Jeff Needle (!) reviews The Fob Bible


He doesn't like my Balaam play, but otherwise he likes it a lot. Some choice quotes:

    Part Bible, part midrash, part send-up . . . .

    But make no mistake, by and large, this book is a delight from beginning to end. There are smiles and smirks, but there are also deeply insightful ponderings on things previously considered too holy to study too closely.

    . . . . breathing new life into the biblical canon can be a wonderful exercise in creative devotion.

    There’s something for everyone here: poetry, prose, play-writing, and even some e-mails (it’s not clear from my reading of the Bible that the patriarchs and prophets had access to the Internet, though this would explain quite a bit...). There’s pity and pathos, humor and hubris, given the imprimatur of a committee of very smart Saints, bound nicely between paper covers, and released into the wilds of Mormondom.

The Fob Bible

buy your own

And what do you do at your house for fun?


this is a drug-free zone


The backstory to Thursday's Motley Vision interview with Bryan Mark Taylor


I first starting brainstorming this interview back in March 2009 and those notes formed the basis for the interview that will appear Thursday on A Motley Vision.

But then, like so many other interviews I start, I never quite got around to actually asking for the interview.

Come December.

Our stake's singles ward has a tradition of holding an auction to raise money to buy presents for disadvantaged kids in the stake. We had never been before, but felt obliged to make an appearance this year.

I, in a fit of dangerous genius, thought that if I offered an interview at AMV for auction, Bryan Mark Taylor, artist, would be sure to buy it.

And, after outbidding another interested party, he did.

So the poor kids got new Tonkas and I was now obliged to follow through on my nine-month-old good intentions.

(Of course, I'm intensely lucky things worked out this way. I can very well seeing the proprietor of AMV executing me over this had some schmuck made the purchase.)

Incidentally, at the same auction, Bryan put a small painting up for auction and after the fiercest bidding war of the night it went for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Nine hundreds, if I recall correctly. Anyway, heckuvalot for a recession year, if you ask me.


Could my subconscious be any less subtle?


Last night I dreamed I had a hellish job at a fastfood place. My current principal played the role of my draconian boss and all I wanted to do was find a new job. Maybe at a movie theater?


Hypocritical svithe


Courtesy of Recession Cone, this week's svithe comes from Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age

    "You know, when I was a young man, hypocrisy was deemed the worst of vices. It was all because of moral relativism. You see, in that sort of a climate, you are not allowed to criticise others - after all, if there is no absolute right and wrong, then what grounds is there for criticism? "Now, this led to a good deal of general frustration, for people are naturally censorious and love nothing better than to criticise others' shortcomings. And so it was that they seized on hypocrisy and elevated it from a ubiquitous peccadillo into the monarch of all vices. For, you see, even if there is no right and wrong, you can find grounds to criticise another person by contrasting what he has espoused with what he has actually done. In this case, you are not making any judgment whatsoever as to the correctness of his views or the morality of his behaviour - you are merely pointing out that he has said one thing and done another. Virtually all political discourse in the days of my youth was devoted to the ferreting out of hypocrisy. You wouldn't believe the things they said about the original Victorians. Calling someone a Victorian in those days was almost like calling them a fascist or a Nazi. "Because they were hypocrites, the Victorians were despised in the late twentieth century. Many of the persons who held such opinions were, of course, guilty of the most nefandous conduct themselves, and yet saw no paradox in holding such views because they were not hypocrites themselves - they took no moral stances and lived by none. So they were morally superior to the Victorians, even though - in fact because they had no morals at all. "We take a somewhat different view of hypocrisy. In the late-twentiety-century Weltanschauung, a hypocrite was someone who espoused high moral views as part of a planned campaign of deception - he never held these beliefs sincerely and routinely violated them in privacy. Of course, most hypocrites are not like that. Most of the time it's a spirit-is-willing, flesh-is-weak sort of thing. "That we occasionally violate our own stated moral code, does not imply that we are insincere in espousing that code. "Of course not. It's perfectly obvious, really. No one ever said that it was easy to hew to a strict code of conduct. Really, the difficulties involved - the missteps we make along the way - are what make it interesting. The internal, and eternal, struggle, between our base impulses and the rigorous demands of our own moral system is quintessentially human. It is how we conduct ourselves in that struggle that determines how we may in time be judged by a higher power."

I hereby resolve to celebrate intended high morality, rather than nitpick the inability to attain it. I think the world would be better if we all did as much.

last week's svithe


Svithe: four levels of interpretation


Yesterday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, at one exhibit I learned a bit about a lot of things, all related to the Torah.

What I want to share is out of the kabbalistic tradition, which suggests there are four levels of interpretation to scripture. I will mostly just state them and invite your comment, rather than comment excessively myself.

1. Literal meaning.

2. Allegorical meaning.

3. Meaning in connection with similar passages.

4. Kabbalistic meaning; or meaning through inspiration or direct, personal revelation; mystical meaning.

Now. In studying scripture, how many levels of interpretation are we finding? What can we do to seek more? Or are we being satisfied with too few?

last week's svithe


WARNING: Fanboy loves Regina Spektor

regina spektor, far.

Lady Steed bought me this cd for Christmas (and you should click on the picture and buy your own copy) (or, even better, click here and start listening now) and I'm listening to it now and I just can't get over how much I love it.

(I can wait while you make the purchase and come back.)

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Now, I loved Begin to Hope too and I wasn't sure this album could be as good and therefore good enough to bother, but boy was I wrong. Besides the fact that she has a great voice and her music is charmingly idiosyncratic, she is a marvelous lyricist. I've been inspired by her before, but I want to share a couple more lines now from the new album that strike me as brilliant and imminently useful. Here's the first, from "Blue Lips"
    Blue lips Blue veins Blue, the color of our planet from far, far away

I don't want to discuss it. I just want to let it stand on its own.

Now, lyrics generally don't read well and "Laughing With" is an example of that. The multiple repetitions don't work well as poetry once the music is stripped away. But this shows me that, in fact, in their partnership with music, lyrics can accomplish some effects more adeptly than poetry can. So while you're welcome to click that last link and read it and note the clever way she builds to a moment that's my favorite musical twist on the character of God in years, you won't get the same effect unless you listen to it.

Lady Steed will be the first to tell you that I am Not Good at understanding lyrics and so I've no doubt there are many more lyrical treasures on this album to be uncovered while I'm bouncing my head along to the music.

Join me.


On Henry Vaughan's "The Retreat"


Happy those early days! when I
Shined in my angel-infancy,
Before I understood this place
Appointed for my second race,
Or taught my soul to fancy ought
But a white, celestial thought;
When yet I had not walked above
A mile or two from my first love,
And looking back—at that short space—
Could see a glimpse of His bright face;
When on some gilded cloud, or flower,
My gazing soul would dwell an hour,
And in those weaker glories spy
Some shadows of eternity;
Before I taught my tongue to wound
My conscience with a sinful sound,
Or had the black art to dispense
A several sin to every sense,
But felt through all this fleshy dress
Bright shoots of everlastingness.
tabtabOh how I long to travel back,
And tread again that ancient track!
That I might once more reach that plain,
Where first I left my glorious train;
From whence the enlightened spirit sees
That shady city of palm trees.
But ah! my soul with too much stay
Is drunk, and staggers in the way.
Some men a forward motion love,
But I by backward steps would move
And when this dust falls to the urn,
In that state I came, return.

+ + + + +

The metaphysical poets never fail.

Now, probably their view of their views does not match my view of their views, but from where I'm standing, what we have here is yet another 17th-century poet waxing Mormon.

You got your premortal life. You got your innocent babies. Two doctrines that were not, by my understanding, terribly sanctioned in 1650.

The other (wholly unrelated?) observation I have is that its a shame when words used in endrhyme change in meaning. I thought for a while that sound was some lost archaism because I was trying to rhyme it with wound. Perhaps, therefore, vowel shift is the reason modern poets have in large measure abandoned rhyme?


Svithe: (the grandeur of god)


Somebody said that the great hubris of humanity is that we created god in our own image.

Is it not equally hubristic to deny god that form? Are we so unwilling to have the divine like us?

It's a significant question.

These are two radically different forms of worship.


last week's svithe


Four pictographicalized offerings


1. My short story "The Avon Lady" with its new Gaimanesque frame has been accepted into the anthology Pandora's Nightmare: Horror Unleashed. Here's the preliminary artwork for the cover:

Pandora's Nightmare

2. The Fob Bible may be ineligible for a Whitney, but it did get this:

LDS Publisher Cover Awards

3. I'm slow reading the new issue of Irreantum, but I am making progress. Just finished the Terryl L. Givens essay and though short (I'll have to buy his book), it was still thought-provoking and insightful.

New Irreantum

4. Stop scaring my baby!

Little Lord Steed, startled


"Seeking after the Good in Art, Drama, Film, and Literature"


Boyd Petersen wrote a terrific post on the new AML blog. I was particularly struck by the first half of this paragraph:

    My experience teaching (mostly) Mormon college students has been that we as a culture are often more concerned that we might read something bad than we are about seeking out the good. It’s as if we believe we could gain salvation while remaining in the Garden of Eden. Needless to say, I don’t share this opinion. I am particularly fond of Travis Anderson’s call to “seek after the good in art, drama, film, and literature.”

I thought he had hit upon a metaphor I have been struggling for for ages, and so I clicked the link he provided and read in a breathless rush sixteen of the best pages on Mormons art consumption ever written.

As I was reading, I was thinking I would have to make a list of all my favorite lines and share them here, but, in fact, that would still be ten pages long. You'll just have to read the whole thing yourself.

I hereby to seek after the good. And when just-one-sceners complain about my liberal search, I will say that I am seeking after the good.

The essay truly can't be "summed up". Just read it.


Svithing Moses 1


(I'm posting this early in case you're teaching an LDS Gospel Doctrine class tomorrow and are avoiding preparing your lesson. These are my notes as they stand now. I'll print them off and fill in more, but this is a skeleton built onto the source material.)


DID YOU KNOW? Joseph transcribed this chapter the same month the Book of Mormon was originally published.

This is Moses’s intended prologue to the Torah. So it’s useful, perhaps, to consider what the message of this personal story is.  Moses thought it important enough to place it before even the creation of the world.

THE words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain,

2 And he saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

“My son” appears four times in this chapter, as spoken by God. But the idea of sonship runs deeper than that---Satan calls Moses “son of man” for instance, and God refers to his Only Begotten more than once.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth. [?]

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.

7 And now, behold, this one thing I show unto thee, Moses, my son, for thou art in the world, and now I show it unto thee.

8 And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.

9 And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.

10 And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.

In thinking about why God feels the need to show prophets, now and then, this show, it occurs to me that this epiphany of Moses’s may make him less likely to prioritize himself over God’s purposes. (D&C 123: 12-17 [waste and wear out])

11 But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him.

12 And it came to pass that when Moses had said these words, behold, Satan came tempting him, saying: Moses, son of man, worship me.

13 And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee?

14 For behold, I could not look upon God, except his glory should come upon me, and I were transfigured before him. But I can look upon thee in the natural man. Is it not so, surely?

15 Blessed be the name of my God, for his Spirit hath not altogether withdrawn from me, or else where is thy glory, for it is darkness unto me? And I can judge between thee and God; for God said unto me: Worship God, for him only shalt thou serve.

16 Get thee hence, Satan; deceive me not; for God said unto me: Thou art after the similitude of mine Only Begotten.

17 And he also gave me commandments when he called unto me out of the burning bush, saying: Call upon God in the name of mine Only Begotten, and worship me.

18 And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God*, I have other things to inquire of him: for his glory has been upon me, wherefore I can judge between him and thee. Depart hence, Satan.

3 Ne. 20: 1 (one of the Jesus's-visit ones), 1 Sam. 12: 23 (a sin for a leader not to pray for his charges), Col. 1: 9 (leaders pray for us), 1 Thes. 5: 17 (preparing for Second Coming)

19 And now, when Moses had said these words, Satan cried with a loud voice, and ranted upon the earth, and commanded, saying: I am the Only Begotten, worship me.

20 And it came to pass that Moses began to fear exceedingly [2 Tim. 1: 7]; and as he began to fear, he saw the bitterness of hell. Nevertheless, calling upon God, he received strength, and he commanded, saying: Depart from me, Satan, for this one God only will I worship, which is the God of glory.

21 And now Satan began to tremble, and the earth shook; and Moses received strength, and called upon God, saying: In the name of the Only Begotten, depart hence, Satan.

22 And it came to pass that Satan cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth; and he departed hence, even from the presence of Moses, that he beheld him not.

23 And now of this thing Moses bore record; but because of wickedness it is not had among the children of men.

24 And it came to pass that when Satan had departed from the presence of Moses, that Moses lifted up his eyes unto heaven, being filled with the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and the Son;

25 And calling upon the name of God, he beheld his glory again, for it was upon him; and he heard a voice, saying: Blessed art thou, Moses, for I, the Almighty, have chosen thee, and thou shalt be made stronger than many waters; for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God.

26 And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people from bondage, even Israel my chosen.

27 And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth, yea, even all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.

28 And he beheld also the inhabitants thereof, and there was not a soul which he beheld not; and he discerned them by the Spirit of God; and their numbers were great, even numberless as the sand upon the sea shore.

29 And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof.

30 And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?

31 And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.

Coming up next, an introduction to Genesis:

32 And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.

33 And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.

34 And the first man of all men have I called Adam, which is many.

35 But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.

36 And it came to pass that Moses spake unto the Lord, saying: Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content.

37 And the Lord God spake unto Moses, saying: The heavens, they are many, and they cannot be numbered unto man; but they are numbered unto me, for they are mine.

38 And as one earth shall pass away, and the heavens thereof even so shall another come; and there is no end to my works, neither to my words.

39 For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.

40 And now, Moses, my son, I will speak unto thee concerning this earth upon which thou standest; and thou shalt write the things which I shall speak.

41 And in a day when the children of men shall esteem my words as naught and take many of them from the book which thou shalt write, behold, I will raise up another like unto thee; and they shall be had again among the children of men—among as many as shall believe.

42 (These words were spoken unto Moses in the mount, the name of which shall not be known among the children of men. And now they are spoken unto you. Show them not unto any except them that believe.* Even so. Amen.)

* A common command in ancient texts that have been found over the last couple hundred years. Why?

last week's svithe

The Fob Bible ineligible for a Whitney


I figured this would happen at some point, but I received this today from Robison Wells, president of the Whitney Awards Committee:

    Hey [Thmazing],

    I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but...

    The FOB Bible isn't actually eligible for the Whitneys, as it's not a novel. The list on LDS Publisher isn't an official list, since she's not officially connected with the Whitneys. The confusion is our mistake--we should have it made it more clear on the Whitney site that our link to her list didn't mean her list was official. (She's now put up a disclaimer on her list, and we'll be changing our link.)

    Sorry. Everything I've heard about the FOB Bible is great. But, we've decided to be pretty strict that the Whitneys are only for novels (mainly because I don't think we could properly handle much more than that).



Way too not surprising to be disappointing, but there you go folks.


Handicapping The Fob Bible in two awards races

(I don't know enough about other races in which it is eligible to properly judge, so I'm sticking with the Mormon stuff.)


Yesterday was the last day to submit nominations for the Whitneys and the AML Awards so it seems like a good time to consider what chance my dear, dear Fob Bible has to receive one of these awards.

    The Fob BibleIt seems extremely likely that The Fob Bible, since it was included on the official eligibility list, will also make it onto the "Preliminary Awards Ballot." At that point, things get sticky as the "Whitney Awards Committee may use its discretion to place novels into genre categories" (cf the rules). And which category does it belong in?

    I've already mentioned that you have to be pretty darned postmodern to consider The Fob Bible a novel (though you do not have to be nuts, and I consider that an important distinction), but whether it is a "General Novel" or a "Historical Novel" (the two most likely categories) is hard to say. Probably general, since that's what LDS Publisher called it for her cover contest (we lost that one, by the way --- wonder if we'd have fared better in Historical...?).

    But I imagine at this point the judges, who will be loaded with books to obtain and read, will be looking for reasons to disqualify a book. So we shall see.

    If somehow it does secure one of the five nominations for its category (worth noting, this is also a first published novel for every participating Fob, so hey --- feel free to nominate us there as well), then awesome! Will the voters get and read a copy? And will the book end up to esoteric for their novelcentric tastes? Who knows.

    In the end, I don't have high hopes here. But that's no reason not to have hope at all! But in this case, it truly would be an honor just to be nominated.

    (All that said, if the judges think the book is good enough for a nomination, I hope they nominate it. I think that would be good for the Whitneys, to allow a dark horse like The Fob Bible through the gate.)

AML Awards
    Here I think we have a read shot at gold. The process is more secretive, but The Fob Bible is on their list of works to consider and while I don't know who gets a say, a positive AML review from Dallas Robbins has to help. Plus, Jeff Needles has a copy and while he hasn't reviewed it, I think he will love it when he does. (We'll see, though.)

    The issue I see hear (besides, as always, visibility) is, again, category. Unlike the Whitneys, the AMLs have different categories each year depending on what they feel is worthy of recognition.

    I had imagined The Fob Bible would be in direct competition with The Best of Mormonism and Dispensation. Plus, I though having three moderately similar books would help the AMLites that awarding something in this category would be a good idea.

    But now Dispensation has been delayed to 2010 and it ends up that The Best of Mormonism will be an annual event, thus giving it an award in Year One might seem a bit like an Obamafied Peace Prize.

    I'm hard pressed to say whether this helps or hurts the Bible's chances of recognition. I will say that I honestly believe that ultimately the AML strives to recognize books it feels are worthy of that honor, but they are also human and we never quite know what motivates one decision over another. (Though anyone looking for proof that the book is excellent and this isn't just more thbloviation should read Tyler Chadwick's two-part review on A Motley Vision. Or, you know, read some of it.)

    Ultimately, I think The Fob Bible's chance at an AML Award is largely contingent on whether the judges are fully aware of it. So I don't know if getting plugged on fMh guarantees that, but I'll tell you what I do know: Everyone who reads The Fob Bible will consider it a serious contender. Everyone has so far.

    Final diagnosis?

    A better chance here than for a Whitney, but still a longshot. So shoot away!