Mormons, Novelists, Poets, & Vikings


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.

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.

Chapter five attacks a topic I'm greatly concerned with, what Scott calls going transnational. I feel woefully unprepared for this issue of Mormon artistic output serving a global community, but it is something I'm trying to grapple with in my own work.,

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.
almost a month


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 / poems

about seven months


033) The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson, finished May 20

You may have noticed that I don't really pick up 500-page books. Life's too short. But Lady Steed's bookclub was reading this one and I picked it up from her side of the bed to read Michael Chabon's intro---and he totally sold me. I knew I had to read it, long or not.

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.
about twenty weeks

Previously in 2014 . . . . :

Books 29 - 32
032) Mormon X: Confessions of a Latter-day Mutant by Ben Christensen, finished May 8
031) Consenting Adults; or, the Duchess Will Be Furious by Peter De Vries, finished May 6
030) The Sleep of Reason edited by C. Spike Trotman, finished April 30
029) Ruby's Secret by Heather B. Moore, finished April 12

Books 22 - 28
028) Road to Bountiful by Donald S. Smurthwaite, finished April 7
027) Atlas of Prejudice: Mapping Stereotypes, Vol. 1 by Yanko Tsvetkov, finished April 6
026) Thelwell Country by Norman Thelwell, finished April 6
025) The House at Rose Creek by Jenny Proctor, finished March 31
024) Barnaby, Volume One by Crockett Johnson, finished March 17
023) A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver, finished March 17
022) Irene #3 edited by dw, Andy Warner, Dakota McFadzean; finished March 15

Books 18 - 21
021) Love Letters of the Angels of Death by Jennifer Quist, finished March 14
020) The Iowa Baseball Confederacy: A Novel by W. P. Kinsella, finished March 12
019) The Complete Peanuts: 1989 - 1990 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 11
018) Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poppypants by Dav Pilkey

Books 14 - 17
017) Captain Underpants and the Big, Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy, Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers by Dav Pilkey, finished February 22
016) Who Was Jim Henson? by Joan Holub, finished February 18
015) The Reluctant Blogger by Ryan Rapier, finished February 15
014) The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell, finished February 14

Books 10 - 13
013) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, finished February 12
012) Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown, finished February 5
011) The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell, finished January 27
010) The Complete Peanuts 1987-1988 by Charles M. Schulz, finished January 25

Books 6 - 9
009) Heat by Mike Lupica, finished January 22
008) Happy Birthday, Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel, finished January 21
007) Impasse by Kohl Glass (story by Jason Conforto), finished January 16
006) Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan, finished January 16

Books 1 - 5
005) The Man Who Grew His Beard by Olivier Schrauwen, finished January 12
004) Pokémon Black and White, Vol. 1 by Hidenori Kusaka and Satoshi Yamamoto, finished January 10
003) Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hick, finished January 7
002) The Drop by Michael Connelly, finished January 7
001) The Rejection Collection, Vol. 2 edited by Matthew Diffee, finished January 6