The fiction of Irreantum 12.2 (Winter 2010)


In his article this issue titled "Propaganda, Art and the Desire to Testify", John Allen writes that "Propaganda [in the form of fiction] does not trust that the world, messy and broken as it is, an testify of God and His grace. So it edits the world. It assumes that the world must be seen through rose-colored glasses before it can testify of God. In this, propaganda suggests that God is weak --- so weak, in fact, that He, the creator of all, must be buttressed up with the aid of bad writing, that His teachings must be propagandized to be powerful."

I, you may know, feel similarly. And no question this issue of Irreantum is certainly willing to show the world a bit broken and messy --- as well as holy.

A similar essay by Doug Thayer makes some of the same points, then is followed immediately by

Doug Thayer "Locker Room"

    The problem with "Locker Room" is that it does follow so immediately on the heels of his essay "About Serious Mormon Fiction" in which he lays out his philosophy of fiction and suggested a probable path for the future. Although I can't agree entirely with his premises or conclusions, I found the essay to be a thoughtful and compelling contribution to the discussion.
    Then, as I said, comes "Locker Room" which reads like a proof of concept. If the essay says serious Mormon fiction should deal with X, Y and Z, then the story's protagonist, we learn, is going through a period of life in which he is discovering X, Y and --- wait for it --- Z.
    Not that it's a bad story. It's a Doug Thayer story and all Doug Thayer stories are about the same (in my experience) in topic (boys coming of age) and quality (good). Uniform. If you like Doug Thayer stories, well, here's another one. Just don't read the essay first or it will seem even more formulaic than usual. I mean --- he even borrows exact phrases. I wish I knew which had been written first.
Ryan Shoemaker "Bing"

    Like the Douglas Thayer story that follows it, this is a story of a teenaged Mormon boy (or, in this case, boys) who grow up through a moment of unexpected violence.
    This one's set in a time period roughly equivalent to my own teenage years which may be one shallow reason I liked it better. Its two Mormon boys and their flamboyant friend with his wild tales and big talk led me on the same trip he took his friends on. In retrospect, a lot of aspects of this story have been done before, but they're done so well here that I didn't even realize I've been here before. Well written story. Shoemaker's one to keep an eye on.
Stephen Tuttle "Maybe the Kids Maybe"

    I've liked the Tuttle stories I've read thus far (1 and 2) and this one's good too, but.
    Like Doug Thayer, I now see that Tuttle might repeat himself a bit. Now, yes, I have only read three of his stories, two of which I thought were excellent and this third quite good, but now I'm seeing that in all three stories he has relied on some similar gimmicks. So if this is your first Tuttle story, you'll probably be blown away. If not then you might, like me, wonder what else he can do.
Eric W Jepson "17 Facts About Angels"

    On a lighter note, this is the fourth story in a row to include at least one teenaged boy as an important character. I can't imagine what the significance of this is, but it seems worth mentioning.
    I read the story backwards this time (having skipped it then being unable not to read it because I have issues) and I'm still pretty satisfied with it.
Heather Halcrow "Abominations"

    This story had a moment of utter sit-up-in-shock horror, but it ends up it's just your pretty typical literary story featuring the interior life of a character and starring the external metaphor of that inner life. Well written, and the only reason I can't appreciate it more is because I was so excited to be reading something deliriously different that when it ended up being the same sort of thing I read in other literary journals all the time, I couldn't help but be disappointed.
I'm coming off rather negative here, and that's just not right. The quality of the fiction in this issue was terrific and if I have any complaint, its solution will come from more Mormon writers competing in the literary scene. So get out there.


Note: The essays were of course good, both critical and creative, and so was the poetry. I was particularly blown away by Melissa Bradford's work. Just incredible. "House for Rent" was my favorite followed closely by "Bottled Fruit." Like three of the stories' focus on men and their issues, these poems (and Elizabeth Garcia's) focus on women's. The pregnancy conceit Bradford works with is brilliantly done. I also enjoyed the interview and the reviews (even if mine contains The Single Worst Typo of All Time and I feel utter guilt thereupon) and Irreantum essentially is still its excellent self. You should totally subscribe.


  1. I agree with your assessment of the fiction in this issue; I felt mildly dissapointed, probably because I was expect 'great' and I mostly got 'good'. I actually felt most positive about your piece because it was so different. I do like short fiction, but lately I feel somewhat tired with everything that just 'reads like everything I read in other literary journals all the time'. Exactly

    PS--Just for fun I have a recipe for you to try:

  2. .

    I think I'll get my father-in-law to make this.... He has a knack for kettle corn.

  3. .

    [added "mormon arts" tag]

  4. Heather Halcrow1/21/2011 4:52 PM

    Good review of the issue. Guess I should have gone with my original idea of having more Lovecraft-like leanings in "Abominations."

  5. .

    Ooo. Do you still have that version lying around?