preSvithetacular 182.0


Change in philosophy required?

When I started doing Svithetaculars six years ago, good luck finding anywhere else online with minute-by-minute recaps of What Was Said at General Conference. Today, the market is flooding, starting with the Twitter Stake in real time. (도: BCC)

So, fair question, is there any point in continuing the Svithetacular tradition?

On the one hand, it provides motivation to me, to watch and to note-take. But if what I am doing is redundant, that motivation lessens.

And so I feel like I'm overdue for a new tradition. Perhaps, instead of notes, some kind of synthesis.

I could compile my tweets and make a Svithetacular, or not. Anyone who sees this in the next couple days, I welcome your advice.


previous svithe


Thin Man Remake


No no no. I've been saying for years it needs to be Hugh Laurie and Cate Blanchett. (Though I'm less certain about here than him.) What I do know is that Johnny Depp, as much as I love him, is wrong.


On marrying fourteen-year-olds


So I just found this table on accident the other day in a 1956 almanac of facts and, believe it or not, it's wildly apropos. Why?

Because in my new project I want to marry off a fourteen-year-old during the 1910s or 1920s but I wasn't 100% sure that was too common at the time, fourteen-year-old marrying and everything, and I don't want the man to be a creep.*

But if a 1956 almanac considers the marrying age to start at fourteen, I should be fine.* Can you even imagine such a stat today? I imagine the equivalent would be eighteen years and over.

Anyway. This will probably be the only time in my life I'm happy fourteen-year-olds are getting married.* We should totally celebrate.*

*Wait. Am I still failing on the noncreepy thing?


Irreantum 13.2


While my purpose in this post, as usual, is to write about the latest issue of Irreantum's fiction, the essays were so compelling that I'm constrained to talk about them as well. But fiction first.

Not the most stunning collection of fiction Irreantum's ever published, but each story is commendable and overall, I feel safe declaring that the trend of excellence continues.

Darin Cozzens The Last Blessing of J. Guyman LeGrand
In case I'm not already on record frequently enough, I'm rather tired of Cozzens's apparent necklock over the editorial staff. It feels like we get a new Cozzens story in every issue. Now, this isn't a disaster because Cozzens is a good writer. This story is no exception. I love how it plays with the idea of patriarchal blessings in Mormon consciousness. And the characters he draws in "Last Blessing" are real and impressively delineated. I thought the ending was more of an attempt tack a theme on and call it good, but overall? I'm wondering if I haven't made a mistake by not buying his book.

Still, though. How about no Cozzens for a couple years?

(Note to Mormon writers: this means you need to get your stuff together and write at least Cozzens-good and submit.)

Laura McCune-Poplin Anonymity
Sister missionary in France, with her companion, finds a lapsed member, a struggling single mother, who has no love left for the Church. "What I need is money. Does your Jesus have money? Can your Jesus give my kids Christmas?"

Which leads to "Lucy" getting her idea.

That the pov is "Lucy" I find interesting. She thinks of all the other missionaries by their proper titles (Souer Miller, for instance), but apparently, to herself, she is still Lucy.

I can't say for sure from this far remove, but I don't think I thought of myself as Eric for long. In fact, the name Theric is a residue of my difficulty of reclaiming my "Eric" identity at the end of my mission. But, deep inside, could I ever have been anyone other than Eric? I'm not sure.

Anyway, while the missionaries in Lucy's district are eating cheaper food and buying presents, we are seeing a sub[not]plot wherein Lucy is falling for Elder Tyler (his last name). She's aware, in a way, that that's what's happening, though she's trying not to think to hard on it. She knows they've both been in this city a long time and either could get transferred and the idea of serving without him is hard to bear.

She doesn't take significant steps towards claiming Elder Tyler or anything, but the story does tackle the tension that can sometimes develop between elders and sisters with a freshness and honesty that brought it to life. Impressive, because it's something I was barely aware of, deep inside me, when I was an elder myself.

Mark Brown The Iron Door
I love me a bit of magical realism in my Mormon lit. And I love the honest man who the community turns against. Really, I can see no reason why I did not love this story as much at the end as I did at the beginning. I guess, maybe, because it seemed to drive into a solid wall of deliberate ambiguity for the sole purpose of crashing into it. I'm all for ambiguous endings---it's hard to imagine a satisfying "conclusion to this story---but ending at the point of greatest ambiguity just for the sake of it? C'mon.

As for the four essays---Suzette Gee's "Being Alone", Kathryn Lynn Soper's "Seeing Stars", Melissa McQuarrie's "When Trees Fall", Kerry Spencer's "Who Peeks through the Veil"---all were tour de force essays. I'm of the opinion that the essay format, long called the natural Mormon form, has been taken over by the women. And I'm okay with that, frankly. For now. Eventually I'll wish for more men to step up, but for now, I'm enjoying entering the world of Mormon women. All four of these essays are stellar, and none fall guilty to the unbearable smarminess of Patrick Madden. Rock on, ladies.

Gee: Short vignettes of being single. A marvelous mosaic.

Soper: Moving stories of caves and skies and families' echoing generations. Incredible that she can tell stories like this without the reader feeling like she's pulling a Foer and just telling a naturally emotional story because it offers easy effect. She never cheats.

McQuarrie: Like Soper's essay, it's impossible to imagine a writer not telling this story as it's absolute gold. And, like Soper, her first accomplishment is not screwing it up and turning it into saccharine nonsense. An essay all about the death of children (or not) and reading God's mind (or not) can go wrong in so many ways. That this story is honest and powerful and true is praise enough.

Spencer: For those unfamiliar with the unreliability of memory, this is both the most recent thing I've read and an excellent primer. As Spencer's essay is drenched in dreams and visions and memories and hallucinations and madness and anesthesia, I feel obliged to state that I am skeptical that things happened just as she said. Which is not me calling her a liar. It's an opening salvo to opening a discussion in how accurate memoir needs to be to be accurate, how correct to be correct, how true to be true. Where does essay end and fiction begin? And is it necessary that the author can prove the accuracy of their telling of the past?

Ultimately, that question is hugely significant in all these essays (perhaps less so in Gee's, but still). I think the answer is less about the journalistic accuracy than authorial intent. But I don't know what the rules are. Perhaps this is why I fear memoir much and essay some.




Svithing Nephi's Isaiah


Reading Luisa's svithe from last week, I wrote the following comment. Which I decided I wanted to save here as well.


We just finished the Second Nephi Isaiah chapters with our kids, which means this will be our first successful readthrough of the entire book. Huzzah!

But Isaiah's got me thinking similar questions you post about the war. Why all the bother of scratching this stuff into plates. I haven't arrived anywhere as comprehensive as you have, but I have had a few thoughts.

If I were making a book which I knew would be the only thing of my culture to survive, how much of myself would I want to include? Wouldn't I be better off filling some of my precious space with Hamlet? "The Horse-Dealer's Daughter"? "Zoo Sounds"? Yeah, I'll include some of me, and if God's telling me to keep a spiritual history I will, but I have to fit in some of this other stuff as well.

So I'm guessing Nephi didn't know we would keep most of the Isaiah he transcribed. He even apologizes for giving us something we probably won't understand. But he can't help himself.

And that insight, though small, helps me understand Nephi a little better and to better appreciate his goals.

Perhaps, someday, that newly opened door will reveal further insights.

previous svithe


More on my new captcha policy


Because I've removed the new, impossibly difficult human-verification system from Thutopia, I am getting spam. For that reason, I'll be deleting spam.

This may not blow your mind or anything, but I've never deleted spam. I've never gotten that much and it's all in there somewhere.

I reserve the right to leave spam that strikes me as worth preserving, but no longer will I keep all spam as a fun snapshot what ejerks were up to.

That is all.

postscript: so far blogger's deleted them all without my input, so removing the captchas has not actually resulted in any more work for me anyway---except in writing posts on the subject


Deciding to write a novel is a lot like deciding to get married.


Those exhilarating moments of falling in love will end. And then you'll have to decide whether or not you're going to stay together.

I hope you made that decision going in --- and meant it --- or your relationship isn't going to last.

No more captcha


I've taken captcha off my blog posts. Yes, this means some spam in our future, but the new captchas are so miserable I've given up a couple times instead of leaving a comment. Time to bring in game-style humantesting, Blogger. Spam has won the wigglewordwars.


What makes that Gotye song better than other breakup songs


I first heard "Somebody that I Used to Know" because someone liked the visuals of the video and linked to it. I was too busy to really watch it and if it hadn't become a major radio hit here in the Bay, I may never have heard it again.

First though, still, after hearing it a hundred times, I cannot hear it without thinking of Rubin and Ed. That I can still hear the song and take it seriously as a chronicle of heartbreak is impressive.

But what makes this song better than other breakup songs? Because it is better. But what makes it better? I know this will shock you because we're talking about popular music here, but what makes "Somebody that I Used to Know" better is its LYRICS.

Now and then I think of when we were together
Like when you said you felt so happy you could die
Told myself that you were right for me
But felt so lonely in your company
But that was love and it's an ache I still remember

You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness
Like resignation to the end, always the end
So when we found that we could not make sense
Well you said that we would still be friends
But I'll admit that I was glad that it was over

But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

No you didn't have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don't need that though
Now you're just somebody that I used to know

Now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over
But had me believing it was always something that I'd done
And I don't wanna live that way
Reading into every word you say
You said that you could let it go
And I wouldn't catch you hung up on somebody that you used to know

But you didn't have to cut me off
Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing
And I don't even need your love
But you treat me like a stranger and that feels so rough

And you didn't have to stoop so low
Have your friends collect your records and then change your number
I guess that I don't need that though
Now you're just somebody that I used to know
Reading the lyrics closely won't explain to you why they're better. Because, fact is, they're not particularly incredible lyrics. What makes this so much better than other breakup songs is the bolded section.

Just watch the video.

The first thing that impressed me about the video as I watched it now was what a great actor Gotye is. What, did he rub his eyes with onions?

But you see how broken up he is?

And that's what breakup songs are about! The suffering of one person at the hands of that bitch/bastard (pmf). But that's rarely the complete story. To have a second character, the other half of this relationship, show up and give her version of events is remarkable. (Perhaps it shouldn't be, but it is---pop songs don't generally get this complex.) But then that her version of events does not match his version---that the listener then needs to parse the difference---that's what takes this song so far beyond other breakup songs.

So while the song is nice enough, fun musically, decently lyricked and all, it is the addition of this second point of view that really elevates the entire work and gets me wrapped up in it every time it shows up on one of a dozen radio stations.

Just. Brilliant stuff.

I haven't listened to the rest of the album enough yet to comment on how it compares to this single, but I have observed that it's quite eclectic musically. So it won't be twelve tracks of Crispin Glover's waterskiing cat, at least.

Note: For the record, I love Rubin and Ed. You should buy your own copy.