A Mormon Grief Observed: Carys Bray’s A Song for Issy Bradley

I just became aware of a new literary novel about Mormons, Carys Bray’s A Song for Issy Bradley. The debut novel was published in the United Kingdom by Hutchinson (June 19), and will be published by Ballantine Books in the United States (August 12). Bray, who is British (from Southport, Merseyside), grew up as a member of the Church, but is no longer a member. Her main previous publication is a short story collection, Sweet Home(Salt, 2012), which won the Scott Prize. ‘Scaling Never’, an excerpt (or early version) of the novel appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Dialogue.

The British reviews of the novel have been very strong.

Daily Express: 5 stars. “Suburban Mormon life and an eccentric cast of characters bring humour and eccentricity into a portrait of a loving family de-railed by grief. At the heart of Carys Bray’s affecting and singular first novel is the death of a child. Continue reading

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in verse #42 : Art is God

A stake president once took me aside, a week or so after a stake conference, and in his own gruff but loving way, asked me a few questions. He had led me into the High-Council room, and then asked me to look at the pictures on the wall. Fifteen pictures. I didn’t need to count. I recognized the men in them — the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church. He asked me what they all had in common. I said “Well, they’re all old older white males.” [I pretended not to notice how young David Bednar was.] “What else?” he asked. “Well” I said, “many of them are bald, some are balding, but” — here I couldn’t resist — “Elder Bednar still has all his hair.” “What else?” he asked. “Well” I said, finally realizing that this was not an interrogation so much as an indoctrination, “they all have dark suits on” — I quickly checked — “but not all of them are black.” “What else?” “That about sums it up” I said. “Brother Clark” he said,  Continue reading

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Do we have art that responds to Recent Events?


The other night I followed a link to a blog I hadn’t been to in years, Mormon Child Bride. Although it looks much as it ever did, since I was last there, it has changed from a more knowing (not embarrassing) version of what TAMN mocked, to the chronicle of a Mormon feminist’s estrangement from the Church. In connection with Recent Events, she’s putting up a series of guest-post reactions which range from the heavy to the numb.

Shuffling through her old posts, I found this one in which she visits “a member-submission Art Show at the Church History Museum. [She] cried a little … because the art was so beautiful….  The art represented everything I loved about Mormonism. I felt myself being called home. If Mormons could create art that transcends the cultural and yes, even doctrinal inequities and quirks of their own religion, couldn’t there be a place there, for me?” Continue reading

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The Business Side of Writing: Marketing Swag

If you’ve ever been to a convention or signing, you’ve likely seen swag. It can take the form of bookmarks, pens, magnets, pins, postcards, trading cards, posters, coffee mugs, chocolate bar wrappers, keychains – the list goes on. In romance especially, swag is a regular part of the business. Most high profile authors give it out, and so it’s very easy to think that swag is part of their success. I’m a bit more critical of the practice, but let’s look at it from all angles. First off, I’ll detail what I think is bad about swag, but then I’ll take a look at the good as well. And then you can of course comment and call me out and offer your point of view. First off:


1) Swag is expensive. Even if you’re just ordering bookmarks, these things cost real money to print and ship. I design swag and thus place a lot of print orders, and while some of my clients clearly earn enough to pay for this without a second thought, I do wonder whenever I see a lesser known author passing out a lot of swag. Always treat your writing like a business and budget accordingly. Some swag items, like keychains and mini books can be several dollars per item. That’s a lot of money to just hand out, especially if you sell your ebooks at $.99-$2.99. You are handing away royalties for half a dozen or more booksales each time. Continue reading

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Books in the Hands of Children — Children’s Lit Corner

I have no idea how many books I have in my house. There must be thousands, and they’re crammed everywhere: in the bookshelves of course, sometimes two deep, stacked in the bedrooms by beds and tables, on the top of the tank in the bathroom, and of course down the basement. I’ve read most of them, and many of them several times. Books are, of course, necessary to my happiness. Stories can entertain, explain life, take a person away from harsh reality for awhile, reinforce truths, and do so many other things. For me, life without books is hard to imagine, and such a life would be the stuff of nightmares. I remember once going on a trip and staying a couple of days with a friend of the family. Emma was a very sweet lady, but when she went to work and I was left at her house to entertain myself, I was shocked and worried and bored because there were absolutely no books in the house, not one! Those were very difficult days for me. Television just doesn’t satisfy like a book. Continue reading

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in verse #41 : God is Art

If not last month, then earlier, you learned from John Keats, or rather from that Grecian Urn that he oded on, this:
***“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
******Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
That’s the urn speaking, and, in case you missed it last month, I don’t totally agree with Keats. I understand the impulse amongst the constant struggles of his life to make that kind of pugnacious assertion; and it appears that Keats was as combative as that quote would indicate. In the words of a schoolmate, “Keats was not in childhood attached to books. His penchant was for fighting. He would fight any one.”[i]

I had a missionary companion who was like the Keats of that ode Continue reading

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This Month in Mormon Literature, May 2014

This month saw the passing of Utah critic Jeff Vice, lots of Scott Hales scuttlebutt, and several new national YA novels. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

Announcements, awards, and blogs

The Third Annual Mormon Lit Blitz Writing Contest submissions are due by the end of the day today. This is your last chance! Finalists will be posted on the Mormon Artist magazine website starting 16 June.

Utah movie and cultural critic Jeff Vice passed away on Monday, May 26 at the age of 48, from heart failure after a massive asthma attack. Vice worked at the Deseret News from around 1990, and in 1996 he became the paper’s film critic. He was laid off, along with most of the other full-time entertainment critics, in 2010. Since leaving the Deseret News he has been heard on X96′s “Radio From Hell,” and the “Geek Show Podcast”. Although not a Mormon (I think), he reviewed most of the “Mollywood” movies that came out since God’s Army. See a Fox13 News report, and tributes from colleagues Sean Means, Eric D. Snider, and Dan Metcalf. Continue reading

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Notes on Field Notes


The release of Tyler Chadwick’s Field Notes on Language and Kinship was, in my mind, cause for celebration for several reasons. Here are a few: Continue reading

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Mormon Tragedy Revisited

Last November, in the wake of Mark Oppenheimer’s New York Times article on Mormon literature, Mahonri wrote a post on Mormon tragedy that sought to make a case for Mormonism’s capacity for tragedy. His argument, if I followed it correctly, was that Mormons can write tragic Mormon stories because Mormons, like everyone else, are not immune to experiences that cause suffering and negative emotions. As he rightly noted:

The amount of tragedy that I have seen Mormons endure has been no more, but certainly no less, than other people of comparable stations in other parts of the world. There are Mormons I know, or who I know of, who have endured homelessness, death of loved ones (including by suicide and murder), racism, sexism, poverty, self-mutilation, mental illness, kidnapping, abuse, depression, betrayal, failure, disfigurement, etc.  Thus, if you can find it out in the world, you can find it also among Mormons, to a lesser or greater degree.

Based on this statement, “tragedy” is largely something that happens to someone—either because of someone else’s choices or psychological factors beyond an individual’s control. For Mahonri, the fact that Mormons are just as susceptible to the conditions of the Fall as anybody else creates a “recipe” for tragedy that, while present in everyday Mormon life, is not being used in the kitchen of Mormon literature. His conclusion was that “we as a culture” must nurture our tragedians—and, according to his count, we have many—by “hav[ing] the bravery to look at the shadows in our souls and purge them through catharsis.”

Continue reading

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In Tents #41 He is Risen, and Other Texts That Don’t Behave as Textual Critics Think They Do, part II

At the end of #40 I suggested that both Stephen Mitchell and Reza Aslan dismiss the Resurrection on the grounds that there’s no Resurrection appearance in Mark. In looking for the passage where Aslan dismisses the Resurrection I found that he does mention the lack of a Resurrection appearance in Mark, but he also acknowledges that Christian belief in the Resurrection likely predates Mark by 30 years. But then he says, “Nevertheless, the fact remains that the resurrection is not a historical event. It may have had historical ripples, but the event itself falls outside the scope of history and into the realm of faith” (176).
That’s a jarring statement and I had to think about it for awhile to figure out why. Continue reading

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