Review: Stephen Carter’s _What of the Night?_ is a Lonely, Lovely Journey

I had planned on reading Stephen Carter’s What of the Night? on the side, as I worked to plow through other books I wanted to get through. It was a book of personal essays, so it would be easy I thought to read one or two a day, while focusing on the full length fiction on my new pile of books I wanted to read and review. About a day and a half after starting the first essay I had read the entire book in two sittings. Granted, the book is a slim one (168 pages), but the book had caught me off guard with how entrancing and poignant it truly was.

Carter’s voice is intimate—exposed. He speaks of faith and doubt and spirit and family and struggle with the disarming honesty that causes you to lay your judgmental attitudes aside and simply listen to his complex thoughts and simple heart. His tales include his time with Eugene England before he died, the disappointments and triumphs of a Mormon mission, a tutorial through clippings with his grandmother, bright Alaskan lights and dark Alaskan doubts, a black sheep brother who showed him the way, the weight of priesthood, and the liberation of the Spirit. Each essay was carefully crafted like a sonnet or a piece of excellent cinema. Ponderous, vulnerable, honest, loving, good, afraid. Many of the things we carefully sidestep, Carter plunged into and felt his way through it, even when it became painful. It’s a brave, beautiful piece of work. Personal essays aren’t my typical reading, but this particular collection had me enraptured and made me want to pick up some more of Eugene England just to get some more of that style of intimacy and quietly spoken lives.

Now I do have a beef with one of the essays, “The Departed.” I started writing it about in this review, but then realized how disproportionate my discussion about that one essay was becoming in regards to the context of the whole book. So if you’re interested in reading my comments about Richard Dutcher and Eugene England in context of What of the Night? go to this other post here.

As it is, though, I wanted this short review to highlight how truly moved I was by Carter’s work. I recommend it enthusiastically without hesitation. Those who read it will be blessed by an insightful mind, a compassionate soul, and a troubled heart.

Author: Mahonri Stewart

Mahonri Stewart is a national award winning playwright and screenwriter who resides in La Mesa, CA, with his wife Anne and their two children, where he teaches English and Humanities at High Tech High International. Mahonri recently received his MFA from Arizona State University's Dramatic Writing program and received his Bachelor's in Theatre Arts from Utah Valley University. He currently teaches Written Communications and Humanities at Provo College, and Playwriting/Dramatic Literature at Pioneer High School for the Arts. Mahonri has had over a about 20 of his plays produced by theatre venues and organizations such as Utah Valley University, Zion Theatre Company, BYU Experimental Theatre Company, Art City Playhouse, the Little Brown Theatre, Arizona State University's Binary Theatre, and the Off Broadway Theatre in Salt Lake City. In addition to the Arts, Theatre/Film, and Literature, Mahonri also loves superheroes, board games, lasagna (with cottage cheese, not ricotta!), and considers himself an amateur Mormon History buff.

1 thought on “Review: Stephen Carter’s _What of the Night?_ is a Lonely, Lovely Journey”

  1. I have this on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it. Stephen was a terrific editor; I expect his writing will be similarly stellar.

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