The Bishop’s Wife has a lot to say about male/female relations (and a lot about marriage in particular) and about the different roles of men and women in this particular Mormon community (from which we are free to extrapolate). I’m not ready to draw many conclusions regarding just what the novel is saying—that will be done better as more people read and begin debating motwaaw—meaning being, of course, ultimately, a very personal thing—but I want to provide some out-of-context quotations for your preliminary consideration.
Brethren, please check your privilege before proceeding.
Note: As I said last time, I will correct obvious errors, marking them with [molaq] and mark likely errors I can’t correct with [sic]. I will note location with chapter numbers and, if necessary for purposes of this post or to prevent spoilers, disguise characters and events via substitutions enclosed in brackets or through the omission of quotation marks. Sometimes I add comments in italics after the chapter number. more
Before we get started, we have a bit of business this morning.
The back of my review copy reads “DO NOT QUOTE FROM THIS GALLEY” (allcaps in original) which I will be disregarding. How do you expect me to do a decent review if I can’t quote? That said, I will correct obvious errors (which I will mark [molaq]) and mark seeming errors I don’t know how to correct with [sic] (but without its usual snide connotation). I will note the location of these quotations with chapter numbers since my page numbers are unlikely to match anything you pick up.
These rules will apply to all posts in this series going forward.
Now, on with the show. more
One of the great challenges with writing a Mormon book for a national audience is deciding how much to explain. And it’s something I, for some reason, have particularly strong feelings regarding how it should be done. So let’s talk about Mette Ivie Harrison’s worldbuilding* in The Bishop’s Wife.
In the first forty or sixty or so pages, the titular narrator, Linda Wallheim, just spends too much darn time explaining the Mormon world of Draper, Utah. And it’s not just the quantity but the nature of the explanation that grates on me. For instance:
The church taught that everyone who was in the celestial kingdom had to be in a marriage—marriage was the highest law of the gospel—but that didn’t mean she had to be married to Tobias. In the old days, people would say worthy single women were lucky because they’d be married to Joseph Smith or Brigham Young in the afterlife. But people didn’t say that much anymore since polygamy had been carefully scripted out of the mainstream Mormon church.
This is pretty great because it throws a lot of my complaints into a single paragraph. more
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.
I’ll let someone else defend horror today, but if you’re just now getting the jones for a scare, some successful Mormons in the field to check out include Michaelbrent Collings, Dan Wells, and Ben Hopkin.
Most importantly, as always, Monsters & Mormons. You can’t do better than that on Halloween.
Here are their physical details:
They’re pink (if you can see them—and only the person with the Thinker token can see them).
They are repelled by gravity.
They “inhabit . . . and move through solid substances, just as humans can move only through gaseous or liquid environments” (314).
So why are they here? Based on the evidence, Maisie hypothesizes that they
“. . . [take] over all the human body’s functions. After people are possessed by the aliens, it looks like they mostly spend their time eating and seeking out adrenaline rushes.”
“Seriously?” said Luther.
“They’re here to enjoy physical bodies,” said Wilder.
“I think if the ship isn’t nearby to suck them back in, the ghostmen would keep floating right out of Earth’s atmosphere into space’s vacuum, where they’d be helpless. That’s where we want them.” (324)
But sending that third to Outer Darkness isn’t just a fun Easter egg. Some more serious and immediate questions come out of it. For instance, when Maisie speaks with one of the ghosts through its human avatar, it poses an interesting—and brutally stated—question:
“So . . . you’re hijacking humans in order to eat apples.”
“You’re destroying people, taking away lives.”
“Now, now, all we take is your shell.”
“But what if the flesh of our bodies is the extent of our matter? What if you take our bodies and there’s nothing left?”
He seemed to have never considered the possibility. “Why would such a creature matter at all?” (309)
This basic theo/philosophical question haunts Maisie through the rest of the novel. When she risks her death, she simply does not know if there will be anything left of her should she fail:
I was too conscious of my mortality, I guess. . . . Who knew if there was a part of me that never ended, like the ghostmen themselves? I’d . . . found [outer] space. Maybe there wasn’t anything else to find. (372)
Later, plummeting back to Earth and certain that she will die:
My stomach hurt . . . my head pained to cracking, my muscles so tense I wondered if my skin would split open. . . . All I knew was fear and panic.
. . . Even battling terror like being strangled in slow motion, I wanted to experience it. This was life, these few minutes were all that I had left. I didn’t want to die halfway down. I wanted every single second I had left. (379)
Maisie does not know if she will “be sucked up into a God-touched place . . . . Or . . . simply cease to be” and that feels like “a catastrophic hole in [her] education” (380), but she has decided that regardless, this moment of mortality matters and that every single second she has left is worthy of her full attention and shall give her experience—which shall be for her good—whether she lasts another ten seconds or the fulness of eternity.
Of course, Mormon cosmology posits that ETERNITY is the accurate description, but we are a practical people who feel that the temporal world is important and thus we should experience each ten seconds with the same vigor with which we imagine eventual rewards.
Something like Maisie Brown.
====Shannon Hales :: Dangerous====
Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (intro)
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Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (post)
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A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous
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Yesterday, I talked about Shannon Hale’s apparent attempt to make a mainstream success of a novel staring a character who was not “white, male, able-bodied, straight, not too young . . . and not too old“—you know, what we all expect a protagonist to be here in these United States. We discussed the basics of the plot and posed this question:
Does Dangerous succeed at making us identify with Maisie Danger Brown, its home-schooled, geeky, one-armed, half-Paraguayan female protagonist?
Sure. Of course it does. Humans are humans, whatever, no problem. Maisie is fine and we, excepting Klansmen, like her as much as we would a white male two-armed protagonist.
But what’s interesting is how much the novel hedges its bets on our openmindedness—it seems to be a little lacking in confidence that the audience will accept her. more
NOTE: This is a work of cultural and literary criticism, and not a review. Please adjust your expectations accordingly.
When I was in the rewrite stage of Dangerous several years ago, a Smart Person read the first 50 pages and immediately let me know her concerns. She said, “Your main character is unrelatable. You made her a home schooled, science geeky, one-armed, half-Paraguayan.” Until this person said all that I had never thought it. I mean, of course I knew knew those things about her, but I’d never strung together all those adjectives in my mind, maybe because the decisions about her character came about piece-by-piece while writing the story, not all at once. . . more