller, with the added fun of a Mormon setting. It’s unlikely that so very many narrow escapes and foiled plans could possibly occur in such a short time span and to a pair of characters, but that’s part of the genre — surrender to it! There are girls, and Brazilian beaches, and crime, and the vilest of underworld characters — and yet no foul language or even excessive gore. They weren’t necessary — the scenes and characters were vividly drawn without that.”

David Clark, The Death of a Disco Dancer (FoxyJ). “It’s interesting to compare [this book with The Wednesday Wars] because they have very similar themes. However, this book is much more nostalgic. It’s written from the point of view of an adult looking back and trying to make sense of his life at a later time. I think I appreciated it in a way I couldn’t have fifteen years ago because I am an adult who is also realizing that my parents are aging, that I am aging, and that life in junior high somehow managed to mean everything and nothing for my future.”

M. L. Forman. Albrek’s Tomb (Karen Hamilton, AML).

Betsy Bannon Green. Murder By the Way (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “The best one yet [of the Kennedy Killingsworth series] . . . Green has a charming style that is pure Southern. Dialog and inner thoughts are so realistic the reader can’t help grinning at times. And where but in Southern regional fiction or an old fashioned Regency can one find good manners taking a prominent role in the action? The characters are distinct personalities and quickly endear themselves to the reader, even the aggravating ones. Kennedy shows more growth in this volume than in the previous volumes as she at last comes to terms with her ex-husband, her parents, and her own weaknesses. The plot is a fast-paced roller coaster ride that keeps the reader turning pages. Suspects come and go–and sometimes come again. There’s a great deal of humor which makes some of the dangerous twists that much more chilling and unexpected. I was struck by the sharp contrasts Green portrays in characters who rise above expectations and the depths of depraved evil to which some shrink.”

Josi Kiplack. Daisy (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “The end isn’t as satisfactory as it could be and the entire book could be strengthened by fewer problems and more depth given to the remaining ones. Kilpack has a sparkling writing style that brings life to each scene and often shows great insight into human foibles. She maintains snappy, fast paced action throughout the book. I’ll admit I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed her last two culinary mysteries, but she certainly created a character who is a sharp contrast to Olivia in the first book in the series, and favorite or not, Kilpack knows how to maintain a high interest level from start to finish.”

Josi Kiplack. Daisy (Gamila’s Book Review). “At first I was worried that it was going to be awkward to read four books that were interrelated over many of the same events and time period, but I think this series manages to make the characters with diverse enough lives and situations that they manage to keep the story interesting . . . I really loved the balance the Kilpack was able to strike in the book. The main character was not a Mormon but her friend Paige was. This lead them to have a few interesting conversations about god and Mormonism, but not in a context that was missionary in tone. Their conversations were really natural and were meaningful without being info dumpy. I also loved the balance the author was able to achieve in the ending. This book does not have a very happy romantic ending, but it was still an uplifting read. I loved that about this book. The ending was not fairy tale perfect but at the end of it I felt really proud of the way the main character had navigated the most recent crises in her life.”

H. B. Moore. Daughters of Jared (Shanda, LDSWBR) 4 stars. “Daughters of Jared was just as good, if not better, than the other Book of Mormon historical fiction Heather has written. The story is naturally a bit darker (considering there is murderous plotting, imprisonments and secret combinations) and yet there is hope and light woven throughout.”

Kathi Orem Peterson. Cold Justice (Jennie Hansen, Meridian Magazine). “Most of the major characters in this book were first introduced in an earlier book, River Whispers, however other than using the same characters, there’s little connection between that book and this one. There is more character growth seen in this book than in the first one as the major characters come to terms with their own strengths and weaknesses in resolving their issues and as they learn of the abilities and tragedies that have shaped their friends’ and families’ lives. The tremendous strides Regi and Sam make in their personal growth is more than matched by an exciting plot and rapid action. The varied locations and cultural differences add a distinct air of mystery to the plot. The tribal beliefs and practices enhance the suspenseful nature of the story and lend an element of the unknown. The fast pace makes the book difficult to set down. Readers who enjoy action-packed suspense set in remote wilderness areas will find much to enjoy in Cold Justice.”

Kathi Orem Peterson. Cold Justice (Miranda Lotz, Deseret News). “Peterson does a good job of keeping the action coming, and this easy summer read set mostly in an Alaskan winter is sure to cool off readers at the pool or park . . . This clean Mormon suspense novel also has some touching moments where Samuel’s dire situation promotes his faith. What could come off as saccharine, Petersen carries off with sensitivity, and readers will find some respite from the suspense of the rest of the book in its more gentle scenes. Although full of suspense, the novel carries only brief descriptions of violence. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the book is the idea of how far tribal justice systems extend in small towns when tribes have jurisdiction over their own legal matters. Although Peterson writes excellent prose, her poetry-like myth that preceeds each chapter has so many characters it’s hard to see the connection between it and the rest of the book. Also challenging is her use of the symbol of the raven throughout the book. In the beginning chapters the raven represents the evil which has overtaken Samuel, but in the poetry-myth the raven symbolizes God. This duality may confuse some readers. Overall, “Cold Justice” delivers a fun suspense novel filled with romance perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.”

Adam Glendon Sidwell. Evertaster (Shelby Scoffield, Deseret News). “‘Evertaster’ is a book that has several laugh-out-loud moments. Sidwell is a talented comedian, and that is certainly reflected in his writing. The characters are quirky and likable. With names like Guster and Zee Gastronimatii, there is little room for mistakes. While it is obvious that Sidwell is a talented writer, sometimes the storyline is skewed by an excessive use of metaphors. While creative, the metaphors eventually become distracting . . . While it is obvious that Sidwell is a talented writer, sometimes the storyline is skewed by an excessive use of metaphors. While creative, the metaphors eventually become distracting.”

G.G. Vandagriff. The Duke’s Undoing (Rosemarie Howard, Deseret News).  “Knowing that the rogue will be redeemed by the heroine is a given, but the journey is what delights the romance reader. Vandagriff does not disappoint her audience. The author leads her readers through a tangle of unexpected twists and turns before bringing the tale to its expected conclusion. The characters are nicely drawn and the dialogue well-written.”

Dan Wells. Partials (Onion AV Club). Title: Dan Wells’ YA novel Partials mixes Margaret Atwood with military fiction. “Partials’ setting is reminiscent of other recent dystopian YA novels: post-apocalyptic world, oppressive leadership, plucky teenagers defying the rules and the odds, but Wells gets around the familiarity of the setup by grounding it in geographical and physical specificity . . . when Kira and some friends decide to escape the community and capture a Partial for testing, he brings across their journey with harrowing military-fiction detail, offsetting the fantasy elements with a sharp focus. Similarly, his plot requires a standard “protagonist proves implausibly key in all situations” setup, which seems particularly odd when Kira starts solving mysteries that mankind’s best (surviving) scientists weren’t able to touch. But in all cases, Wells eventually justifies the ways he manages to put Kira at the center of the action . . . Wells does a solid job of anticipating the “Why would adults act this way?” questions, and turning them into key plot points . . . Is it Young-adult appropriate? For all its Margaret Atwood focus on women’s control of their own bodies in the face of enforced reproduction, Partials is light on both the sex and the violence; it finds its emotional violence in other ways, like when Kira and her friends deliberately start a dangerous riot, knowing it could kill people, but seeing no other way to achieve their goals. Partials is mostly appropriate even for preteen readers, but occasionally moves into more impressively nuanced Robert Cormier-esque moral gray areas, as Kira debates what compromises are necessary and tolerable to achieve her ends, and what delineates a terrorist from a freedom fighter. If nothing else, Partials may cast a lot of present-day politics and news in a new light for younger readers. Older readers can enjoy Partials as a moderately twisty thriller with a good deal of innovative plotting and world-building ideas, particularly when more becomes clear about what the Partials are and how they work. Wells does an excellent job with his slow reveals, setting up expectations and then moving off in unexpected directions.”

Carol Lynch Williams. Waiting (Bloggin’ ‘bout Books). B-. “If you’ve read Carol Lynch Williams before, you know the YA author doesn’t do light and fluffy. Every book she writes makes a solid impact. Her newest, a novel-in-verse titled Waiting, is no exception. It might not be as lyrical as Glimpse, as haunting as Miles From Ordinary, or as memorable as The Chosen One, but it’s just as affecting. I would have liked more originality from this one, true. Overall, though, I found it as well-written and powerful as Williams’ other novels. It’s a quick read, but one that will stick with you for a good long while.”

Theater

The Adams Family Home Evening. Desret Star Playhouse, Murray Utah. July-August. The latest family-friendly musical comedy spoof of Utah culture from the DSP.  This one is based in the Adams Family, set in Utah. A sneaky wealthy family tries to buy out land owned by the odd Adams family. A “mash-up of monsters and Mormons”.  The Deseret News review says, “The Summer Fun Olio kicked off with a number of songs by the Beatles, as well as a lot of other popular rock ’n’ roll songs, from yesterday and today. The audience seemed to love the olios almost as much as they did the actual play. The highlight was the hilarious guitar compilation performed by the men in the play. The cast had such great chemistry that no one actor stood out more than the rest. The comedic timing and musicality were on par with other shows the theater regularly performs. It was truly a group effort that had the audience members laughing and enjoying themselves for the duration of the evening. For those regular audience members who are familiar with Desert Star shows, “The Addams Family Home Evening” is everything they have come to expect from the place with the “Always Fun” slogan. For first-time visitors, this show might just get them hooked.”

Broadway World  interviews Zion Theatre Company Founder Mahonri Stewart, talks about his focus on the spiritual.

Truth and Madness: A Review of Mahonri Stewart’s “The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun” (Scott Hales, The Low-Tech World). “Clearly, Joseph Smith haunts this play, and he in fact makes appearances as a kind of ghostly figure who returns as an unseen reminder of who he really was. In my opinion, it is one of the weaknesses of an otherwise excellent play. I’ve never seen The Faded Flower performed, so I readily acknowledge that Stewart’s use of Smith might work better on stage than on paper, but I found the ghostly presence distracting. I wonder, that is, how the play might work if Joseph Smith were physically absent from it. Would that help to enhance its themes of absence, doubt, and dislocation? Would it situate the play more ambiguously in respect to truth and error? Or, does his presence bring in a necessary element of love and compassion? . . . The Fading Flower has been published together with Stewart’s Swallow the Sun, a play about C.S. Lewis’ conversion to Christianity. Lacking Mormon characters, this second work is somewhat lighter in tone—Stewart seems to have a knack for subtle comedy—and has great potential to reach a broader audience, although I personally found it less interesting than The Fading Flower. Not because it is a bad play—in fact, it might be the better written of the two—but because I’m drawn to work like The Fading Flower that uncover previously untold stories from Mormon history. I think Mormon literature need works that probe these unseen corners of the Mormon past, works that try, like David, to get at the truth behind the mysteries and obscurities—or go mad in the attempt.”

David Allred (AML)’s review of The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun. “This focus on earthly and heavenly family relationships is something that links the two plays. In “Swallow the Sun,” Lewis is at odds with his brother and father through most of the play, and in “The Fading Flower,” we see a family divided again. This is not only true of differences between Joseph’s children, but also of the extended family, and one of the most fascinating scenes of the play comes when the sons of Joseph and Hyrum and of Parley Pratt, Thomas Marsh, and Samuel Smith meet, not just to chart the future, but also to negotiate the legacy offered to them and all Restoration believers by their fathers. Furthermore, both plays feature powerful father-son meetings. In the first play, the spirit of Joseph Smith looks after his family, including David Hyrum, as they need him, and in the other Lewis is able to emotionally connect with his father before his death. Given these father-son scenes, Lewis’s eventual submission to a heavenly father serves to further the motif . . . Because Stewart writes on topics related to Mormon worldviews, many Mormon audience members will come to these plays with background knowledge that will enable them to see a greater significance in certain scenes. However, these same audience members will also be surprised with the complexity of what was assumed to be familiar territory. This is especially true of “The Fading Flower” because many Mormons have not come to terms with Joseph’s polygamy (which is much less discussed than Brigham Young’s), and thus they will inhabit a space with David Hyrum Smith, discovering more about his father, the Prophet . . . The literary qualities of the plays are real and the historical accuracy is remarkable. Stewart’s drama deserves its prominent place in contemporary Mormon letters.”

The Zion Theatre Company is holding a “C. S. Lewis Theatre Festival”.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, adapted by Joseph Robinette,  will perform Friday and Saturday evenings on July 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, and 21 at 7:30 pm at the Off Broadway Theater, 272 South Main Street, Salt Lake City.  Swallow the Sun will run on August 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 at the Off Broadway Theater.

Playbill announces that in support of Matthew Greene’s upcoming August 10th-26th FringeNYC play #MormonInChief, there will be benefit concert held on July 16, called Mormons: A Musical Cabaret of Godly Proportions. It will be held at The Triad, located at 158 W 72nd Street, NYC. It features a number of Broadway performers, including Book of Mormon cast members Nic Rouleau, Will Blum and Jason Michael Snow, as well as Jacob ben Widmar (Book of Mormon national tour, White Christmas), Nikki Bohne (Bring It On), Stephanie Umoh (Ragtime), Kendal Hartse (On a Clear Day…), Seth Baird, Jeremiah Ginn, Becca Schwartz and Jeffrey Scott Stevens. The concert promises musical theatre songs for “saints and sinners alike.” #MormonInChief, according to presenters, tells the story of Connor Jorgensen, “an unassuming Mormon who becomes the center of national media frenzy when his tweets about a Mormon presidential candidate go viral. Inspired by comments the candidate allegedly made in a church meeting, Connor spreads his presidential pick’s views on ‘the gays, gangsters and bleeding hearts,’ leading ambitious reporter Lydia Strout to his door. As Lydia tries to find the man hiding behind the orthodox Mormon facade, and Connor navigates the unfamiliar world of Tweets, news feeds, and blogs, both are forced to confront the choice between living by facts or walking by faith.

There will be a reading of “Identity Crisis”, a new play by James Arrington, on July 11, 7:00PM, at the Orem Library. “Chance Hadley, a handsome young television product salesman, has trouble with women.  Upon meeting them he automatically launches into his TV personality routine. He’s hired Samantha, a new friend, to be his PR officer. But when she arrives she brings 33 others to help with the prospect. He fights to maintain his real personality until he suddenly and disarmingly falls for one of the ladies. The following love story spins hilariously out of control until a deep secret is revealed that changes everything.”

Sunstone Symposium

The Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium will be held July 25-28.  Among the literary themed panels are:

Workshop: THE MORMON MYSTERY YOU OWN: A CLASS IN PERSONAL ESSAY/MEMOIR, with Phyllis Barber

133. Panel READINGS FROM AND DISCUSSION OF FIRE IN THE PASTURE

Abstract The publication of Fire in the Pasture, an anthology of poetry by LDS poets, calls for a celebration, a reading, and a discussion of where Mormon poetics might be headed in the twenty-first century. We’ll hear from several poets featured in the anthology and consider its significance in LDS literary history.

Moderator:  R. A. Christmas.  Panelists: Dennis Clark, Simon Peter Eggersten, Susan Elizabeth Howe, and Sunni Brown Wilkinson.

254. Panel TO WHAT AUDIENCE DO I CHOOSE TO WRITE? (AND HOW DOES BEING BORN MORMON AFFECT YOUR CHOICE?)

Abstract As a writer born into the Mormon culture, how do you define the audience to whom you’ve chosen to write? How has your Mormon background affected your creativity and the sense of your place in the world of writing? What are the political ramifications of being a “Mormon” writer? Do you feel an obligation to preach to the choir and add your observations to that conversation? Do you want to reach out to a wider audience, yet still feel the pull of the roots whence you came? Do you believe that a good purpose is served if Mormon writers can essay the rough spots in their faith and their lives? Join seven hip, cool, sometimes brilliant, widely-diverse professional writers in this discussion. Moderator: Phyllis Barber. Panelists JoAnna Brooks, William R. Handley, Ryan Mcilvain, Steven Peck, Darrell Spencer, and Emma Lou Warner Thayne.

261. Panel THE VAGINA TESTIMONIES

Abstract In 1996, Eve Ensler wrote a feminist play called The Vagina Monologues consisting of short monologues exploring the role of female genitalia in female empowerment, individuality, and sense of self. Ensler’s work has evolved to address women’s body images and violence against women. A 2001 Sunstone session entitled “Sacred Spaces: Mormon Women’s Faith and Sexuality” and nicknamed “the Mormon Vagina monologues” featured LDS women talking about their sexuality in ways inspired by Ensler’s groundbreaking play. This session picks up where the 2001 session left off and continues the discussion of Mormon women’s sexuality from a variety of perspectives.

324. Panel IN MEMORIAM: PAUL SWENSON

Moderator Stephen Carter. Abstract The death of writer and poet Paul Swenson in February 2012 left a hole in the heart of Sunstone. Join us for remembrances from family, friends, and fans of his work.

336. Play SUFFRAGE: A PLAY

Abstract The fight for women’s rights was nowhere hotter or more fraught than in territorial Utah in the late 1800s. Having granted women suffrage in 1870—second among would-be states only to neighboring Wyoming—Utah saw its women stripped of their voting rights by a Congress eager to use the issue to stamp out what it considered a burgeoning evil: Mormonism and its concomitant practice of polygamy. SUFFRAGE explores the impact of this confluence of battles through the eyes of two women—sister wives torn between the law and their God. A play in progress by Utah playwright Jenifer Nii featuring April Fossen and Sarah young, directed by Cheryl Ann Cluff, SUFFRAGE will receive its world premiere April 4-14, 2013 at plan-B Theatre Company with this cast and director.

Bestsellers

New York Times Bestseller Lists, July 8th and 15th. 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.

Mass Market Paperbacks

#14, #17 ENDER’S GAME, by Orson Scott Card (9th week). Up from #19, getting stronger all the time. #110 and #113 on the USA Today list (13 weeks).

Children’s Hardback

#10, x CROSSED, by Ally Condie (10th week). Reappears on the hardback list after being off for a couple of months.

Children’s Paperback

#8, #8 MATCHED, by Ally Condie (41st week). Not going anywhere.

Children’s Series

#7, #8 THE MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, by James Dashner (29th week). Nor is this.

Deseret Book bestsellers

  1. Come to Zion, Vol. 1: The Winds and the Waves by Dean Hughes
  2. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson
  3. Letters in the Jade Dragon Box by Gale Sears
  4. Switchback by Clair M. Poulson
  5. Defensive Tactics by Steve Westover
  6. The Wishing Garden by Anita Stansfield
  7. Murder by the Way by Betsy Brannon Green
  8. The Cross Gardener by Jason F. Wright
  9. Sadie by Rebecca Belliston
  10. The Newport Ladies Book Club: Daisy by Josi S. Kilpack
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One Response to This Week in Mormon Literature, July 7, 2012

  1. Andrew Hall says:

    I just added to the theater section a July 16 NYC benefit concert for Matthew Greene’s upcoming play #MormonInChief, featuring several Broadway performers.

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