035) Of Many Hearts and Many Minds: The Mormon Novel and the Post-Utopian Challenge of Assimilation by Scott Hales, finished May 22
I suppose this is as much a comment on my interests as on the work itself, but this is perhaps the quickest I've ever read a doctoral dissertation. I find Scott's tools for analyzing the Mormon novel compelling. Ignoring the introduction and the conclusion, it consists of five chapters. The first gets into what he means by post-utopianism and Mormon fiction, etc. Chapter two is the best treatment of Nephi Anderson to date. Admitting his flaws and his strengths in appropriate measure, Hales of course is focused on this concept of post-utopianism (which, no, I'm not going to define---you'll have to wait for the published version) but even with that narrow focus, this chapter's a great introduction to Anderson and his work.almost a month
Chapter three gets into faithful realism, eg, The Backslider and its generation of "disaffected" fiction. Again, with his lens, Hales isn't focused on the novels' relative merits as fiction (this is not a list of reading-list recommendations, alas) but his analysis is insightful and useful when considering the evolution of the form.
Chapter four I started out by skimming (I've no great interest in Mountain Meadows fiction), but it eventually drew me in.
The most highlighted section of my reading though was the conclusion that explicitly articulated many of my own nonfully expressed personal artistic goals. In fact, to me, it read much like a manifesto. (I suppose having Byuck cited didn't hurt, but really: although couched in the stolid impartiality of the observing academic, to me it tasted of revolution. As a manifesto, we could do worse.) New Mormon Fiction!
A delightful little work. I hope he finds a publisher. With the explosion in Mormon-studies publishers and the singularity of this work, I'm hopeful that he will.
034) Field Notes on Language and Kinship by Tyler Chadwick, finished May 21
Even though I read this book with a notebook open to jot down poems (this book does more than inspire poetry, but that it does very well), I read it at a tear. I forced myself to set it aside when I had Whitney reading to do, and my picking it back up was a tad slow, but I enjoyed the final quarter no less than the first three. Both the poems and a full review will go up soon. These will turn into links when they do: review / poemsabout seven months
033) The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson, finished May 20
Michael Chabon's intro---and he totally sold me. I knew I had to read it, long or not.about twenty weeks
I loved it.
If it helps, think of it as four short novels, or two normal-sized novels (how it was originally published in Swedish). Hard, of course, to parse the difference between Bengtsson's writing and the translation by Michael Meyer, but regardless of who gets what credit, this is is a beautifully written book. Calm and plain---it tastes like an ancient book, but you get occasional wisps of its modernity (it was published in Swedish in the 1940s and first in English in 1955). Part of the pleasure of this book is not just the adventure and violence as its hero goes a-viking, but its sense of the utter mundanity in the year 1000. Their lives accept levels of awful (by our estimation) that is unfathomable. But the narrator's bored attitude toward rape and murder do more toward building the reality of this world than anything else.
Another engaging part of the story (that seems remarkable to modern eyes but which the narrator makes seem as everyday as spit) is the encroachment of Christianity into these Northern lands and the manner in which old and new gods run into one another.
Really: if you're looking for a summer book, you cannot do better than The Long Ships. Get your copy today.
Previously in 2014 . . . . :