2011-01-28

Book 8 of 2011
Magdalene by Moriah Jovan
(reviewed in connection with the LDS Eros project)

.

The LDS Eros series has been neglected for a while, but a new book by Moriah Jovan is all that's needed to jump right back in. In case you missed my lengthy comments on her first book or short blurb on her second, her books tend to involve that sex stuff. But more on that after some official-because-they-are-in-italics notices.

(NOTE: Although this book qualifies for protection under my MS POLICY, I will not be treating it in that way for a number of reasons. Most notably, the book is nearly finished, is being released in under three months and, for a third reason, see the following disclaimer.)

(DISCLAIMER: I am Moriah's editor. We have a business relationship. I have mercenary reasons for wanting this book to do well. Keep that in mind.)

008) Magdalene by Morah Jovan, finished January 27
    one month

Well. Where to start?

Let me start with some accolades.

Starting with Moriah's first book, I knew she was a writer to watch. With this book, I think she has arrived. She is now a significant voice.

But a statement like that can only have meaning within a certain context, and so let me clarify my meaning thereof.

Moriah is a romance writer, but I am not ensconced in the romance scene so I can't really comment on her significance within the world of romance. Moriah is a noted expert in ebooks, but "ebooks" is not really a literary scene so much as a technological and marketing scene so the question of vocal significance doesn't seem relevant. Moriah is also a Mormon writer and it here is where my personal knowledge can start to have relevance. Because, in my opinion, Magdalene is, now, three months before its release, already the Mormon book to beat in 2011. Now, I don't know if its sex will be hard for the Whitney Academy, but I really truly hope they do for reasons that are coming right up. I do think AML will give it a fair shake if they get it thrust into their faces by enough eager members, but we'll see. I hope so.

The provocative ad copy for this book is A MORMON BISHOP!!!!! AN EX-PROSTITUTE!!!!! A MAN WITH A VENDETTA!!!!! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!!!!!!!! ( !!!!!s not present in original but added by me for extra duper excitement) and that's as good a place to start as any. Because, and this is important, although this book does share characters with her other two books it is not a sequel and you do not need to read them first.

The MORMON BISHOP!!!!! is that most interesting creature that seems to exist more frequently in fiction than in real life, the widower bishop. He's also one of the richest men in America (he's in steel, if you're wondering).

The EX-PROSTITUTE!!!!! (very high end [not a crack whore], if that makes a difference to you) has since gotten her MBA and become a one-woman restructuring machine, moving into floundering companies and gutting them and saving the money from dissipating.

Our two protagonists meet through business and recognize something in each other they've never found before. But, that said and as you might imagine, they have rather different viewpoints on a number of important issues (eg, SEX!!!!!).

Now, it's no spoiler to say that this book has hawt and hevvy sex in it. What may be a spoiler though is that, in my opinion, this sex should not disturb a faithful Mormon audience. Clever people will be able to figure out why.

(If you're new to my LDS Eros posts, let me refer you to Part I which I will be referencing the next few paragraphs. Note though that the definitions I'm using today have different meanings in different posts. Today's definition of "pornography" for instance assumes it's a bad thing. But elsewhere I posit the possibility of a moral pornography. Keep that in mind if you start cross-referencing.)

D.H. Lawrence says that pornography is "the attempt to insult sex, to do dirt on it." Or (to obnoxiously quote myself), porn is "artless and ugly and serves just one purpose: to give your brain an unnatural (and unholy) injection of the sex drug."

This is bad.

Erotica on the other hand we'll describe in this way: while it "may titillate and arouse . . . that is not its sole purpose --- it also desires to be beautiful."

Which is in keeping with a Mormon viewpoint of sexuality, I think. Sex is one of life's beauties and may be celebrated as such.

So the question that will matter to Mormon readers is whether this sex is P or E.

First let's note again that this book has sex, actual sex, not just the-door-closed-and-suddenly-it-was-morning sex, but sex sex.

Second let's add the shocking should-be-a-spoiler-but-everyone-familiar-with-the-book-already-knows-it fact that this book's plot is modeled after the Gospels.

And now let's drop onto this pile of observations that for all the sex and religious allegory and big business deals and the sociopathic badguy and the other bells and whistles that make Magdalene a blast to read --- notwithstanding all of that --- ultimately this is the story of two people who fall in love. It's a character story. And how these characters change is The Whole Story. Really. When you come down to it, everything else is merely trappings to help the author tell her story of two characters and how they change to become one with another.

Forgive me if I state the obvious and say that sex should be part of this story.

Because here's the thing --- no matter how explicit the sex may be, no matter how much of it there may be, this novel does not contain one single sex scene that fails to develop the characters in serious and important ways. Every sex scene --- each and every one of them! --- provides us, as readers, access to the sex-doers' souls. We understand them in a way that can only be accomplished through their physical joining. We learn things about them we would never understand if the camera had cut away.

This sex is about people, not sex. And so no matter how explicit it may be, it is never gratuitous. Which is remarkable, really, that this much sex never drops into justfortheheckofit. Amazing for such explicity to be utterly unexploitative.

!!!!!

Besides the fact that the book is well written, besides the fact that it provides a compelling and accurate look at Mormonism for people unfamiliar with Mormonism, besides the fact that it goes places few Mormon books have gone before --- besides all these things, Magdalene is a significant Mormon book because it deals with subjects we consider sacred (sex is just for starters), places them in a broader world context, and forces readers both outside and inside the faith to consider their significance through an original lens.

This is not a trivial accomplishment. Mormons are always complaining that books appealing to "nonmembers" always present the Church badly or lightly or inaccurately. I for one have always rejected that view and here is a book that proves the point.

Whatever you do, don't let the sex keep you from this landmark (also, don't let the Mormons keep you from this landmark). And, sorry, if you just skip the sex (or the religion) you will not understand the characters. It's just not possible.

For the average national reader, this is a book that will demonstrate that Mormons should be taken seriously. For the average Mormon reader, this is a book that will demonstrate sexuality should be taken seriously.

Magdalene demands our attention and discussion. So don't let my puffery go unanswered. Read it for yourself and let's parse the difference between good and evil.

We'll never know until we eat the fruit.


(The book's not available until April 24, but if you would like a reminder, let me know in the comments. In the meantime, admitting that you don't have much to go on other than what I say, what do you think?)



Previously in 2011 . . . . :

7-6
007) Knightfall Part Two: Who Rules the Night by a slew of DC folk, finished January 23
006) Bayou by Jeremy Love, finished January 17

5-1
005) Mr. Monster by Dan Wells, finished January 10
004) The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, finished January 6
003) The Mystery of the Dinosaur Graveyard by Mary Adrian, finished January 5
002) Batman - Judge Dredd: Judgment on Gotham by John Wagner and Alan Grant and Simon Bisley, with lettering by the famous Todd Klein; finished January 4
001) Batman: Venom by Dennis O'Neil et al, finished January 2





EDIT: ADDED THIS IMAGE FOR LINKAGE REASONS:

10 comments:

  1. I can't stand it one more minute:

    Now, I don't know if its sex will be hard for the Whitney Academy, but I really truly hope they do for reasons that are coming right up. I do think AML will give it a fair shake if they get it thrust into their faces by enough eager members, but we'll see. I hope so.

    BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!

    Perv.

    ReplyDelete
  2. .

    I---

    Not intentional, I assure you.

    Though, as for the Whitneys, I think Udall's lack of a nomination does not bode well for you.

    ReplyDelete
  3. That's what I was thinking, but then again, it never entered my mind. No harm, no foul.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Theric, I hope that this post can be taken in the spirit which I intend it. I'm not showing up here, posting anonymously as a troll. I'm posting anonymously because I'm going to admit some stuff in here that I'm not comfortable admitting, but I really hope you can see me as trying to engage and not just as trolling.

    I'm also afraid you're really not going to give what I'm going to say here a fair shake, because you've already got your mind made up on the issue. But please, please, please hear me out and consider what I have to say.

    I found out about this book, and this whole affair, because of the kerfuffle happening on twitter over a single bad good reads review that somebody posted.

    I think that whole kerfuffle is indicative of the bigger issue of what's happening here.

    See, Mormons have this tendency not just to see things in terms of "black and white" or I'm right and they're wrong, but in terms of who's righteous and who's unrighteous. And so there's obviously an undertone here of, "If I got a bad review, they must think I'm unrighteous." Or, "That's means they're unrighteous and judgmental."

    Now obviously I don't know the writer, I don't know the reviewer, and I don't know you. I have never read this book. I've just read other reviews on Goodreads besides that lady's, and some of your other posts here on this blog about how you see sex and fiction.

    I have had genuine pornography problems for a long time. It's seriously hurt my marriage. It's at times come close to hurting my job. Pornography is crippling.

    On the flip side, there are some things that we have to have the ability to talk about, as adults, that are "mature." We should be able to talk about them in non-fiction, and in fiction. There are things we have to be able to have in our shared pool of literature and knowledge that we'd never put in the hands of children that can still be uplifting and good.

    But I'm just going to say, speaking as someone with a pornography problem, that sense of "wholesome" isn't what I'm getting from this project, or from the majority of the reviews I'm reading on Goodreads, or from other discussions of this or similar projects.

    I don't know how to explain this without using a condescending analogy, so I'm using one: It kind of has the vibe of a bunch of kids who have made their way over to the far corner of the playground and are telling each other dirty jokes they've heard their teenaged siblings telling and feeling like they're more mature than the other kids, when they're really engaging in pretty immature behavior.

    I say I hesitate to use that kind of analogy because, reading your posts on sexuality it's clear that this couldn't be further from your real intentions. It's clear that what you're wanting to do is create an environment where you can talk about these things that need talked about, even by Mormons.

    But that's not the vibe that comes across.

    Just a slight tweak on your post about a "righteous" pornography, and I could easily turn it into a post on how bring a faithful LDS couple into pornography while still feeling self-justified and righteous.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hi, Anonymous. I understand what you're saying and I understand the spirit in which you intended it.

    (And I wish you hadn't deleted it, as it makes a good point.)

    However, this is what I would hope that you understand: I did not write this for Mormons. Period. I never in a gazillion years expected that ANYONE in the church would read it, even if they happened to hear about it.

    I wrote it for myself first, and for romance readers second. That's it. I did have some other goals I wanted to accomplish with it, but getting LDS attention was not one of them.

    That review on Goodreads was written by someone who didn't read the book. I find that downright deceitful, and that bothers me. She was not my intended audience. I would never have asked her to review it. I would not foist my work upon people I KNOW don't want to read it.

    SHE chose to pick it up. She read however much of it she could stomach and then wrote a deceitful review.

    YOU know what it probably comtaons and you know your own problems. I would HOPE that you do not read it.

    But I didn't write it for you.

    I didn't write it for Mormons.

    I didn't write it as some sort of scandalous experiment.

    I wrote it for romance readers.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Moriah Jovan8/14/2011 4:36 PM

    Ooops, sorry. I see you didn't delete it. iPad issues.

    [quote]
    Theric, I hope that this post can be taken in the spirit which I intend it. I'm not showing up here, posting anonymously as a troll. I'm posting anonymously because I'm going to admit some stuff in here that I'm not comfortable admitting, but I really hope you can see me as trying to engage and not just as trolling.

    I'm also afraid you're really not going to give what I'm going to say here a fair shake, because you've already got your mind made up on the issue. But please, please, please hear me out and consider what I have to say.

    I found out about this book, and this whole affair, because of the kerfuffle happening on twitter over a single bad good reads review that somebody posted.

    I think that whole kerfuffle is indicative of the bigger issue of what's happening here.

    See, Mormons have this tendency not just to see things in terms of "black and white" or I'm right and they're wrong, but in terms of who's righteous and who's unrighteous. And so there's obviously an undertone here of, "If I got a bad review, they must think I'm unrighteous." Or, "That's means they're unrighteous and judgmental."

    Now obviously I don't know the writer, I don't know the reviewer, and I don't know you. I have never read this book. I've just read other reviews on Goodreads besides that lady's, and some of your other posts here on this blog about how you see sex and fiction.

    I have had genuine pornography problems for a long time. It's seriously hurt my marriage. It's at times come close to hurting my job. Pornography is crippling.

    On the flip side, there are some things that we have to have the ability to talk about, as adults, that are "mature." We should be able to talk about them in non-fiction, and in fiction. There are things we have to be able to have in our shared pool of literature and knowledge that we'd never put in the hands of children that can still be uplifting and good.

    But I'm just going to say, speaking as someone with a pornography problem, that sense of "wholesome" isn't what I'm getting from this project, or from the majority of the reviews I'm reading on Goodreads, or from other discussions of this or similar projects.

    I don't know how to explain this without using a condescending analogy, so I'm using one: It kind of has the vibe of a bunch of kids who have made their way over to the far corner of the playground and are telling each other dirty jokes they've heard their teenaged siblings telling and feeling like they're more mature than the other kids, when they're really engaging in pretty immature behavior.

    I say I hesitate to use that kind of analogy because, reading your posts on sexuality it's clear that this couldn't be further from your real intentions. It's clear that what you're wanting to do is create an environment where you can talk about these things that need talked about, even by Mormons.

    But that's not the vibe that comes across.

    Just a slight tweak on your post about a "righteous" pornography, and I could easily turn it into a post on how bring a faithful LDS couple into pornography while still feeling self-justified and righteous.
    [/quote]

    ReplyDelete
  7. the end of my comment should have read:

    No one has ever claimed that Jovan's work is the correct vehicle for discussing these issues for someone with a problematic relationship to porn consumption.

    ReplyDelete
  8. hmm...

    Th. my first comment didn't show up. Is it stuck in moderation?

    ReplyDelete
  9. .

    No, I don't moderate. Not a big fan. Apparently, you have uncovered some new glitch. This makes me very sad.

    Although --- Neat! --- it did show up in my email. Here's your comment:


    Anonymous, you say:

    "But I'm just going to say, speaking as someone with a pornography problem, that sense of "wholesome" isn't what I'm getting from this project, or from the majority of the reviews I'm reading on Goodreads, or from other discussions of this or similar projects."

    That's fine. But your definition of "wholesome" is by no means universal and your implication that your own judgment of the matter is somehow definitive suggests that you are participating in the black and white, righteous/unrighteous dichotomy more fully than Jovan or Th. has. In my opinion it's those who insist on using the terminology of "wholesomeness" and "porn" and "addiction" and etc. that feel like a clique of children off on one side of the playground feeling like they're better than others.

    Jovan's critics seem eager to dismiss her work without actually demonstrating any actual knowledge thereof (I'm thinking not only of the brief and entirely substance-less review on goodreads but also one particularly annoying commenter on a feminist Mormon housewives review). I don't know if you've read Magdalene or not, but if you haven't you're participating in the same trend (and I see no evidence in your comment that you have actually read her book). That is a fairly standard characteristic of people who are convinced of their own righteousness.

    What I've seen from Jovan and Th. on the other hand is people willing to tell their truth and put it out there to be available to anyone who wants to engage
    with it. That is the opposite of juvenile prurience. It is honest. It is open. It is real. As Jovan pointed out, she's not asking anyone to read her work who doesn't want to. She's not concealing it in sheep's clothing in order to lure unsuspecting readers into consuming a narrative they wouldn't have chosen to read if they'd known what it was.

    What this all boils down to is this: there are subjects that we should all be open to discussing. That should be addressed honestly and without flinching. Sex is one of them. For some of us, fiction is a good space in which to discuss those things. For some of us, it is not; instead, non-fiction is a better forum. Or perhaps debate and discussion. Or perhaps the distinction is fiction with explicit sex vs. fiction without explicit content. What the distinction should not be boiled down to is one person, or one
    group's, definition of "wholesome" vs. everyone else's understanding of a constructive discussion because that is entirely subjective and results in the immature behavior of one group assuming their own view of things is the only view of them.

    Sorry if this sounds harsh, but I just don't think it's fair to criticize any book for not being something it never claimed to be. I get that Jovan's work likely is not the appropriate vehicle for discussion of some issues for someone who deals with porn as a problem, but that doesn't make her book porn and no one has ever claimed that it is.

    Posted by amelia to Thmazing's Thutopia at 8/15/2011 5:23 PM

    ReplyDelete
  10. .

    I don't think Amelia and Anonymous are as far apart as they may seem. As I've posted before, "Jorgensen decides that in order for us to have a "pornographic event", we need "three elements: a porn author, a porn text, and a porn reader. In fact, it seems to me that the porn even seldom requires all three, though it always requires one: just a porn reader. Porn author and porn text make the event more likely but do not inevitably guarantee it."

    I think we can all agree that porn events exist and that porn events are not good. As one of Moriah's characters describes it, "I despise pornography. I like beautiful women. I like looking at beautiful women naked. I like making love to and having sex with and f*****g beautiful women. Pornography is a perversion of both art and sex." Sex is good, nudity is good (see Lon's terrific story), pornography is bad.

    We all have different lines and need to be careful not to force our own lines upon others. Usually our motivations will be good (whether we're trying to protect or to free), but ultimately these are private decisions.

    Which is why discussion is good. We need data to make these decisions. Which is part of my testimony of the Church: we need a body of Saints with which to discuss these issues.

    Anyway. I'm always happy to have this opened back up and I'm pleased with the variety of comments. Thanks, all. Keep 'em coming.

    ReplyDelete