I read at least one scary book per October. I think the best one I tried this time around was Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon. It fell apart a bit at the end, but I was on codeine at the time so my opinion is suspect.
In this week’s installment of my series “On the Mormon Vision of Language,” I ruminate over how vital words are to our relationship with the Word (i.e., Christ). I frame my thoughts, on one hand, in terms of the value the Lehites placed on the plates of brass—enough to halt their exodus and risk their sons’ lives to collect the records (see 1 Nephi 3–4, especially)—and, on the other, in terms of the people of Zarahemla, who Amaleki tells us left Jerusalem without any records.
As always, your thoughts are welcome in the comments.
Those of you with long memories (or who followed my advice and bought the thing) will recall Brandon Dayton’s comic Green Monk. Well! When I was in Salt Lake I had a chat with Brandon and he showed me pencils for a new Green Monk story. (It looked good.) And the great news for all of us? He’s starting to put the inked art online:
Inktober is, simply, drawing in ink each day of October (or as many days as your endurance will allow) and posting it online. The first year, Jake’s rule was no pencils, but he’s relaxed that now as you can see with the story he’s telling this Inktober.
I teach first year writing online for BYU-Idaho (where, by institutional requirement, I go by “Bro. Chadwick”). One of my main goals for the course is to instill in my students a sense of responsibility for the ways they use language. To that end, several semesters ago I started an ongoing screencasting project in which I record my musings over what Mormonism can teach us about responsible, sustainable language use. I’ve titled the project “On the Mormon Vision of Language.” Each week I share a new video with my students; so far, most of the vids have me exploring ideas from Restoration scriptures—the Book of Mormon and Pearl of Great Price, particularly, though I’ve also drawn from the Doctrine & Covenants and the Bible. more →
From her reply to a question about the language of faith as a source for writing:
We have anxiety about differences. We are different, anyway, so we might as well calm down about it. But one of the things that we have to do is understand that within the system that is anyone’s difference is incredibly enabling.
Her reply to a question about why there are so few good authors who write about faith:
Religion has been associated with narrow denominationalism, where people think if you explore religion in the language that your own tradition makes available to you, that you are making some assertion about the superiority of your tradition over the one next door. But there’s no reason to think that. We simply have different vocabularies that come out of different traditions. Anyone can explore the brilliance of their received vocabulary.
Some of the comments (across twitter, the blogs and Facebook–ah, the joys of online discussion in a social media world) about the Association for Mormon Letters deal with a core tension that has existed in the AML, and, of course, in the project of literature itself: the writer and the critic.
This is not a tension that the AML is going to solve. But I do think it has a decent chance of pulling in some of each crowd for the following reasons:
Many of the most active personalities in the field are both writers and critics.
There are not many other viable forums for writing — creative or critical — that focus on Mormon thought and the Mormon experience.
Mormonism does not have a theology per se, but Mormons themselves are used to talking about various aspects of doctrine and interpreting them in different ways and telling stories that relate to them and our understanding of them. The project of literature, both writing fiction and writing criticism, is not all that different. And I would hope that both writers and critics experience that commonality as the go about their work and that they are both interested when their thoughts about Mormonism intersect with the work they write and read.
Related to that, I don’t see how you can be engaged with the project of narrative art without being both a creative writer and a critic. No writing is truly autonomic. It all comes from engagement with particular concerns and forms and images and stories and those are shaped by other things that the author has read as much if not more than their direct lived experience.
Writers and critics have overlapping needs/interests but not the exact same ones. They also have needs/interests that can be better met by other organizations. And, I hope, ones that can be best met by the AML. One of the things that we need to do moving forward is look at how the activities of the AML fit with that spectrum of needs. It seems to me that those projects where there is overlap between the two (messy) categories should be a priority. But that there should also be activities that speak more strongly to one or the other to help strengthen overall engagement with the AML.
One concrete idea: while it’s nice to have a journal that includes both criticism and fiction, one or the other category (not to mention the various forms of fiction [film, drama, etc.]) tends to be lose out depending on the primary interest of the editor. It might make sense to split out the two projects so that there’s one publication for criticism and one for narrative art. Or perhaps one publication but rotating editors/themes.
Note that by criticism, I include all reader reactions to narrative art, including formal and informal reviews as well as scholarship and reporting that deal with all the extra-textual stuff related to the production, distribution and reception of narrative art.
What am I missing? Or even more bluntly: am I completely wrong? Is there no way to attract both narrative artists and critics? What do you all find most interesting in the intersection between the two? What bores you?
I suddenly thought to start tweeting #MoLit / #MormonLit stuff during #ldsconf. I wasn’t consistent in my hashtags and not all my examples were ideal and I tended to repeat some works too many times and I wasn’t above being self-promotional, but I wasn’t totally dissatisfied with the results.
I’m putting them here mostly to encourage others to do better.
Great Mormon novels about the poor to read in your book club the month #theHolland visits:
Salvador / Blair Young
Millstone City / Bailey